Why do Women Stay in Abusive Relationships?


When it comes to domestic abuse, 85% of the victims are women. As per the reports, a lot of women are prisoners of domestic violence. The domestic violence could be either in the form of physical, emotional or financial abuse or a combination of all these three. And before you blame the Indian culture, let us shock you with one more statistic– a woman is beaten every 9 seconds in the United States – one of the most powerful countries of the world. Can you feel the gravity of the situation?

Abusive Relationships
One of the most common questions that people often ask anyone who has been in an abusive relationship is ‘why did they not leave the relationship?’ Victims in an abusive relationship hear this question over and over, as to why do they stay in a relationship that has nothing to offer them. The hard reality is that sometimes victims do not even know that they are in an abusive relationship. And even if they do, they tend to stick to the relationship no matter how violating that may be. Women, mostly victims of domestic abuse tend to spend their entire lives living in hopelessness and despair, and we examine why. Before we understand why do women stay in abusive relationships, let us first understand what is it all about.

What is an abusive relationship?

Any normal relationship comprises of mutual love, care, concern, respect, understanding, trust, and honesty. However, when a relationship which lacks these qualities and all that are prominent are disrespect, intense jealousy with over possessiveness, domination, and control, it can be said to be an abusive relationship. Most of us associate abuse with physical violence because that is the most visible kind of abuse. However, it is not the only abuse in a relationship. It ranges from verbal, emotional, mental, physical, psychological and domestic abuse.

The solution to an abusive relationship might seem very easy to an outside entity but the reality is completely different for someone involved in the relationship. The consequences of staying on in an abusive relationship are more than merely a physical injury. Many women tend to submit to abuse because their brains are washed that way- they are made to believe their worthlessness and so women, already suppressed by society, lose the grip on their lives and thinking. This often ends them confused and depressed, severely compromising their ability to reason.

What are the reasons for staying on in abusive relationships?

There are many reasons that make women stay on in an abusive relationship. From fear to low self-esteem and financial dependence, there are a lot of causes that can lead to a woman stick to the abuser without even realizing so.

1. Fear

This is probably the most notable aspect of being in an abusive relationship. An abusive partner threatens violence, harm to family members and children, and may even give death threats. In such a case, the woman is always wary and fearful for herself and others as well. She hesitates to take steps to get out of such a relationship. She might also be afraid of what others will think or say about her. When the abusive partner is willing to go to any extent to hurt her or her family members, she will naturally back out of taking any steps that will help her get out of such a relationship. The abusive partner may have threatened her that he can go to any extent to destroy her or her reputation, or could cause harm in any way.

2. Isolation

Being in an abusive relationship can often cause social and familial isolation in women. In such a case, they are prone to becoming reclusive and withdrawn from those around them. They may stop contact with their friends and relatives. When the partner is of an abusive nature, he may discourage her from socializing or even being in contact with relatives and friends. This so happens because the abuser feels threatened by the people the woman is close with. He blames the victim’s friends and families for all their personal problems. He may prevent her from going out to meet people. As a result, she will eventually be more isolated and cornered. This makes a woman much more dependent on her abuser.

3. Feeling of low self-esteem

If a woman has been in an abusive relationship for a long time, it can eat away at her self-esteem steadily. Abusers often use guilt as an effective tactic and justify their abusive actions by blaming the victim. A time may come when a woman, the victim, starts doubting her self-worth so much, that she starts to think that she deserves the abuse. She forgets to value herself and her selfless actions. She feels that she is worthy of such treatment. The feeling of culpability sets in and starts to believe that everything she does or says is always wrong. She becomes psychologically weak and starts undermining her own self.

4. They think abuse is normal

Many women in an abusive relationship think that this is what is normal. They confuse the violence and abuse as some form of expression of love. Women think that every intimate relationship is like this only. They may have seen similar kinds of abusive relationship in their family, which makes them accept the situation.They coerce themselves to believe that if their partner is being over possessive, it is a form of love. If he is being jealous, it is his way of expressing his love to her. All these notions are completely wrong. If there is some kind of love, he will try to understand her instead of overpowering her or trying to control her. He is also afraid of someone else showing her love or affection for the fear that she may leave him.

5. Dependence on the partner

Social isolation can result in over-dependence on the partner, despite the abuse. They might also still be in love with the person. The abuser may not be an evil person altogether. In many instances, the abuser himself will have suffered prolonged abuse and doesn’t know how to deal with his emotions. If the abuser shows even some amount of affection, it might lead the woman to think that the abuse will end. In many instances, the abuser himself is confused as to how to treat his woman.

In other instances, he will think that giving her even a small change of freedom will make her leave him. When the woman is not in contact with anyone from outside – relatives or friends, she will be completely dependent on another human being – the abuser. She will even learn to feel solace when she is around him. It is a very difficult situation for her to deal with.

6. Financial constraints

An overly controlling and abusive partner will try to control a woman’s finances completely. In many cases, they don’t allow them to hold a job, which results in increased financial dependence on the abuser. A woman in a financially abusive relationship will find it much harder to come out, as she doesn’t have the means to survive outside the relationship. The abuser, will in most cases control her finances, for the fear that she may use it for someone else, or to even get out of the relationship. He wants to control her in all ways possible. For women who cannot exercise monetary freedom, it is very difficult to leave such an abusive relationship because of lack of back up and even personal freedom or monetary resources.

In the majority of cases, the abused feels pity for the abuser and doesn’t want to hurt him. No matter how silly the excuses are, the abused tries to follow the instructions. The abuser usually comes and apologizes for his actions with words like such as “I did not mean it,” or “I was angry,” or “I was just kidding,”, “You made me lose my temper” etc.

How to get out of an abusive relationship?

quit abusive relationship
Though difficult, it is imperative that the victim starts thinking of how to overcome abuse instead of brooding or developing depression. instead of suffering in an abusive relationship, the victim should start asking themselves “what are the effective ways to stop abuse”. They have to keep connected with their loved ones. Keeping in touch with the family or friends will help to overcome the emotional trauma. They can also approach professional experts to know how to respond to abuse. They will also offer a suggestion of how to handle abuse.

On the same lines, attending a domestic violence or abusive relationship related workshop can be a helpful one. The immediate mistake one does is to try into new social relations. This may even give opposite results sometime. Try to confront the partner and do not give another chance to your spouse to abuse again. Be assertive and let him know that they are committing a crime. As the saying goes, ‘an idle mind is the devil’s workshop’, keep yourself engaged by doing some other things.

Remember, there is no place for abuse in any kind of relationship. If there is no mutual understanding or love or trust, remember, it is no good, investing anything in such a relationship. Abusive relationships are nothing but the silent suffering of women.


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