One of the most common questions we receive at Women Against Abuse is “Why do people stay in abusive relationships?” The reality is that it can be very difficult and dangerous to break free from an abusive relationship. Here are a few of the reasons why:
• Relationship abuse often becomes more severe when a person chooses to leave, because domestic violence is all about power and control. If the victim is leaving, the perpetrator is effectively losing control. Perpetrators may threaten to kill their partner or hurt their children or family members if they leave.
• Many survivors are worried about the impact that leaving could have on their children, and many fear losing custody of their children.
• Abusive relationships have three phases: the honeymoon phase, a period of tension building, and then the violent attack. Many abusive partners become remorseful after inflicting violence, and promise that they will change. This begins the honeymoon phase again – a cycle that makes it difficult to break free.
• People experiencing relationship abuse are often isolated from their support circles. Over time, the survivor may feel like they have no one to turn to for help.
• Cultural values like familismo and religious beliefs in the sanctity of marriage can make it difficult for survivors to disclose what is going on at home.
• Lack of culturally and linguistically appropriate services can also be a barrier. This is why we need to offer culturally relevant interventions rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.
• If the person experiencing abuse belongs to a sexual minority, they may fear being outed. (Learn more about intimate partner violence in LGBTQ+ relationships.)
• Survivors who have immigrated to the U.S. may fear deportation and being separated from their children who are born in the U.S.
• Survivors may choose to stay because they don’t have a safe place to go or the financial resources to support themselves or their children independently.
Ending an abusive relationship is a challenging process. Research shows that survivors often leave and return several times before permanently separating from the abusive partner.
Studies also show that Latina survivors prefer to tell family members, female friends, or neighbors about the abuse they are experiencing, so it’s important that we educate the community to be advocates within their circles of influence.
Want to learn more? Visit our website at WomenAgainstAbuse.org to understand the warning signs, and to be prepared with what to say and do, if a loved one is going through this.