Why do women stay in abusive relationships?
Actually, many women do leave their abusers. In one study of 205 battered women, more than 50% had left the relationship.
Moreover, we will never know about the countless number of divorced women who choose not to identify abuse as the reason they ended their marriages.
Battered women, in general, do not passively endure physical abuse, but actively seek assistance in ending the violence from a variety of sources, including police, lawyers, health care personnel, family members, and the clergy. Frequently, it is the failure of these individuals and systems to provide adequate support which traps women in violent relationships.
A study of more than 6,000 battered women in Texas found that, on average, the women had contacted five different sources of help prior to leaving the home and becoming residents of battered women's shelters.
Certainly, many battered women also suffer in silence. These women endure physical abuse for a variety of reasons:
- A battered woman frequently faces the most physical danger when she attempts to leave. She may be threatened with violence or death or attacked if she tries to flee. She fears for her safety, her children's safety, and the safety of those who help her.
- For many women, leaving is not an alternative. There may be nowhere to go and little or no resources in the community to help battered women.
- Because of religious, cultural, or socially learned beliefs, a woman may feel that it is her duty to keep the marriage together at all costs.
- Many women want the violence, not the relationship, to end. They may take steps to try to stop the abuse. Leaving home may be their last resort.
- Some women will endure physical and emotional abuse to keep the family together for the children's sake. Very often, it is when the violence is directed at her children that she will take them and leave. More than half of the children whose mothers are battered also are victims of physical abuse.
- A woman may be financially dependent on her husband. She will probably face severe economic hardship if she chooses to support herself and her children on her own.
- Lack of access to resources.
- Lack of support of family and friends.
- Shame and humiliation of admitting the abuse is occurring.