What Keeps Victims in Abusive Relationships

The following list is far from comprehensive. There are many combinations of factors that prevent victims from leaving their abusers.  

Situational Factors

  • Economic dependence.
  • She may become homeless if she leaves.
  • Fear of increased danger if she leaves. Fear the abuser will hurt the children.
  • Fear of losing custody of the children.
  • Abuser has isolated victim from family and friends, and victim feels they have nowhere else to go.
  • Fear of the unknown.
  • The victim may not recognize the abuse due to a long history of violence.
  • Negative responses from community, police, social workers, courts, etc.
  • Fear no one will believe the victim’s story.
  • Unable to use resources because of how they are provided (language barriers, disability, homophobia, gender specific services, etc.)

Emotional Factors

  • Low self-esteem and total lack of belief in self.
  • Abuser threatens to commit suicide if the victim leaves. The abuser may also threaten to kill the victim, the children or another family member.
  • Denial or minimization of the abuse.
  • Love. Violent outbursts are often followed by periods of affection and promises of change.
  • Feelings of shame and humiliation in front of family, friends and the community.
  • Exhaustion from the energy needed to survive in an abusive environment.

Personal Beliefs

  • The belief that children need both a father and a mother.
  • Victim believes a partner is essential to her/his identity.
  • Religious and familial pressure to “keep the family together.”
  • Other religious or cultural beliefs.