The first question generally asked, by the public is often, “Why does she stay?” or “Why doesn’t she just leave?”. The answers to those questions are as varied as the victims, and their stories. However, some reasons are quite obvious, if one takes the time to examine the situation. While abuse crosses all cultural and economic barriers; the victims share many common fears.
Many victims have been victims all their lives. They have, to coin a phrase, become serial victims. They often possess no job skills or experience. They often lack education and close relationships with others. Abusers tend to frown on any skills or relationships that would empower his/her victim. Empowered victims with strong attachments to family and friends tend to deflate the control he/she has. In addition, the abuser often uses mental abuse, put- downs, insults and threats to control the victim. Many women (and men) find they don’t like themselves very much and have extremely skewed perceptions of themselves. Especially when verbal abuse is added to the mix. They lack self-confidence and a healthy self-esteem. Even a person with no history of abuse will have a hard time being successful in life without confidence and healthy self-esteem. When partnered with isolation and the frustration extended family members often feel it is no wonder many victims stay in abusive relationship, often for very long periods of time.
When children are present in an abusive relationship the situation becomes even more complex. The victim often feels very loyal to the children and feels they can take the abuse to protect their children. They step between the abuser and the children, using themselves as an emotional and physical buffer. The abuser is often the sole breadwinner and may provide the family with the necessities of life: Food, clothing, shelter, medical care, and transportation. Especially in a family where the economic lifestyle is comfortable, the victim may feel she would be mistreating her children to take all that away. She may question what she can offer in its place. Many times the answer is discouraging enough to entice her to stay.
Other factors include fear of loss of child custody (the abuser will often use threats of taking away the children), religious or cultural beliefs that, if violate, may cause additional guilt or shame, or could result in a loss of support. A woman may stop trying to leave if she is repeatedly stopped and further threatened or abused. She may also stop trying to leave if she doesn’t receive support from medical, social service or law enforcement professionals.