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Why Do Victims Of Domestic Violence Stay?

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Domestic Violence, a taboo subject that many pretend doesn’t exist. Unfortunately, it’s becoming a common trend among society today. 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men have experienced extreme domestic violence. (Lancer, Darlene, Psychology Today) These concerning problems raise a question. Why don’t the victims just walk away? What is keeping them receiving the help that they need. The answer is far from simple, but most victims stay for one of the following reasons: fear, obligation, guilt, isolation, or false hope.

In order to get into the heads of the victims of domestic abuse, one needs to know what domestic abuse is. Domestic violence is abuse within a family, home, or a relationship. Domestic violence mainly occurs between parent and child or spouses. For this paper, the focus will be on domestic violence between married couples. Abuse can happen in any relationship. Heterosexual or same-sex marriage, rich or disadvantaged households, domestic violence knows no discrimination. This is no light topic. Every year 2000-4000 women die from domestic abuse. (Davis, Jackie, CJI)

One of the main reasons victims stay with the abuser is fear. Fear can control a person, limit their thinking abilities, and cause sufferers of domestic violence to behave irrationally. It can make people feel trapped. What seems logical to most people is harder to see for those who are abused and scared. For example, one survivor of domestic abuse, who prefered to remain anonymous, when looking back, asked herself, “When I was abused within earshot of other people, why didn’t I scream? That question still taunts me in the dark nights of my soul.”

(4 Reasons Why Survivors Stay Silent, TGC) There are several reasons why a victim might feel fear. Some abusers threaten to hunt down and hurt or kill their victim and their family if they attempt to leave the relationship. This creates a fear of the abuser’s retaliation. Another is fear for one’s children. Divorce can mean a decrease in living standards for any children in the household, and some victims fear a lesser quality of life for their kids. Other victims fear what other people will think of them when they find out that the victim has been abused. They don’t want others to view them as weak or pathetic. Also, some victims are scared that no one will believe them at all.

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Some victims feel an obligation to stay with their abuser. For example, some religions require women to have a husband. Husbandless women can be looked down upon in certain cultures. (Why Do People Stay in Abusive Relationships?) For example, one abused woman wrote on Twitter that she was told “God would disown her if she broke her marriage”. (Whiting, Jason, IFS) Women can feel that they need to provide a father for their children. Others feel like it is their responsibility to make the marriage work out. Some women believe that an abusive husband/father is better than none at all. Another thing that a victim may feel is sympathy toward the family of the abuser. When someone is convicted of abuse it harms the entire family of that person. A victim of abuse can feel obligated to protect that family, even if it means bearing the abuse alone. (4 Reasons Why Survivors Stay Silent, TGC)

Another feeling victims may feel is guilt. Some victims are ashamed of being abused. Victims often have low self esteem due to verbal abuse and can even blame themselves for somehow provoking the attack. Others are ashamed that they couldn’t make the marriage work, or that they should have made everything better somehow. They feel that, since it is their fault in their minds, they have no right to leave the abuser behind.

One of the worst feeling for anyone is the feeling of isolation. It is the feeling of being alone and having no one. Some victims are dependent on the abuser, financially or for other reasons, and are unable to fend for themselves. Without their abusive partner, they would be broke. These victims may stay with the abuser for stability. Other victims have nowhere to go. They may have no family or friends, and the abuser could be the only person they have. If the victim fears being lonely, they will stay with the abuser because they believe that no one else will ever love them. Many don’t know the options available to them. For women who have nowhere else to go, there are Shelters For Battered Women, where they can stay and learn about the legal aspect of their abuse. (Tracy, Natasha, Battered Women’s Shelters)

The last and one of the most subtle reasons why a victim might stay is false hope. It is possible to have feeling for an abuser, especially if one believes that the abuser will go back to the way they were before. Abusers are rarely evil all of the time, but have more of a Jekyll and Hyde personality. (Lancer, Darlene, Psychology Today) Other victims, especially those who grew up in an abusive household as a child, do not know what a healthy relationship looks like. They may even think that abuse is normal. On the flip side of this, young children who witness domestic abuse in their own families are three times as likely to abuse their spouse later in life. (Davis, Jackie, CJI) Victims can also want to “save” their abusers. They believe that they can change their abuser into a better person. Some over-rationalize the situation, blaming drinking or a long day at work. Others think that it will be the last time something abusive occurs, even when it happens time and time again. Victims can also be overly thankful for small kindnesses, which causes them to tolerate the abuse. (LAPD, Domestic Violence.)

Overall, there are many reasons why the victims can find themselves trapped in a relationship. However, this does not mean that there is no way out. Domestic abuse can and must be stopped. It is important to remember that, even when there are a lot of reasons to stay, there are also dozens of reasons to leave. As once said by Kambri Crews, a comedian from the United States, “'Growing up, I was constantly reminded to not to air our family's dirty laundry. Part of why domestic violence is allowed to continue is because there is often an unwritten rule in many families of abuse: Don't ask. Don't tell. Keeping quiet does no good. I found that sharing my story liberated me from my past. There is power in storytelling and, in that, healing. Owning my truth also empowered me. I will no longer be manipulated or controlled by guilt or shame.' (Interview by Glamour)

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Why Do Victims Of Domestic Violence Stay? (2022, July 08). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 5, 2024, from
“Why Do Victims Of Domestic Violence Stay?” Edubirdie, 08 Jul. 2022,
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Why Do Victims Of Domestic Violence Stay? [Internet] Edubirdie. 2022 Jul 08 [cited 2024 Mar 5]. Available from:
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