13 Reasons She Doesn’t Leave An Abusive Relationship
Abuse is a tragic occurrence, and it can be extremely painful and even frustrating for an outsider looking in and wondering, “why doesn't she just leave?”.
It may seem to be a simple solution to an outsider, but everything is far from simple if you are in a relationship with an abuser. Let me give you a sneak peak into several reasons why women stay in abusive relationships.
1. Physical or verbal threats
If a woman has been verbally or physically threatened, she may feel it is safer for herself, her children, or her pets to stay with the abuser than to leave... and sometimes this is true. When an abuser realizes they are losing control, they can become more violent and even deadly in some cases. Women in these scenarios need professional help to exit the relationship safely.
2. Pressure to stay in relationship from family or church
Unfortunately, some families and religious organizations believe that it is wrong for a woman to leave an abusive marriage. They will give advice such as: submit more, try not to anger him, or embracing the suffering for the sake of Christ. Not only is this advice potentially deadly, it also leaves the victim of abuse feeling as if she does not have a support system to fall back on. Sometimes this advice even makes it seem as if God and the Bible is against her mental and physical safety.
3. Lack of financial independence
Many times, abusers will use a tactic called financial abuse to impair their victim. A financial abuser may prevent the woman from becoming educated, getting, or keeping a job. They may also withhold money or place significant financial burden on the victim, to ensure that they are not financially capable to provide for themselves and/or their children outside of the relationship.
4. Guilt and manipulation
Abusers are crafty, and will look for any signs of vulnerability and use them against their victim in the form of guilting or manipulation. They will make the victim believe the poor treatment they are receiving from the abuser is actually their fault. Abusers will also use a form of manipulation called “gas-lighting” where they attempt to change the victim's sense of reality causing them to doubt themselves and their own sanity.
5. She doesn’t believe she is worth anything better
Whether it is because of past or present abuse, a victim can be made to believe that they deserve the poor treatment they are receiving. When one does not believe they are worth anything better, they likely will not seek to free themselves from the abuse, and may feel it is pointless for others to try and free them.
6. She doesn’t realize the treatment is wrong
Maybe she grew up seeing other women treated the same way, or maybe he is able to justify his actions using Scripture or twisted logic. At any rate, she doesn’t realize his abusive actions are wrong.
7. She doesn’t have a place to go
Maybe she wants to leave, but she doesn’t feel that she has a place to go. She may not be close to family or friends due to distance, relationship strain, or the abuser's isolation tactics.
8. The abuse makes her emotionally, mentally or physically ill and unable to escape
Abuse, both physical and emotional, can wear on your body, weakening your immune system and causing you to be physically ill. Additionally, it can damage your mental and emotional health, causing depression, fatigue, anxiety and other issues. When a person is not healthy, this can impair their ability to make an escape, or even have the energy to consider it.
9. No one would believe her
Abusers often disguise themselves as generous and charismatic individuals with power and spiritual insight. They put up this front to cast doubt upon the victim’s story and trick people to come under their control. An abuser may also seek to discredit the victim by provoking or discrediting her and then displaying her negative reaction. Those she goes to for help may believe common abuse myths or doubt women in general.
10. She won't have access to health care
If the victim of abuse suffers from any medical illnesses and is reliant on medical care or prescription medications, she may fear that leaving the abuser will result in loss of access to health care if the medical plan or financial resources are held by the abuser.
11. Sometimes it doesn’t feel so bad
Abuse is a cycle. There is the honeymoon stage where the abuser often showers the victim with affection and gifts. Next is the tension building stage, where the abuse begins to build and the victim feels as though they are walking on eggshells trying not to upset the abuser. Inevitably, the abuser will find an excuse to excel into the next stage which is violence, either physical or emotional. Then the cycle will start again with the abuser apologizing and showering the victim with gifts and affirmation, repeating to no end. This causes the victim to feel disoriented, longing for the days when it’s not so bad, and feeling confused when promises are broken and the violence begins again.
12. She feels sorry for him
Many abusers choose victims that are extremely empathetic and caring. The victim may believe she can change the abuser, or that he needs her help. The abuser takes advantage of her good-hearted nature, abusing her and then asking for her to stay and help him get better, without having any plan for real change.
13. She loves him
Abusers can be extremely charming and romantic individuals at times, but with a dark and dangerous side. Additionally, an abuser can manipulate women into believing they are in love by saying things like, “I get so jealous and angry because I don’t want to lose you.” She can truly fall in love and have a strong emotional attachment, which the abuser simultaneously re-enforces and uses to control her. Sometimes this love and empathy towards and abuser is called Stockholm Syndrome.
Why doesn’t she leave? It could be any combination of the above reasons. The control in an abusive relationship can make it feel nearly impossible to get free.
If you think you may possibly be in an abusive relationship, consider if any of these above reasons could be holding you back. If so, please know that you don’t need to feel guilt or shame for this, which is a very typical response to abuse. That being said, it is important that you get help because you are valuable as an individual, and our world needs the things that only you can offer.
Please call 911 if you are in immediate danger, or the SARP 24/7 confidential Hotline 888-947-7273 for help creating a safe escape plan, access to free community resources such as support groups, mental health and medical provider recommendations, temporary housing, and financial help.
If you think a loved one may be trapped in an abusive relationship, please take a look at the information above and consider contacting SARP for advice. If you are not sure if your loved one is in an abusive relationship, or if they are hesitant to talk about it, read “3 Questions To Ask Someone You Fear Is Being Abused.” One of the most important things you can do is be an empathetic and supportive friend to the one being abused. Casting judgement or asking why she doesn’t just leave will only serve to cause her greater insecurity and fear. Let her know that you are there for her and that you are willing to do anything you can to get her the help she needs.
Notes and Sources:
I want to be clear that men can experience abuse and the 13 reasons above for staying with their abuser. In this post I used a woman as the example because statically it is women who experience partner violence the most, however this does not negate that men experience the same devastating effects of abuse that women do.