Why Would Someone Stay In An Abusive Relationship?
Why would someone stay with a partner who is abusive? If you have never been in an abusive relationship then this may seem like a sensible question but the answer is very complex.
Leaving an abusive partner is the most dangerous time for the victim. The Femicide Census 2020 reports that of the 888 women killed by partners or former partners, at least 378 (43%) were known to have separated, or had made attempts to separate, from the abuser.
The victim's fear is not only for their safety but also for the safety of any children or pets that also reside in the home.
Abuse is often a cycle. The honeymoon stage may start with 'love bombing' where the abuser goes all out to draw the person into the relationship. They show their best side and use compliments, positive attention or gifts. They will hook the person in to show them just how 'good' the relationship can be.
When the abuse then starts, the abuser will manipulate their partner into thinking that the abuse has only happened because of something that they did wrong. The victim will then do anything to get the abuser to return to their former loving self.
Following the abuse there is a period of calm during which time victims may experience positive emotions due to the release of dopamine and oxytocin - feel good hormones.
The victim will continue trying to make the abuser happy so as to keep this feel good factor but at some point, the tension starts to build and the cycle begins again.
The perpetrator may have complete control over household finances. The victim may not have access to money and they may not be allowed to work so they have no financial independence. It is not easy to walk out of your home (possibly with children) when you have nowhere to go and no means of supporting yourself. For some people this would mean making themselves homeless without a penny to their name.
Domestic abusers can be very clever and manipulative. They may relocate the whole family to another part of the country. This means that the victim is now far away from family and friends with no support network. Even if there are family close by the abuser may use tactics to drive a wedge between the victim and their family so that all contact is lost. A decrease in self esteem due to their situation can also cause victims to withdraw from others.
"I'll kill myself if you leave me"
"You'll never see the children again"
"No one will believe you"
"The only way you'll be leaving me is in a box"
These threats are real and terrifying.
Staying in an abusive relationship is not a sign of weakness. It is quite the opposite. It takes great strength and resilience. I liken it to living with a terror threat every single day. People can feel that it is simply impossible and the intention of this article is certainly not to make it more difficult.
There are professionals that can help you to leave safely, you don't have to do this on your own.
Please see the resources below for useful links.
For female victims
Women's Aid have lots of support on their website including live chat, a community support forum and a survivors handbooks which has lots of helpful information. You can also email a domestic abuse support worker.
Gov.uk has lots of information including helpline numbers. It also details other ways that you can get help. This includes the use of apps, codewords and safe spaces. It also talks about how you can get a court order to protect yourself or your children.
Refuge - National Domestic Abuse Helpline 0808 2000 247. Refuge also provide safe, emergency accommodation through a network of refuges throughout the UK
Support for male victims
Men's Advice Line This site offers useful resources and also has a free helpline for male victims.
Mankind Male Victims of Domestic Abuse can call 01823 334244 to talk confidentially. They can also signpost to emergency housing including refuge/safe housing plus specialist legal help/solicitors.