It is not uncommon for victims of domestic violence to remain with their abusers even after years of abuse, the reasons for which are deeply complicated.
Abusers will often go to drastic measures to prevent their victims from leaving until the victims no longer feel that leaving or escaping is an option. Regardless of which avenue they have chosen - physical violence, emotional cruelty, financial manipulation, etc. - ultimately the abuser is able to convince the victim that the consequences of leaving would be far worse than the consequences of staying.
Even when the victim has a viable means to escape, many will not out of fear that their abuser’s behavior will become even more dangerous. In fact, the reality is that victims of domestic violence are in the most danger when they are in the process of separating themselves from the situation. The majority of men who kill their wives have been found to be acting in retaliation against a threat of separation by their partner or an actual separation.
Whenever children are involved, the fear of losing the children or seeing them harmed is always at the forefront of the victim’s mind. Financial intimidation is extremely common and can be particularly paralyzing when the victim does not have an outside support system. Many victims of domestic violence are denied access to any household finances or assets and therefore have no financial means to leave. Without friends or family to turn to for a safe haven, mothers are especially terrified of being unable to support their children.
Outside pressures must be considered as well. Our culture encourages women to serve as the caretaker, prompting many to excuse or justify abuse. Many women also struggle to separate their sense of self-worth from their relationship status, so they will stay in abusive circumstances because leaving would symbolize failure in their minds. These dangerous cultural influences include religious beliefs as well. Many victims who seek guidance from their church’s counselors are encouraged to save their marriages due to the negative connotations around divorce.
Unfortunately, when it comes to domestic violence, there can be a reluctance on the part of law enforcement to take the victims seriously as well. It is not uncommon for police to downplay violent domestic cases, or even dismiss evidence of abuse entirely and side with the abuser. Sadly, when sentencing a convicted abuser, judges almost never give out the maximum punishment. Many never even see jail time.
Just because a victim is hesitant to leave an unhealthy situation behind does not mean they are unwilling to. Many just need a bit of compassion and guidance. As society continues to build a better understanding of the elements at play within these domestic crimes, hopefully, we can continue working towards building a network of resources and support to help those who may not be able to help themselves on their own.