All too often the question “Why do women stay in violent relationships?” is answered with a victim blaming attitude. Women victims of abuse often hear that they must like or need such treatment, or they would leave. Others may be told that they are one of the many “women who love too much” or who have “low self-esteem.” The truth is that no one enjoys being beaten, no matter what their emotional state or self image.
A woman’s reasons for staying are more complex than a statement about her strength of character. In many cases it is dangerous for a woman to leave her abuser. If the abuser has all of the economic and social status, leaving can cause additional problems for the woman. Leaving could mean living in fear and losing child custody, losing financial support, and experiencing harassment at work.
Although there is no profile of the women who will be battered, there is a well documented syndrome of what happens once the battering starts. Battered women experience shame, embarrassment and isolation. A woman may not leave battering immediately because she realistically fears that the batterer will become more violent and maybe even fatal if she attempts to leave. Her friends and family may not support her leaving. She knows the difficulties of single parenting in reduced financial circumstances. There is a mix of good times, love and hope along with the manipulation, intimidation and fear. She may not know about or have access to safety and support.