Why Victims Stay

Over a period of time, insults and control diminish the victim's self esteem and he/she may not believe he/she is worthy of being loved by anyone else. Many times they are told, "You're so _________, no one else would have you." Logic: A person who loves me would never lie to me, so he/she must be telling me the truth.

The abuser systematically eliminates everything else from the victim's world. The victim may have no other friends, may be estranged from their family, may not have any hobbies or outside interests. If the victim leaves the relationship, the balance of their life may be extremely empty and lonely. There is not a support system. There is almost no "life" left if the relationship ends.

Intimacy and Emotional Dependence:
Abusive relationships are more likely to include sex, which may be coerced or even forced. That level of intimacy makes the relationship more difficult to end for a woman.

The victim may pity the abuser because he/she seems so sad and tormented. He/she will blame all of his/her troubles on others misunderstanding them. He/she will usually take no responsibility. The victim may choose to stand by them because he/she has no one else.

Fear and Fear of Partner's Suicide:
The victim may stay because he/she is too afraid to face the danger and trauma of leaving. Staying in the relationship may be safer on a day to day basis. "If I can't have you, no one can" is a common threat. If there has already been physical abuse or threats of this, leaving can be a terrifying experience. Even if the victim has not been hurt, BELIEVING that they will be hurt is just as effective. Intimidation is a powerful tool for the abuser. Many abusers threaten suicide openly, shifting the responsibility for their being alive onto the victim. Guilt may keep the victim from leaving the relationship.

The victim may stay because he/she is afraid that they will not be able to support themselves or their children financially.

He/she says they love me and they are not really hurting me. He/she doesn't actually hit me (narrow definition of hitting involves a fist). If only I would _________ these things would not happen. As soon as I figure this out, I will be able to change it.

Shame and Embarrassment:
Our world accepts us best as part of a couple. Everyone wants to love and be loved. To end the relationship, destroys the possibility of having that love with this person. We would need to "start over" and don't know with whom.

It's difficult for most people to be alone. We define ourselves by who loves us. "Maybe this is the best I can do".