This is the most common question people ask when discussing domestic violence. It is sometimes hard to understand why so many domestic violence victims stay with someone who is causing them harm, be it either physical or psychological. In order for me to answer this question, you need to know some facts.
What is domestic violence? Domestic violence “is a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner.” (Berry, Dawn Bradley, 2016, pg 70) This means that the abuser often thinks about ways they can gain more power each day over their victim. The abuser uses the information they have gained from the individual (their partner's insecurities or fears) to manipluate and abuse.
How does an abuser gain control over the victim? The abuser will isolate the victim, by moving far away from friends and family or restricting access. They will control access to money and cars to prevent the victim from having a way to escape. Victims are usually not allowed to work, are provided enough money for grocery shopping, and will be physically abused if exact change is not brought back. The victim will also have limited vehicle access or will not be permitted to drive at all. Sometimes the abuser will prevent the person they are abusing from using birth control so they can use the children as leverage by saying "If you try to leave, I’ll kill the children". The abuser will create a feeling of worthlessness in their victim by constantly criticizing and verbally abusing them, forcing them to use drugs, and raping them. All of these can cause “emotional problems, like depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder” (Berry, Dawn Bradley, 2016), as well as the feeling of normalcy and a numbness that will make them reluctant to leave.
What happens to domestic violence victims when they try to leave? On average, a woman will leave an abusive relationship seven times before she leaves for good, according to The National Domestic Violence Hotline. They often have no place to go and no money. They might feel like their family won’t help them because they have already tried to leave before with the help of their family and ended up going back. Women who do leave remain in danger. An abuser is much more likely to kill a victim when the victim attempts to leave. Statistics from Domestic Abuse Shelter show that 75% of women who are murdered by their [abusers] are killed when they leave or after they leave the relationship.
Why do they stay? Victims stays because they often suffer from anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, they have no money or a place to go, they have been isolated from friends and family, they have been manipulated into believing they are worthless, they are under constant control and they fear for their safety and/or the safety of their children and/or family members.