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Mental Health Center

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Domestic Violence - Why Victims Stay

People who are not abused might find it hard to understand why anyone would stay in an abusive relationship. Victims are often blamed. Some people falsely believe that if a person stays, she or he must be weak or needy. This is not true.

Changing or ending any relationship is hard. It can be even harder when the relationship is abusive. People stay for many reasons, such as:

  • Conflicting emotions. Abusers use verbal, emotional, and physical violence along with apologies, promises, and affection to control their victims. A victim may hold on to the hope that the abuser will change. Along with painful times, there may be loving moments. The abuser may also be the only one providing financial support for the family.
  • Shame. Victims often feel tremendous shame and embarrassment and use denial as a way of coping with the abuse.
  • Safety concerns. In many cases, the abuser has threatened to kill his partner, himself, or the children if his partner tries to leave. (This is also true of men who are abused.)
  • Lack of money and resources. Money is often tightly controlled, so a woman may fear losing financial support and may question how she will be able to support herself and her children. Women who are elderly or have disabilities may not feel that they have any other options than to stay with the abusive partner.
  • Depression and isolation. Abuse can leave victims depressed and emotionally drained. This can make it hard to act. And abusers try to isolate victims from family and friends so that the victims do not have anyone to support them if they do leave.
  • Cultural or religious pressures. In some cases, religious counselors, relatives, or friends may encourage women to stay to keep the family together no matter what.
  • Custody worries. A woman may worry about losing custody of her children if she leaves.
  • Fear of being deported. Immigrant women might stay in an abusive relationship because their partners have threatened to have them deported. Not being fluent in English might also be a challenge.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: November 14, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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