Why Do Battered Women Stay in Abusive Relationships?
From manual by The Greater Portland's Women's Resource Center Shelter
The Women's Resource Center believes that a more important question is: Why do batterers batter?
Unfortunately, our society focuses more on the actions of the victim than on the abuser. We provide explanations here for why abuse survivors stay to facilitate understanding toward the women that we serve.
- What if you had no money?
- What if the batterer said that he would kill you if you left?
- What if the batterer said he would kill the kids if you left?
- What if he threatened to fight you for custody of your children?
- What if you believed that it was important to have two parents for your kids?
- What if you had no job skills?
- What if you had no friends or family to help you?
- What if you had no faith in the justice system?
- What if you had no place else to go?
- What if you were more afraid of what might happen if you left?
- What if you thought that things were going to get better?
- What if you thought that you were causing the violence?
- What if you were sure that you could change your behavior and stop the violence?
- What if you felt too guilty to end your relationship?
- What if you didn't want to leave your home and belongings?
- What if the idea of leaving and being alone terrified you?
- What if you loved the abuser?
- What if your children loved the abuser?
- What if your family told you to stay?
- What if you believed that marriages should last forever?
- What if you thought that violence in relationships was normal and inevitable?
- What if you believed that women had to comply with men?
- What if your religion or culture forbade you to leave?
Remember that a woman leaves the batterer 3-7 times before she is able to leave him for good. Leaving is never easy.
We realize that and it is so hard to watch a woman staying in the shelter choosing to go back to the abuser. Remembering these factors will help us realize why she does go back.
At the shelter, we choose to believe that anytime a woman leaves that she means it and that she will succeed. If she goes back and then returns to us, we don't doubt her when she says that this time she will stay away.
Leaving an abusive relationship is probably the hardest thing she will ever do. She needs us to believe in her.
Last Updated: 10 February 2016
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD