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Why Domestic Abuse Victims Don’t Leave The Relationship

In the many years that we have been writing about domestic violence, one of the things that has befuddled us is why women stay in a relationship where they are being abused either physically, emotionally or any other way. Here we will take a look at some of the complicated reasons why women stay in domestic abuse relationships. This is not an all-inclusive list; there are probably many others.

In my previous post What Is The Big Deal About Domestic Violence? we give the definition of domestic violence that comes directly from the Department of Justice and offer up some statistics that show you exactly how widespread domestic violence is.

Those statistics include:

“It is the number one cause of injury to women.

It has been estimated that one in four women in the United States reports intimate partner violence. Worldwide that number is one in three. Domestic homicide and suicide often tied to abuse are the number one and number two causes of women’s death during pregnancy in the United States.

There is a one in three chance that a girl of high school age will experience violence in a dating relationship. If a woman is homeless, the chances go up substantially. If she is homeless with children, the chances go up even more that she will be physically abused.

According to police statistics, the average number of times an abuser hits a spouse before she makes a police report is 35.”

The most obvious form of domestic violence is physical abuse. That is by far the most noticeable. But there are many other kinds of abuse associated with domestic violence the latest being targeted by social media. Posts on Facebook and twitter and other social media can be extremely harmful and never go away.

One reason why women stay in a relationship is because they are often intimidated, discouraged or hopeless about being able to go through the complex legal and social service systems needed to escape the batterer without a strong advocate, and that is almost a must in making the decision to leave.

A second reason why women may not leave a relationship where domestic abuse exists is because they believe the threat from the batterer that he will kill the victim or her children if she attempts to leave. As back up to that thought it is estimated that a woman is 75% more likely to be murdered when she has tried to flee than when she stays.

Another reason is that some women victims believe that it is in the children’s best interest to have both parents in the home, especially if the abuser does not assault the children.

If the abused spouse is disabled, homeless, mentally ill or has other medical problems, they are more bound to feel dependent on the abuser even in an abusive relationship.

Many victims are in denial about the danger of their relationship and believe that if they could be better partners, the abuse would stop. Not only is that wishful thinking but it ultimately is very dangerous thinking.

If the battered spouse is financially desperate, those circumstances lead to increased dependency on the batterer and offers a reason for women not to leave.

Spouses with low self-esteem believe that they deserve no better than the abuse they receive, especially if they have grown up in families where domestic violence existed. Low self-esteem can be a reason for not leaving the relationship and also for becoming a victim in the first place.

If a woman has no job skills, the idea of being on her own, especially if she has children, is quite intimidating. Couple that with some of the other circumstances such as medical conditions or low self-esteem and you have a powerful motivating factor to not leave an especially dangerous situation.

Religious beliefs may lead victims to believe that they have to tolerate the abuse in order to adhere to their faith. In our opinion, that is misguided thinking and could end up in a deadly result.

We have been writing a lot lately about teenage domestic violence and teen dating abuse. The statistics for abuse in teen dating relationships is only slightly better than in adult abuse relationships. But teenagers who are already parents or those who are pregnant are at greater risk for abuse in their relationships than any other age group, but are the least likely to report the abuse or seek adult intervention.

As we have mentioned before, women who have grown up in families with a history of domestic violence, may just believe that it is normal behavior and, believe it or not, may not be aware that it is a crime.

Likewise, young teenage girls who are in dating relationships or are newly married may not have a compass to go by and don’t know right from wrong. For many reasons, they do not seek help when they could be in a potentially dangerous situation.

Another often used reason for not leaving a domestic abuse relationship is if the batterer is a financially well-to-do politician, sports figure or other important figure in the community. Abusers with money can afford to hire the best in private legal assistance which in and of itself can be very intimidating.

We have always recommended that women who are in any kind of a domestic abuse relationship learn how to do two things. The first is to be able to defend themselves physically. They can do that by taking a self-defense course at a local Y or online. You don’t need to become an expert you just need to learn the basics. The second thing is to learn how to use and carry a self-defense product pepper spray with you at all times.

And finally, we would always recommend that women who are in a domestic abuse relationship start to develop an escape plan. Some of the details of which are in our article: Domestic Violence or Freedom. They include:

Develop a support system that can be friends, neighbors or even relatives. Know where support groups are located.

Know where shelters are located.

Prepare a “go kit” that would contain important documents, cash, credit cards, a change of clothes, a spare set of car keys and anything else that is important to you, available to grab in a moment’s notice.

“The journey out of an abusive relationship can be frightening, but the rewards from escaping it will last forever.”

What are your experiences from an abusive relationship? Please share! We want to hear your thoughts.

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