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May 14, 2012

Why Do We Stay?

Why Do We Stay?

(Group discussion following information...)

We stay in abusive relationships for so many different reasons!  It is not a simple situation that we can just break out of, there is always so much more involved then anyone ever knows, and no one should judge anyone for staying or going back to an abusive situation, but be there to support them in their steps towards freedom.  There are many reasons why victims stay in their abusive situation, many are common.

Please read down the list of why Victims stay, and read after the list comments from Survivors as to why they stayed.

Here is a part of what one of the group members have said, I think this is it in a nut shell.

"Folks always make a point to say that it takes a village to raise a child. It takes a nation to embrace the fact that this is happening every minute of every day, to take action can mean as little as not looking the other way. "

Emotional reasons:
  • Fear of the abuser, of the unknown, of not being able to support the children, of loosing the children, so many reasons to fear...........
  • Children: having to take them out of school, away from everything they know, their emotional needs, will the abusive parent win them back?
  • Low self-esteem
  • Shame or embarrassment of the abuse and what has happened
  • Experienced abuse as a child and doesn’t know anything else and in many ways justifies the abuse.
  • Feeling isolated; whether from the abuser isolating them or themselves having isolated themselves during the relationship due to the abuse.
  • Feeling that they just wouldn't make it by themselves without the abusers support.
  • Feeling that they would rather stay with the abuser and know what to expect then to leave and not know what is going to happen next from the abuser or from life.
  • Rationalizing that their abuse isn't that bad, that they can live through it, that their children aren't being affected.
  • Thinking that the abuser will find out that they are going to leave and they'll be abused more.
  • Believing that the relationship can/will get better.
  • Depression
  • A desire to make the relationship better, thinking that if they just did everything right the way the abuser wants it, it'll be ok.
  • Guilt
  • Hope and dreams of a certain way of life
  • Feeling that they deserved what they got, and wouldn't get any better anywhere else.
  • Insecurity about being alone, on her own; she's afraid she can't cope with home and children by herself.
  • Loyalty.  "He's sick; if he had a broken leg or cancer--I would stay.  This is no different."
  • Pity. He's worse off than she is; she feels sorry for him.
  • Wanting to help. "If I stay I can help him get better."
  • Fear that he will commit suicide if she leaves (often he's told her this).
  • Denial. "It's really not that bad. Other people have it worse."
  • Love. Often, the abuser is quite loving and lovable when he is not being abusive.
  • Love, especially during the "honeymoon" stage; she remembers what he used to be like.
  • Guilt. She believes--and her partner and the other significant others are quick to agree--that their problems are her fault.
  • Shame and humiliation in front of the community. "I don't want anyone else to know."
  • Unfounded optimism that the abuser will change.
  • Unfounded optimism that things will get better, despite all evidence to the contrary.
  • Learned helplessness. trying every possible method to change something in our environment, but with no success, so that we eventually expect to fail. Feeling helpless is a logical response to constant resistance to our efforts. This can be seen with prisoners of war, people taken hostage, people living in poverty who cannot get work, etc.
  • False hope. "He's starting to do things I've been asking for." (counseling, anger management, things she sees as a chance of improvement.)
  • Guilt. She believes that the violence is caused through some inadequacy of her own (she is often told this); feels as though she deserves it for failing.
  • Responsibility. She feels as though she only needs to meet some set of vague expectations in order to earn the abuser's approval.
  • Insecurity over her potential independence and lack of emotional support.
  • Guilt about the failure of the marriage/relationship.
  • Demolished self-esteem. "I thought I was too (fat, stupid, ugly, whatever he's been calling her) to leave."
  • Lack of emotional support--she feels like she's doing this on her own, and it's just too much.
  • Simple exhaustion. She's just too tired and worn out from the abuse to leave.
Situational Factors:
  • Economic dependence. How can she support herself and the children?
  • Fear of greater physical danger to herself and her children if they try to leave.
  • Fear of being hunted down and suffering a worse beating than before.
  • Survival. Fear that her partner will follow her and kill her if she leaves, often based on real threats by her partner.
  • Fear of emotional damage to the children.
  • Fear of losing custody of the children, often based on her partner's remarks.
  • Lack of alternative housing; she has nowhere else to go.
  • Lack of job skills; she might not be able to get a job.
  • Social isolation resulting in lack of support from family and friends.
  • Social isolation resulting in lack of information about her alternatives.
  • Lack of understanding from family, friends, police, ministers, etc.
  • Negative responses from community, police, courts, social workers, etc.
  • Fear of involvement in the court process; she may have had bad experiences before.
  • Fear of the unknown. "Better the devil you know than the devil you don't."
  • Fear and ambivalence over making formidable life changes.
  • "Acceptable violence". The violence escalates slowly over time. Living with constant abuse numbs the victim so that she is unable to recognize that she is involved in a set pattern of abuse.
  • Ties to the community. The children would have to leave their school, she would have to leave all her friends and neighbors behind, etc. For some women it would be like being in the Witness Protection program--she could never have any contact with her old life.
  • Ties to her home and belongings.
  • Family pressure; because Mom always said, "I told you it wouldn't work out." or "You made your bed, now you sleep in it."
  • Fear of her abuser doing something to get her (report her to welfare, call her workplace, etc.)
  • Unable to use resources because of how they are provided (language problems, disability, homophobia, etc.)
  • Time needed to plan and prepare to leave.
Economic Reasons:
  • Unemployment, fear of loosing job when needing to relocate, having to relocate out of the area and not having a job
  • Home belongs to the abuser
  • Money controlled by the abuser
  • Children, not sure how they are going to support them after leaving the abuser.
  • No car or transportation to be able to work, get the kids to school, or find a job or go to the store.
  • Lack of education
Social reasons:
  • Lack of support from friend, family and/or community, support is crucial to a Victims Survival.
  • Abuser taking all that is needed such as phone, keys, money, so that the Victim feels less able to escape.
  • Cultural issues
  • Lack of information and resources, not knowing where to get help, not knowing where to go for resources, not knowing what is available for Victims and their children.
  • Inadequate response from the police or court system
  • Not having faith in the justice system that has failed others.
  • Beliefs of their Religion, many which state that you must obey the Husband and do everything he tells you to do and respect him no matter what.
  • Beliefs of their family that believe that they should stay in the relationship and make it work, that the kids need both parents.
  • Isolation from community, and not knowing what is offered in their community.
  • Community's response
Personal Beliefs:
  • Parenting, needing a partner for the kids. "A crazy father is better than none at all."
  • Religious and extended family pressure to keep the family together no matter what.
  • Duty. "I swore to stay married till death do us part."
  • Responsibility. It is up to her to work things out and save the relationship.
  • Belief in the American dream of growing up and living happily ever after.
  • Identity. Woman are raised to feel they need a partner--even an abusive one--in order to to be complete or accepted by society.
  • Belief that marriage is forever.
  • Belief that violence is the way all partners relate (often this woman has come from a violent childhood).
  • Religious and cultural beliefs.
Feelings of a few from group discussion (published with permission):

*I think I can see where someone may actually think there was love involved in the abuse. 

1) If the woman grew up in an abusive home, she may just take it for granted that this is the way things are supposed to be.  She could mistakenly think (maybe sub-consciously), "He says he loves me, so I guess this is okay - this is his way of showing his love."  

2) If he has repeatedly told her that he loves her sooooo much, but she just makes him hit her, or whatever.  If a woman is told something often enough, she will tend to believe it - eventually. 
(I did.) 

3) If she doesn't know anything about abuse, she may not recognize that what he's doing isn't out of love, but desire for power and control.  Some women just don't get it.

Someone who has been brainwashed so effectively will think exactly what her abuser wants her to think - until something jars her into thinking for herself.

One of the Hispanic ladies in our shelter-sponsored D/V group said that this sort of behavior was so prevalent in her community, it was just the norm.  Everyone did it - her family abused each other emotionally and otherwise.  That was just their way of life.  She knew no differently until just the last few years, since she's been here in America.

*" I think that it is mostly out of fear why we stayed. Fear of what he will do to us if we leave. We know very well that the abusers use violence to prove their points to us and they use it to "show" us that they are serious. The violence keeps getting worse to keep us scared. If they did the same thing over and over again, then we would get used to it and not be afraid anymore. At that point, they would lose their control over us and we could just walk out. But, by keeping it more severe every time, it keeps us scared and we know that leaving will piss them off more than anything and that’s why it’s so hard to leave: We know that when we REALLY piss them off, there is no telling what they will do. Some of them will threaten suicide to make us worry about them. They have brought down our self-esteem and self-respect so much that we care more about everyone else in the world more than we do ourselves, which means we will stay in a bad situation to keep the other person happy. We assume we don’t matter so it doesn’t make a difference in the world if we are happy or not. If they don’t threaten us with our own lives or their own, they will threaten anything that they know we care about, like pets or children..."
                                 -thoughts from Amy Lynn

*For me, I didn't think I could do any better.  My confidence level was so low and my ex had me convinced that no one else would ever want me if I ever left, plus he made it so that I had to depend on him for certain things.  I stayed because I believed him when he said he loved me and thought that I deserved what I got.  I was embarrassed by what happened to me, and thought that if people knew they would also look down upon me.  Fear also played a big part in why I stayed since he owned a lot of weaponry and was skilled in using it.  Now that I have been away for many years I can see things much more clearly.  I can see that I didn't deserve the treatment I received.  I have many friends who enjoy my company.  I also have a peace of mind and confidence that I didn't have before.  The message I want to get out to all victims and new survivors is to never lose hope.  We are all strong individuals who will make it and are capable of GREAT things!!  Remember, abusers fill our minds with negativity so that we will stay with them longer.  It's all about mind games.  You deserve to feel safe and happy!! 

I will do everything I can to help get the message out that abuse is wrong and should not be tolerated or accepted!!

*I for one think a major reason why we stay is that we will NOT BE BELIEVED by those who are outside the situation and/or that the trauma we go through will be minimized by those who hear our story. I for one, with my first bf, was afraid I was so ugly a person that I deserved the abuse and that even if I did leave, I wouldn't find anyone better.  It was easier for me to deride myself and place the blame on myself than blame those who abused me because with the realization that I'M not to blame, comes anger and anger was dangerous for me to express. I was afraid to stand up and count myself better than what I was given because I was afraid I wanted too much for myself and was arrogant to want better.

*I know why I couldn't leave for a long time, my abuser always took all the phones with him and locked the door from an outside deadbolt when he left.... DUHHHHH  When he was at home I was made well aware that there were loaded guns ( even had him do the whole Russian Roulette things ) and if I wanted to leave I would do so in a body bag, one big enough for me and my children.

It makes me so mad when the victim is made to look like the one in the wrong, it happens in the DV world and as I know too well the victims of rape go thru the same BULL. 

When will this society learn that this helps no one, and all it does it make victims hide in their personal hells. When i left my abuser I tried to get help for myself and my children until I could get back on my feet. Do you know they told me I had a husband with a job and if I went home I wouldn't need their help. Sometimes I think it is just as big a job to educate people of what abuse is and who is at fault as it would be to stop abuser from hurting the people they say they love.  This world makes no sense to me at times, and in the wake of my friends death I find it hard to face tomorrow with any speck of hope for a better world.
As far as the what would I ask?

As a survivor I hope that I would embrace this person and let them know that there are people in this world who know what they have been thru and can be there to hold their hand every step of the way, this can be hard sometimes I know it is very easy to get caught up in re-living our own crap, for this reason I think it is important that government people ( police, welfare, and justice workers ) are trained in knowing how to help these very delicate and special people ( US ) and especially how to deal with people of different cultures where it is ok for partners to abuse their spouses, as these people have a more difficult time getting out of these destructive relationships.   Well I too have vented and I feel a bit better.

Now that I am in a bit of a more rational state of mind I wanted to add to my earlier post. For myself I can tell you that there is fear far beyond the violence and humiliation we suffered from our abusers.

There is the fear that we can't make it without them... We are conditioned that we can't make it. That we will never find anyone that will love us. That we can't support ourselves and care for our children.

Then there is the fear that we will never get out of there shadow, at least when we stay we know where they are...... they are not lurking in the shadows , taking off with our children, so we will never know where they are and if they are safe. And there is the warped view that they will take the kids and they will be happy without you. ( I know that pain myself )

It is so complicated, and there is so much emotion that is connected to things that most people take for granted. I have been away from my abuser for many years and I still find myself doing things I did to not be beaten. 

I still lock the door when I take a shower

Hide the pickles in the back of the veggie draw - he hated them and I wasn't supposed to buy them.

Hide my journal when I hear the door open

Hide clothes that are certain colors

They are done subconsciously, the threat is gone, and has been a long time but the fear, the fear is deeper then even we want to admit to. I read somewhere that the average woman leaves an abusive spouse 7 times before the get out ( if they live that long ) People truly do not understand the amount of strength and courage it takes to walk away, and begin a new life.  Folks always make a point to say that it takes a village to raise a child. It takes a nation to embrace the fact that this is happening every minute of every day, to take action can mean as little as not looking the other way.  I will never forget the day my husband dragged me across the parking lot of a department store in the middle of the afternoon because it took too long getting the baby out of the car seat.  About 10 people stood there and watched and no one lifted a finger. Once people realize that ignoring the problem only makes it easier for the abuser will we be safe.

*WE were told that WE were going to die, as would our children if we even thought about leaving. I too suffered the same abuse to the T. No phone, money, keys, tv, electric...I could go on and on here. that is why I never left. I think that is is SO important to prevent our children from ever making it that far into an abusive relationship, since WE know that once your in it is so difficult to get out!

I also think that is is so important to get to the "abusive children" before society does. I know that 9 out of 10 times, a bully turns into an abuser!! That is another fact that should be brought up. This is the only way that we are going to PREVENT THE ABUSE!

*I think we need to make sure the kids know that even family members can do things to them that they shouldn't do. Like fathers, step-fathers, step-mothers, siblings, uncles, cousins, etc. Even grandfathers!

*Now, for why we keep ending up in the same pattern over and over again:

"I don’t believe that we are used to abusive treatment from childhood and that’s why we go looking for abusive partners. We don’t go looking for abusive partners. It doesn’t matter how much we had to live with it, we still don’t like it and don’t look for it!! I believe that the reason it seems repetitious in so many women (or men) is because the abusers can spot low self-esteem like a shark can smell blood. They look for us, because the extra caring, low self-esteemed people in the world are the easiest targets for them. I never in my life believed that we looked for them. They look for us! The first abuser breaks us down so low, we can barely stand and if we happen to escape from that, we are desperate for something good after something so horrible. So, that leaves us open and vulnerable. It is too easy for them to spot that vulnerability and they come like hunters to an easy prey. They know all they have to do is act like the nice guy and give us some good attention and since we are so vulnerable, we fall hard and fast and then the 2nd monster in our lives has us trapped. It’s a cycle that is hard to get out of. It’s not that we look for it, it’s just that they can spot us a mile away and know how to play on our emotions. When we are abused as children, it’s automatic low self-esteem that can last for our entire lifetime. And, in that lifetime, it’s hard not to come across those nasty sharks in the water. It’s life and it happens, but if we can work on raising awareness to the signs and raising self-esteem in people, it’s definitely a part of life that we can work on avoiding." E

*I stayed for two reasons - love and fear.  Even today if I thought he might change there would have been a possibility of me taking him back.  The only reason I would not do that now is because he is back with the ex he left for me.  That is the love part.

*Isn't it interesting just how much we forget over time, and then we see, read, or hear something and it brings it right back, and then we can't believe we forgot about it?  Sometimes I feel that I really don't remember much at all, and tot tell you the truth, don't remember a lot since my childhood, blocked it out.  I think that was my way of dealing with things back then, now I just let things go and not worry about them if I can't fix them.  I do remember feelings of being abused though, the mental anyway, the physical only a faint memory compared to the mental.  Sometimes I do need to sit and think though, they are there somewhere! 

*I stayed in my first abusive relationship because I had no-where else to go.  I had moved away from my family at the age of 17 and in with the man of my dreams who ended up abusing me.  I couldn't go back, and I didn't know what else to do.  I finally did leave, and ended up walking down the road cutting my wrists because I felt that the only other option was to die.  Thankfully, a friend saw me on the side of the road and stopped, and I was gotten to the hospital where I was told that I must not have wanted to die, because I cut my wrists wrong, and then the nurse explained to me how it is done if you truly wanted to do it right.  I told her "Thank you, next time I want to die, I'll know how to do it right."  She didn't say anything else and left.  This landed me in a mental institute for observation for 2 weeks, where they stated it was situational suicide and released me.

The second abusive relationship I stayed, once again not knowing what to do and how to get out of the relationship.  I was 19, and I did end up going into a Safe House to get away from the abuser.

The third abusive relationship is to the man that I married.  He was everything I wanted, I was 20, and stupidly in love.  The abuse started slow, and I thought that if I worked hard enough at our relationship, did everything I thought he wanted me to do, dressed like he wanted me to dress, everything would be ok.  Then I had a child, one that he never wanted and tried to kill by punching me in the stomach when I was 4 months pregnant.  After that, the abuse got worse.  I stayed for 3 1/2 years because I didn't want my child to grow up without a father.  I believed him when he said he was sorry, he didn't mean it, he wouldn't do it again, he would try harder, on and on his excuses were, and for a while I believed them.  When it came to the point that he was hurting my child, that is when I started searching for a way out.  But I didn't know anyone, I was made to stay in the house, and he walked me to work.  What saved me was seeing a commercial for the hotline for the Abused.  I called it crying, and told them that I needed help.  The night before my Husband got angry because I wouldn't have sex with him because our child was sleeping in our waterbed, so he threw my child against the dresser back first, and came at me when I tried to protect my child.  I was put in a headlock, and told that I was going to die, that he would kill me before I could call the police.  The next day while he was at work I called the hotline and planned my escape.  The following day they picked me up against all rules because I let them know that he was working or would be fired, and I went into the shelter system.  I would have gone back to him, but he didn't want me back.  He said he loved me, but wasn't in love with me.  I was scared, had a child to take care of that I couldn't take care of, but I made it.

The fourth abusive relationship I was in was to my fiancée that I'm with now.  He isn't abusive anymore, not in the least, because he truly did want to change, did want help, and we worked together to help him through that behavior, and through the pain that he kept inside all of his life about his abuse through childhood.   I stayed with him through the years of abuse because I saw that he did want to change, that he was a Survivor just like me, but never had the resources that I did, never had the inner strength like I did.  He has made it through, and our family is in tact.  I don't feel that all abusers can change, but some can with the right help.  He is now a Survivor and plans to speak out against DV.

In a nut shell, I've stayed because of lack of money, lack of a place to go, lack of the inner strength to do so, fear, love, hate, afraid of the un-known, confusion, believing through the Honey Moon Period that it would/could get better, lack of resources, so many reasons!  Another reason is because of Society.  I felt that I had to be ashamed of being abused, that Society as a whole really didn't understand or care for those that were abused.  I never heard of abuse, abuse Survivors, and that is something that is going to change........

*Yes, it truly amazes me at how much of the abuse I have blocked from my memory.  For awhile I only was remembering the good in my ex.  Fortunately one day I woke up (or maybe a limb starting giving me problems, can't recall) and was slowly able to realize why it was I left him.  I have to agree that the effects of the mental anguish live on a lot longer and is way more hurtful than the physical aspects, though those weren't any fun either!!  I tend to analyze a problem or issue these days to see if it is worth getting worked up over or not.  Usually it isn't, so I relax.  These days I am in much better health and feel a lot less stressed, which is nice.  As time goes on and we remember what happened and can let it go to a degree I think we all get to feeling that much better.  It's wonderful we all have each other!!

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