Why Do Women Stay?
The reasons why women stay in violent relationships are complicated. What follows is a breakdown of some of the motives that lead a woman to stay with her abuser. Not all of these factors are found in every case, but a combination of some of them is usually enough to keep a woman in an abusive relationship.
Frequency and Severity
- The battering may occur over a relatively short period of time.
- He may convince her that this battering was the last.
- Generally, the less severe and the less frequent the incidents, the more likely it is that she’ll stay.
- She may have lived in a home where abuse happened regularly (father abused mother, for example), and she accepts it as natural.
- The more she was hit by her parents, the more likely she is to stay. In other words, she was taught at an early age that it is OK to hit someone you love when they have done something wrong.
- She, or one of her siblings, may have been a victim of child abuse or incest.
- She may be economically dependent on him and unable to see any real alternative. In her eyes, it may be worth putting up with the abuse in order to gain economic security.
- Economic conditions today allow women with children few viable options. She feels she has no marketable skills. Government assistance is very limited and many women dread welfare.
- Her husband/ partner may control all of the money and she has no access to cash, checks, or important documents.
- She believes her husband to be almost omnipotent. She sees no way to protect herself from him, and many of those fears are justifiable.
- If she or even a neighbor reports him to the police, he will often take revenge upon her.
- Often, she is so terrified that she will deny abuse when questioned.
- Some women fear that if they report the crime, or tell anyone of the abuse, their husband might lose his job. the only source of income for the family.
- Some women are afraid of incurring the wrath of the extended family if they break up with him or report him.
- Often the husband/ partner is her only support system psychologically. He has systematically destroyed her other friendships, directly, or indirectly by making other people uncomfortable and causing them to withdraw from the violent behavior.
- She may have no idea what services are available (if indeed they are), and may feel trapped. Religious counselors, general helping agencies, law enforcement, and judicial officials are not social workers, and are rarely trained in the complexities of relationship violence. Medical personnel often will not identify victims of abuse.
- He often threatens to kill her, the children, or anyone else she involves if she reports him, thus cutting off communication with potential helpers.
- Often relatives get tired of helping her out time after time, giving her a place to stay, etc. They are no longer willing to be resources upon whom she can rely.
- Having no one to talk to, confide in, women often don’t see themselves as victims of abuse. They may realize that they have problems, but often don’t identify the abuse as the main one. Some do not realize that they have a right not to be abused.
- Some women believe that outsiders should not be involved in a family issue.
- “Learned helplessness” often explains why victims of abuse feel unable to act on their own behalf. She learns that her behavior often has no effect on the outcome of a situation, since she is repeatedly abused with no provocation from her, and because there have been no consequences for his prior behavior. She begins to believe what he says about her being incompetent and unable to function on her own.
- Severely depressed people are unable to take action.
- Because he is only violent with her, she concludes that there must be something wrong with her that prompts his behavior. She often accepts his reasoning that she “deserved” the punishment, or that he was too drunk to know what he was doing.
- Some women believe that if they stop making mistakes and improve themselves, than the violence will stop. They stay because of guilt.
- Social stigma. Because others might not understand why any self-respecting woman would stay in her situation, she is embarrassed to admit it.
- She believes she has no power to change her situation.
Beliefs About Marriage
- Religious and cultural beliefs, or societal norms demand that she maintain the façade of a good marriage.
- Often she stays for the sake of the “children needing a father.”
- She may believe that emotional abuse and battering are part of every marriage.
- Many women are raised to believe in the all-importance of a good relationship with a man, and that good relationships are their responsibility, not his.
Her Beliefs About Men
- She often still loves him, and is emotionally dependent.
- She believes him to be all-powerful and able to find her anywhere. Many of her fears and beliefs about him are warranted, as the violence some of these men exhibit can be lethal.
- She is often motivated by pity and compassion, believing she is the only one who can help him overcome his problem.