Breaking the Cycle of Violence

Why Women Stay

Donate to Foundation Now Fear: Fear of the unknown. Sometimes leaving the abuse and being alone will be more frightening for the victim than remaining in the relationship. Also, the abuser usually tends to threaten the victim and the children with physical harm if they try to leave. Statistics show that women who leave their batterers are at a 75% greater risk of being killed by the batterer than those who stay.

Children: Being a single parent may be a terrifying experience for a battered woman. The responsibility of raising children alone can be too much to bear (even if the spouse/boyfriend has never assisted in the care taking needs of the children.) The abuser will often use the children as a pawn against the victim by threatening to take them away if the woman attempts to leave.

Promises of Reform: The abuser will frequently promise that it will never happen again; the victim wants to believe that this is true.

Guilt: The woman may believe that her husband is sick and needs her help. Women are trained to think that they can save their abusive mates, that they can change. Thus, the idea of leaving her spouse can produce feelings of guilt.
Lack of Self-esteem: The woman may come to believe that she somehow deserves the abuse to which she has been subjected (she has been told this repeatedly by her partner). Lack of self-esteem and the belief that she doesn’t deserve anything better can be paralyzing for a battered woman. This lack of self-esteem cuts across racial, ethnic, religious and socioeconomic lines. Physicians, attorneys, judges, and professors can be, and are, battered.

Love: Most people enter a relationship for love, and that emotion does not simply disappear in abusive relationships. Most women want the violence to end, but love their partner and want the relationship. According to G.L. Bundow, a South Carolina physician, “I know that when I took my marriage vows, I meant for better or for worse.” This physician accepted the abuse, and it wasn’t until the day that the “until death do us part” section of her wedding vows became a frightening reality that she was motivated to leave the relationship.

Sex-role Conditioning: Women are still taught to be passive and dependent upon men. In addition, women generally accept the responsibility for the state of their relationships; to leave is to admit failure.

Societal Acceptance/Reinforcement of Marital Violence: Many people believe that marital violence is acceptable. “She’s there because she likes it,” or “A little slap will keep her in line.”

Economic Dependence: The economic reality for women (particularly with children) is a bleak one, especially for women who have not worked outside the home. Economic dependency on the spouse is often a very real reason for remaining in the relationship. She may not have (or know of) any other resources.

Religious Beliefs: Often, religious beliefs reinforce the commitment to a marriage. “This is God’s plan” may be a powerful reason for staying.

Cultural or Ethnic Background: Often a person’s cultural or ethnic background may discourage revealing the fact that the person is a victim of domestic violence. As a result, the victim will remain in the relationship in order to avoid persons outside the family from finding out.

Stigma of a Broken Home: Society considers that families who separate are “broken.” This implies that something is wrong with such a family, even though the “intact” family environment may be a violent and dangerous one.
Satisfaction with the Relationship between Incidents of Battering: The abusers are often very charming and loving when not abusing the victim. The women often tend to fall for their batterer’s softer side, especially the tenderness that they show immediately following each attack.
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