There are many reasons why people stay in an abusive relationship, and we should never blame them or make them feel responsible for not being able to leave. If we can understand why people stay, then we are more likely to be able to help and support them to leave safely when the time is right. Some of the reasons people stay might be:
- Fear - The fear that women in particular feel about leaving an abusive relationship is very real. Many of the women who are killed by their partner or ex- partner die within the first month of leaving the relationship. The risk remains high for the first year.
- Threats - Abusers also use threats to harm themselves, relatives, children or pets to control their partner, so people stay in order to protect others.
- Shame or guilt - Abusers will often tell their victim that the abuse is their fault and, if they would just stop doing x, the abuse would stop. As abusers slowly erode the confidence of their victim, the person starts to believe that they are at fault and will change their own behaviour as a result. Some people worry that no-one will believe them if they disclose the abuse, as perpetrators are often charming to the outside world. Some people also fear the reaction of their family or community if they were to leave, for example their culture or faith may frown upon women who leave a marriage.
- Lack of confidence and low self- esteem - Being constantly told that you are worthless will eventually erode anyone’s confidence. people subjected to domestic abuse and violence live in constant fear and suffer trauma on a daily basis, which can result in them feeling confused, worthless and unable to make decisions.
- Practical reasons - There are many practical reasons why people stay in an abusive relationship, for example a lack of money or insecure immigration status. Practical reasons may also include not wanting to leave pets behind.
- Isolation - Abusers often use isolation as a way of controlling their partner. By cutting them off from their support network and the outside world, there is less opportunity for the victim to recognise what is happening to them is wrong, or to seek help. Perpetrators of abuse often try to make their partner totally reliable on them, to disempower them completely.
- Hope - Sometimes the abusive person might promise to change and that if circumstances change the abusive will stop. (Link to cycle of abuse)
- Love - The person may love their abuser, which can be very confusing for them.
- Children - Some people may feel it is best for the children to stay in a stable home with both parents and may not understand that children are affected by the abuse, even if they don’t see it. The abusive partner may also have threatened to take or harm the children.