Why do Women stay in Abusive Relationships?

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We have a continued issue of abusive relationships. Most of the time it is the woman who is the victim of an abusive affronting man.

I do use the term ‘man’ very loosely as a man would never be abusive, a male however may. We hear the question, why would she stay or keep going back to him? There are many reasons we find this and most of the time we are unaware of the reasons yet somehow, we judge the woman as senseless for returning. This is far from the truth, in fact, many that return, or tolerate, are very strong.

An abusive relationship may be emotionally, physically or financially abusive. Results are often the same regardless of the type of abuse suffered.

The reason so many women continue to tolerate their abusive relationship include:

  • He is like dad. They were raised in a home where dad was abusive and therefore they see this as normal. They may not like this behaviour and can understand it is wrong, however, if this was their ‘normal’ they expect most males to behave in this way.
  • They believe it is their fault they are abused. Many male perpetrators have learnt, often from their dad, that blame gives power. When he blames her, she accepts this as the reason he lost his temper or is abusing her.
  • Financial reasons. She may not be earning much and fears her children will suffer if they have no home or enough money to survive. We hear so many stories of women and children living in cars, in a refuge or being so poor they can barely survive. At least staying in an abusive home and relationship provides some safety for her children.
  • Fear of what their partner may do if they leave and fear the escalation will increase substantially. He has already told her if she leaves he will hunt her down and bring her back, find her and kill her, or discover where they are and take the children, so she will never see them again.
  • Shame of admitting she is living in an abusive relationship. This can be extremely affronting for so many women who again, blame themselves for being in an abusive relationship, they should have known better or seen the warning signs.
  • Love. They do love their abuser. Perhaps he wasn’t or isn’t always like that. Abuse often seeps in slowly with times of intimacy and care in between. What is happening is the victim is in love with the memory of what was, not what is currently occurring.
  • Empty Promises. He keeps promising he will change, he will get help, yet nothing ever happens, or he behaves for a short time before erupting again and blaming her because he became angry at something she did.

It is a complex issue that affects too many women. I find women coming for counselling to manage these issues often need to do so secretly for fear she is exposing his behaviour to someone else. Most of the time even families do not know what is occurring.

Every woman deserves to be treated with respect, kindness and dignity. Some males, unfortunately, have not learnt this skill and treat women with disrespect often believing they own them. The move from one abusive relationship to the next. We see this on our television from high profile celebrities, sports people and general community news stories. It isn’t going away, and I hate to say, it never will. As long as abuse is occurring within our homes, this will educate the children. Boys will believe this is how a man acts and behaves and women deserve to be abused because it is all their fault if they fail their duty to be everything to him whenever he demands.

The only thing we can do is educate women and girls that they do in fact deserve to be treated with respect and kindness, it is the right of every human being. Girls must be educated in self-worth and personal value to avoid abusive relationships. Further, educating them in acceptable behaviour within a relationship is imperative and many are unable to learn this within their home. Boys naturally also need educating, however, often this can be undermined within their home environment.

Abusers abuse, this is who they are and often have Narcissistic personalities. They won’t change, they can’t change.

Talk to a professional, speak to your family and friends. Plan an escape in advance and ensure you have doctor and police records. Regardless if police are called, a woman can always report and obtain an event number without police challenging the perpetrator right away. She can also call FACS to report any physical abuse of her children. The more records you have the stronger your case and the better protection you will have.

No one deserves to live in fear. We are all responsible for your own behaviour and actions regardless of what another person does or says to us. You are not responsible for his temper, ever. If you think you are living with a Narcissist, read this to understand.

Read more from Dr Karen