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Why Women Do Not Leave Abusive Relationships

Updated on October 24, 2010

Why Women Stay


When it comes to domestic violence, one question gets asked over and over again, why does she stay? There is no single answer to this question. There never will be either. There will however, be a few general underlying truths that factor into each unique equation.

-She stays because she is hopeful. He wooed her with unwavering attention to romantic detail. His devotion to pursuing her made her feel remarkably desired. His mildly degrading comments regarding her clothes, her friends, her family, it was all meant to be taken in the best possible way. He only wants the absolute best for her. It was not his intention to hurt her feelings, he was just a little bit brusque. Before she knows it, he’s apologizing for hurting her physically, her friends and family have become less present, and she is not quite sure what is going on. In her eyes, she believes his excuses and feels that if she pays attention and does everything in her power to ease his troubles and make him happy, he will stop taking it out on her.

-She stays because she is afraid. Somewhere along the time line she has lost her feeling of self confidence. To paraphrase an old anonymous saying, ‘if you tell someone something long enough, eventually they will start to believe it.’ Initially she may have been hurt by his words but angered at their implications. When their fights escalated and her side of the argument was always minimized, his twisted logic started to nag at her. She starts to wonder if somehow he saw something she would not. She starts to doubt herself. Over time she is no longer sure she can manage to be on her own again. The daily mental interrogation of her self is agonizing and exhausting. She fears him, but she fears the world more.

-She stays for the children. Whether or not she grew up in a broken home has little bearing over this one. What matters is that she feels so strongly in not having a broken home, that she bears the brunt of all his controlling anger in order to have her family in one piece. This may be out of vanity and pride, not wanting anyone to know, or it may be out of staunch religious beliefs that marriage only ends in death, even if at his hand. She strives to be the perfect wife and mother, dutifully raising their children to respect the king of their castle. She is not afraid that she cannot make it on her own, but would rather stay than see her children live through the inevitably messy divorce and be subjected to the ridicule and heartbreak she is sure they would endure.

-She stays because she does not know any better. This woman grew up watching her mother be abused. More than likely her siblings and her suffered the abuse as well. There may even be other family members that are abusive or are victims. It is what she has seen all her life. She may know it is wrong but ends up in the same kind of relationship anyway, either by intentional design or coincidental accident. Without having had the opportunity to witness a functional relationship, she is at a loss and comes to the conclusion that television is truly all fantasy and nowhere close to touching on the reality as she knows it.  She does not believe that she deserves any better.

-She stays because she has nowhere else to go. In each of the above scenarios, there is likely one uniting factor, they do not know where to go. Many rural areas do not have shelters for domestic victims within a close proximity and many suburban areas choose to ignore the need altogether. Many of these women have been so sheltered from their previous lives that they are unaware that they have friends or family that are willing to help them. They think they have lost that option. Having a local shelter can mean the difference between life and death. For many women, the nearest shelter is too far to walk and using the vehicle is often not a viable option. She may not be allowed out without him, she may no longer have a valid license, she may not even be allowed to know where the car keys are. Many also do not know that most sheriff departments are required to provide transportation to the nearest shelter if requested. If she does not know she has help available, it makes it that much more difficult to leave.


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    • profile image

      Dee 4 years ago

      I am in a verbal abusive relationship that has been going for 6 years, it started to become physical nothing serious but I am afraid its gonna get worse, signs aren't comforting, I want to leave but I don't know why I get cold feet!! scared not sure from what, I am young, pretty, confident and not afraid to be alone but still , I am about to file for divorce but get this hesitant voice inside of me every once in a while!!

    • Johnjfernando profile image

      jkchandra 6 years ago

      Yeah. I'm writing an article and would like it if can read it because it is from my POV in which I grew up suffering from severe depression because of an alcoholic-abusive father. Some of these points in your article fairly describe my mother to a great deal. Very touching!

    • Chaotic Chica profile image

      Chaotic Chica 7 years ago

      Confused~My heart goes out to you! The truth of the matter is that she wasn't strong enough, not at that time. I can all but guarantee that her husband read her the riot act over and over again and she paid dearly for it. More than likely, by the time he wore her down, he had her convinced that she never wanted any part of leaving him for anyone, especially you. Abusive men tend to be fantastic manipulators and they can turn just about anything around. I am so sorry that you were left holding the bag but I hope you realize what a good man you really are (despite the whole having an affair with a married woman thing). It takes a good, strong man to take on the challenge of loving an abused woman. Thank you for being that kind of man.

    • profile image

      confused 7 years ago

      I had an affair with a girl from work and she was in an abusive relationship. I promised her that i would take care of her and make sure that she would never be hurt like that again if we stayed together . She found it hard to get use to someone else loving her and found it strange to be treated good. When it all came out about us i left my life for her but she left me holding the bag, in fact she turned against me. I have had a few encounters with her husband but i have not spoken to her since. She wanted so badly to leave ,and she told me once that she might not be strong enough. I wish i knew what happened.

    • mega1 profile image

      mega1 7 years ago

      One more reason I can think of - she may have inherited the attitude that "you made your bed, you have to lie in it" and she may never have experienced any other kind of relationship since her mother also lived on in an abusive relationship. This is just the way it is, make the best of it - I know, this sounds just unbelievable especially when she is suffering with emotional and physical scars - and how I wish it wasn't so. It took me 12 years to extricate myself! And I am just now recovering to the point where I don't feel completely stupid, all the time. great hub! I can tell you really know about this!

    • Chaotic Chica profile image

      Chaotic Chica 7 years ago

      Thank you, Troi Sirtis, I really appreciate your nod-of-approval comment. I'm glad you found this and hopefully more will, too! Gotta spread that message!

    • Troi Sirtis profile image

      Troi Sirtis 7 years ago

      This is a great, in-depth article that gets into the heart of a woman who is in a relationship with an abusive man.

    • Chaotic Chica profile image

      Chaotic Chica 7 years ago

      Cara~Thank you! You are right about how single moms are vulnerable to such situations. Fear of becoming one landed me in the lap of a smooth talking closet abuser. What I mean by that is he exhibited no noticeable outward signs of being abusive but he sure knew how to say all the right things. Fortunately I learned from that experience and when a true gentleman came into my life unexpectedly, I knew my kids and I deserved to be treated well. He is helping me to teach the kids about breaking cycles and they are doing much better.

    • profile image

      Cara Moffat 7 years ago

      This Hub is so thorough and accurate! Thank you for being a voice for many abused women. I think this issue is closley tied to single moms. They get in unhealthy relationships because they are so vulnerable.

    • Chaotic Chica profile image

      Chaotic Chica 7 years ago

      That kind of falls into the realm of not feeling like they deserve better. You are right, many that do that are not even aware that subconsciencely they look for that type of relationship. It's a combination of habit and not knowing how to act in a healthy relationship. They stick to what they know. Some, and the numbers are small, just want to be martyrs and bring it on so they have something to complain about. Those cases are not common though but worth mentioning. Thank you for your input. It's always welcome!

    • angelam08 profile image

      angelam08 7 years ago

      Get ready for this. Here is another reason women stay, and most will not admit it. I will! They are addicted to the abuse, they start to push buttons so they can be hit. It does not feel right when they are not getting hit. When they get into another relationship they try to bring it with them. Some men stay and adhere to the abuse, and some men run faster than you can say wait!

    • profile image

      Duchess OBlunt 7 years ago

      As in all hubs where people take a look at hard subjects, and do a great job of providing their view points, I am often left not knowing how to respond, but wanting to because they've done a great job. The same is true here. I don't have any personal experience of what you speak, but from your writing, I have a better understanding.

      Well done, and worthy of the hubnugget nomination. Good job, and good luck

    • Money Glitch profile image

      Money Glitch 7 years ago from Texas

      All of your points are valid, however my heart goes out to those that do stay in the volatile environment of domestic abuse. Congrats on being selected as a Hubnuggets Wannabe and good luck to ya! :)

    • Chaotic Chica profile image

      Chaotic Chica 7 years ago

      Thank you all! rocknrodeogirl, shazwellyn, and faybe bay, you all made good points, definitely things worth mentioning! Thank you for your votes and rates up! I am so pleased that I am making at least a small difference through my writing!

    • rocknrodeogirl profile image

      rocknrodeogirl 7 years ago from The Columbia Gorge

      She stays because it's become her identity and without who is she? You've made some good points, great hub, congratulations on your nomination! Good luck! ;)

    • shazwellyn profile image

      shazwellyn 7 years ago from Great Britain

      - She stays because the upheaval of changing her life can be too much to bare. She might have to leave the town she lives, go to 'one of those places', tell others of her pain, lose her home, go away from her friends, live somewhere she might not like, have little money, struggle, be looked on as a victim, be alone in a lonely world - without children is hard, with is even harder.

      Good hub, my friend x

    • Faybe Bay profile image

      Faye Constantino 7 years ago from Florida

      I've rated you up! You hit the nail on the head. I walked on eggshells, tried to make him happy, terrified that he was right, I was crazy, inadequate, worthless, useless... I tried so hard... He still blames me for it ending. I woke up one day and told him I would never make him happy, he said "I've always been happy" I said, "you sure had a funny way of smiling then..."

    • profile image

      china man 7 years ago

      Hi - just dropped in to check out the opposition - gotta say I will be voting for you :)

    • Chaotic Chica profile image

      Chaotic Chica 7 years ago

      Thank you, Sage, for your kind words and pat on the back. A writer always appreciates knowing her work has had a positvie impact on at least one person. It is why we do what we do and why I wrote this piece.

    • Sage Williams profile image

      Sage Williams 7 years ago

      Wow, you really did an amazing job on this hub. I have helped many friends get out of abusive relationships and it's not an easy task. When your in it, you just can't see it. Once you are able to get some support and distance things become clearer. Many don't make it pass this first step.

      You explained things so well that even the analytical mind could understand. You offer much insight to those people that have no clue what it is truly like. You clearly depicted the cycle of abuse by showing the honey moon phase that always follows. You have tremendous insight and have showed many factors and underling issues that abuse victims struggle with. I get so tired of people blaming the victim for staying, when they have no clue what it is to be like in their shoes.

      This hub will surely be a gift to anyone who is in an abusive relationship and can't seem to get the distance to sort things out. This is truly an amazing hub.

      Congratulations! on being nominated as a HubNugget.


    • Chaotic Chica profile image

      Chaotic Chica 7 years ago

      Wow! A Hubnugget nomination? I am truly honored-thank you!!

      Pamela-I am glad you enjoyed my hub, I really felt it was important to talk about this topic as too few people really know.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 7 years ago from United States

      This hub covered the most common reasons for why women stay. I thought this was an excellent hub.

    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 7 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Sometimes indeed we do not understand and this hub explains it all. Dropping by to give you the wonderful announcement that your hub has been nominated! Yup for the Hubnuggets! Follow this link please: Best of luck!

    • profile image

      Justine76 7 years ago

      ‘if you tell someone something long enough, eventually they will start to believe it.’


    • Chaotic Chica profile image

      Chaotic Chica 7 years ago

      Ms Chievous~You are welcome. Having been in those shoes I can spot another in a heartbeat. Truth is many victims are otherwise intelligent people, we just made a bad judgement call. Society's impression of what victims go through will not change until more people speak out. Thank you for your approval-always glad to hear I'm going in the right direction!

    • Ms Chievous profile image

      Tina 7 years ago from Wv

      Yep you pretty much summed it up! so hard to break that cycle and those thoughts.. thanks for taking time to explain it to those who might not understand