Why Victims Stay in Abusive Relationships
You’ve heard it before; maybe even wondered to yourself, “Why do people stay in abusive relationships?” The answer isn’t so cut and dry. It’s actually quite complicated. Men and women stay in abusive relationships for several reasons. Each situation is unique from others.
If you know someone in an abusive relationship, show your support by listening, offering to take them in or help them to leave, when they are ready. Forcing a victim to leave an abuser before they are ready may cause the victim to return to the abuser, which often times can lead to even more abuse or even death.
- Fear. An abused victim will no doubt be afraid to leave their attacker. Many abusers threaten their victims by telling them they will go after their family, friends, even harm their children if they leave.
- Accepting Abuse. Some people accept abuse because they don’t know what a healthy relationship entails. Previous experiences with past abusive partners or growing up with abuse can make abuse look acceptable or “normal”.
- Risk of Being Revealed. Sometimes people in same-sex relationships don’t immediately reveal their sexual preference openly. Especially in the case of teenagers, there is the risk of their “secret” being revealed. Many fear being involved in hate crimes, being ridiculed or teased.
- Feeling Embarrassed. It is very difficult for anyone to admit to being a victim of abuse. This is a normal reaction to being abused. No one wants to be judged for what they are going through.
- Low Self-esteem. Low self-esteem can be the result of an abuser bullying, intimidating or humiliating the victim. Over time, a victim may feel that statements about them are true and that they are the cause of the abuse.
- In Love. The most common reason why people stay in abusive relationships is that they love their abuser and feel that the abuser loves them back so much, that they will change their ways and miraculously stop abusing them. This, more often than not, is untrue and unless the abuser seeks and responds to intense counselling, the pattern of abuse may never stop.
- Peer Pressure: Peer pressure has long been the culprit behind much unethical and unhealthy behaviour. Especially in the case of abuse, if the abuser is widely known and respected or very popular, the victim may feel like no one will believe them.
- Religion or Culture: Some cultures influence the roles that women and men play in a relationship. To leave a husband/wife may be looked down upon, so they instead may choose to stay and take the abuse.
- Parenthood: The pressures of being a parent and raising a child in a two-parent household may cause some victims to stay in a domestic violence relationship. In addition, some abusers will use the children to control the victim by threatening to take them or hurt them.
No Trust in Authority
- Puppy-love. Many young adults experience “puppy-love”. Adults may not agree, but teenagers are definitely capable of loving; so, if their relationship goes awry they may not want anyone to know because their relationship may have not been accepted or taken seriously by others in the first place.
- No Trust in Law Enforcement: Most abuse goes unreported due to the lack of trust in law enforcement.
- Barriers in Language/Citizenship: Illegal immigrants may decide not to report abuse for fear of having to be deported. Also, if the victim does not speak English very well or at all, they may be pretty weary about reporting abuse.
Dependence on the Abuser
- No Money:If the abuser is withholding money from the victim or denying access to money, the victim may feel like there is no way to leave and be independent.
- No Place to Go: There is a general feeling of the lack of residence, or having to start over from nothing by victims/ This may prevent them from leaving, especially if they have never been on their own before or they are very young.
- Medical Problems: Sometimes a victim may suffer from disabling physical conditions, causing them to be dependant on the abuser that may be taking care of them. The victim may feel like no one else can or will care for them.
What You Can Do to Help
Knowing someone who is being abused is scary.
Friends or members of your family who are in this situation may not know how to get the help they need. They also may not be sure if and when they want to leave their abuser.
Be patient and respond to them by listening. Offer to take them to counselling or to assist them in leaving should they choose to.
Help them look at all their options such as online resources about domestic abuse.
Give them numbers to call to speak to people who are trained to handle domestic violence. And, most of all, don’t give up on them.
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The Mutual Support Magazine is a collection of articles aimed at equipping people with useful information, tips and support skills as they live through or experience life after emotionally abusive relationships.
It hopes that people would be enlightened through reading various articles and find enough strength to gain control over their lives.
Sexual Abuse & Sexual Assault
Abuse and assault of a sexual nature can occur anytime and anywhere, from your job, to your home and everywhere in between. It can include rape, oral sex, anal sex or pressing someone to have sex or perform any sexual act against their will.
Below are some examples of sexual abuse and sexual assault. This list is not all inclusive:
- Being touched, fondled or kissed against your will
- Rough or violent sex
- Rape – whether you know the person or not
- Refusing to use condoms or birth control
- Having sex with an incapacitated person ( unconscious, medicated, or intoxicated)
- Forcing or pressuring a person to have sex
Need to Know Facts about Sexual Assault & Abuse
- You have the right to say “no”. You are not obligated, at any time to participate in sexual activity of any nature.
- Most sexual assault victims know their aggressor.
- Sexual assault can happen to both men and women.
- Sexual assault or abuse can happen whether you are gay or straight.
- There is no time frame for sexual assault. You can know a person for several years, or be married to someone and still experience sexual assault or abuse.
Getting Help after a Sexual Assault
Immediately after being sexually assaulted, get away from your aggressor as soon as you are able to do so safely. You may be experiencing shock, anger, fear, or confusion. You may also be physically hurt. Here are some tips on how to stay safe and get the help you need:
- Call Someone You Know and Trust. It’s important to have support in place when sexual assault has happened. You may have friends or relatives that have been looking for you or concerned about your safety. Calling someone you trust can make the process easier to deal with. It’s good to have someone you can talk to about your feelings. Your pastor, counselor or crisis center can also support you during this experience.
- Call the Police. It is ultimately your decision to report sexual assault to the police. Should you decide to do so, don’t feel that anything is your fault. Don’t destroy any evidence of the assault. That means, don’t comb your hair, “freshen up”, shower, bathe, brush your teeth or change clothes. Leaving everything intact as it was when the assault took place will help your case.
- Go to the Nearest Hospital as Soon as You Can. Hospitals are prepared and equipped to handle sexual assault cases. They know how to retrieve evidence from you and help you through this tough time. You will have the opportunity to speak to a counselor or clergy if you wish and will also be treated for any injuries you may have sustained during the attack.
TalkAboutDV is our new resource for young people.
It’s main objective is to provide some form of support to young people affected by domestic and emotional abuse.
It will provide the following:
- Relationship Quizzes
- An Online Directory
- Text Directory
- The Awareness Center which is a collection of videos, graphics, sound tracks creative work…….
- Telephone Counselling Services
- Blog Articles
- Mobile App
These services will focus on Inspiring Hope in the lives of young people affected by domestic and emotional abuse.
Life style balance tips for survivors
In the aftermath of domestic violence, it can be challenging to restore lifestyle balance and regain a sense of well-being. Following traumatic events it can be helpful to consider the following ways of helping the healing process:
Talking about how you feel may be difficult but it will support you in your healing. It can also be helpful to journal or draw how you feel. Expressing how you are feeling is important to coping with traumatic events and allowing yourself to experience your emotions. Even if emotions are intense and seem overwhelming in time this will pass and you will feel better for letting them out.
People respond in different ways to traumatic events, there is no right or wrong way to feel in these circumstances. Healing is a process there is no time limit.
Learn relaxation techniques. This can be simply listening to calming music, going for a walk or using meditation to help unwind. One quick way of doing this is using progressive muscle relaxation. Find a quiet space where you can lie down for a few minutes. Start by tensing the muscles in your face, screw your face up as tight as you can then release it. Then tense and release your shoulders and arms, abdomen and chest and buttocks, legs and feet in turn. This simple exercise will release tension in the body.
Start to build in some exercise. Even if this is walking further than usual or swimming or yoga- exercise relieves stress and makes you feel good.
Take time for yourself- start doing things you enjoy. This can be having a long hot bath, enjoying a film or a good book or spending time in nature. Take the time to nurture yourself and follow your interests. Similarly spending time with comforting people or a support group will help you to care for yourself emotionally.
Get in a good sleeping routine- avoid caffeine in the evenings and go to bed at the same time each evening. Try unwinding with camomile tea, a hot bath or meditation. Write down a list or worry s and put them aside each night before you go to sleep if worrying keeps you up at night.
Don’t forget to eat- this may be easier said than done in the aftermath of domestic violence but taking basic care will help calm the nervous system and give you energy. If you are run down try taking a good multivitamin or vitamin B12 to help with restoring energy levels.
Nikki Howes runs Hope to Heal based in Teddington, Middlesex. She offers short and long term therapy to clients.
follow Nikki on twitter @counsellorKT1