There are a myriad of reasons why women stay in abusive relationships. And while we understand that intimate partner abuse impacts both men and women, we focus on why women stay with abusive men in our women’s support groups.
Fear – Fear of being alone, fear of not making it on her own, fear that she may be in more danger if she leaves, fear that he will kill her if she leaves. She may not know her legal rights and fear DCFS or INS. Fear of his suicide — He says he will kill himself if she leaves.
Economic Dependence – If she does not work, who will support her and the children? If she does work, she may be concerned about whether or not she can make it on her salary.
Parenting – Wanting both a father and mother for the children.
Family/Cultural Pressure – “She made her choice and is bound to it.” “The family must stay together no matter what.”
Religious Pressure – “Keep the family together, divorce is wrong.”
Duty – She said she would stay married till “death do us part.”
Gender Role Conditioning – She believes that “this is just the way men/ women are.”
Loyalty – If he was sick, she would stick by him.
Pity – She feels sorry for him.
Rescue Complex – If she stays, she can “save” him and help him get better.
Responsibility – It is up to her to work things out and save the relationship.
Rationalization – She believes that drugs, alcohol, and/or his abusive childhood causes the violence.
Denial – “It’s really not so bad.” “Other women have it worse.”
Love - She loves him, and he can be loving and affectionate when he is not being abusive.
Optimism – She believes that “things will get better” or that “he will get help.”
Security – She’s holding onto her dreams, hopes, and plans of living happily ever after with her partner.
Guilt – He claims — and she believes — that the abuse is her fault; that she causes their problems and difficulties.
Shame – Embarrassment, humiliation, and not wanting others to know.
Identity – Some women feel they need a man in order to be complete.
Low Self-Esteem – Thoughts like, “It must be my fault, “I must deserve it,” “I will never find anyone better,” or “A little love is better than no love at all.”
Learned Helplessness – She has been taught that she is powerless and views her situation from that perspective.
Socialization – She may have experienced abuse growing up and views abuse as an inevitable part of intimate relationships.
Isolation – Often he is her only support, having systematically destroyed her relationships with family, friends, and co-workers.
Resources – She may have no idea what resources are available to her. She may have previously been let down by law enforcement, social services, or the courts.
Survival – She believes she does not have the skills to survive on her own. These may include work skills, not having a car, no access to money, no place to stay, no support network.
Credibility – She believes that she will not be believed by friends, family, clergy, law enforcement, court system, etc.