Why Women Remain in Abusive Relationships

Those who have never been in an abusive relationship or had a close friend or relative in an abusive relationship can find it extremely difficult to understand why the abused partner does not simply leave. What many people do not realize is that in a relationship with domestic violence, the physical abuse tends to come in cycles, leaving periods of calm when he becomes the "perfect" man-until the day when something small sets him off, starting the cycle of violence once more in the form of name calling, hitting or tightening the household finances. Many times the woman truly loves the man, despite his cycles of violence and believes he can change. Just as many times, the woman is significantly hindered by such things as lack of resources. A woman who is not employed outside the home, has dependent children, has no property that is solely hers, lacks access to cash or bank accounts or fears losing her children or assets may not leave an abuser as the effects can be far-reaching.

Institutional Responses

Ministers often counsel women to save the marriage at all costs, while doing their best to disregard the obvious violence in the home. Police officers may try to dissuade women from filing charges, and treat domestic violence as a mere dispute, furthermore, prosecutors are often reluctant to prosecute such cases and most judges will only sentence probation for the offender. Even when a woman obtains a restraining order, the sad reality is there is very little to prevent the abuser from returning to the home and perpetrating yet another assault on the victim. The amount of shelters in the United States is nowhere near enough the amount needed to keep women and children safe, leaving vulnerable women in situations with probable domestic violence in their future.

Traditional Ideology

Many women, because of faith or family, do not believe that divorce is an acceptable alternative, while others believe that an abusive father is better than no father at all. As women, we tend to take the majority of the responsibility for making a marriage work onto our own shoulders, leaving many women thinking the abuse is somehow their fault. Abusers are generally jealous and possessive, cutting the woman off from her friends and family, and leading her to feel isolation and a sense that there is nowhere for her to turn. Unfortunately women are also conditioned to believe that their own identity and worth are contingent upon getting and keep a man-even if that man is violent and abusive. Many times the woman will rationalize the abuser's behavior by blaming everything except the man himself. They will cite stress, alcohol, problems at work, unemployment-the list goes on and on in the attempt to explain away the violent behavior.


Fear is one of the very greatest reasons women remain in abusive relationships-when the woman does finally find the strength to leave, the abuser convinces her he will hurt her, the children or someone else she loves if she does not return. The woman can become convinced that if she does not return, the abuser will become even more violent or will begin stalking her. Fearing he will carry through on his threats, she returns and the pattern continues until the day comes when she is beaten nearly to death, or in the worst case scenario, killed. While it is difficult to conceive that we ourselves could be in such a relationship, it is not as much of a stretch as you might think. Women who are in abusive situations need understanding and compassion rather than disdain from those who think it could never happen to them.

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