Why Does Someone Stay?
For people who have never experienced an abusive relationship, it can be hard to understand why someone wouldn’t just leave. A complex set of factors and emotional ties often make it very difficult for a person in an abusive relationship to get out.
There are many reasons why both men and women may choose to stay in abusive relationships. If you have a friend in an unhealthy relationship, one of the best ways to support them is to start by understanding why they might be reluctant to leave immediately.
The following are just a few of the common barriers to leaving:
Fear: Someone might be afraid to leave a relationship because they aren’t sure how the abuser will respond, and don’t feel safe. The abuser may have threatened to hurt themselves, family members or friends if the person were to leave.
Thinking Abuse Is Normal: If your friend has never been in a healthy relationship, it can be hard to understand that what is happening to them is not normal or healthy. Additionally, if your friend grew up in an abusive household, they may have developed expectations that some level of abuse is just an expected part of a relationship.
Fear of Being Outed: If your friend is in LGTBQ identified, but has not come out publicly to everyone, their partner may threaten to out them.
Embarrassment or Shame: It can be incredibly difficult to admit that you might be being abused. In many cases, your friend may feel as though they must have done something to make the abuse happen or to have deserved this kind of relationship. They might also be afraid that others will judge them if they talk about the abuse.
Low Self-esteem: A common abusive tactic is to put down the other person or to make them feel as though no one else would ever love them. If their self-esteem has been worn down, they may not feel as though they deserve any better than the way their current partner is treating them.
Love: An abusive relationship doesn’t start out that way. A person may believe that the abusive behaviors are just temporary, or a response to unusual stress. The abuser may also have promised to change, and out of love their partner may want to believe them and give them a chance to.
Feeling Isolated: A person might feel like they have no on besides the abuser. If the abusive partner has been keeping the person away from their family or friends, the person might feel as if they have no one to go to if they leave. This feeling can be especially intense if the person lives with the abuser.
Cultural/Religious Reasons: Traditional gender roles can make it difficult for young women to admit to being sexually active and for young men to admit to being abused. Also, your friend’s culture or religion may influence them to stay rather than end the relationship for fear of bringing shame upon their family.
Pregnancy/Parenting: If someone is pregnant with their abusive partner’s child, they may feel they need to stay in order to support the child. If the person already has children, the abusive partner may have threatened to take the children away or to sue for custody if they were to leave.
Distrust of Police and Other Resources: Someone might feel like they cannot trust the police or the University to help them, so they may be hesitant to seek help in leaving the relationship, and it may feel like no one can help them.
Language Barriers/Immigration Status: If someone undocumented, they may fear that reporting the abuse will affect their immigration status. Also, if their first language isn’t English, it can be difficult to express the depth of their situation to predominantly English speakers.
Financial Constraints: Someone may be financially dependent on their abusive partner, sharing costs for housing, food or other expenses. Without money or other resources, it can seem impossible for them to leave the relationship.
Disability: If your friend is physically dependent on their abusive partner, they can feel that their well-being is connected to the relationship. This dependency could heavily influence his or her decision to stay in an abusive relationship.
Content adapted from loveisrespect.org