Why victims stay in abusive relationships

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Living Free – Liz Johnson

Another reason victims may stay in abusive relationships is because they believe their batterers will change and stop being violent. Many victims of domestic violence do not want the relationship to end; they want the violence to end. Victims very much hope that the batterers’ behavior will change and the violence will stop. The batterer very often may tell the partner that he/she will change, that the abuse will never happen again. The victim’s hope for change rises and because the partner sincerely wants the relationship to last, the partner believes the abuser.

In a previous article, Lenore Walker’s cycle of violence theory was presented and you were given the three phases within battering relationships. Phase I is the tension building phase involving a gradual escalation of tension lasting from minutes to days, weeks or month. Phase II is the acute battering incident where the batterer attacks the partner lasting for hours, days, or even longer. Phase III is the honeymoon stage. The batterer cries, pleads, buy presents, send flowers, and swears to change. The batterer apologizes and begs the partner not to leave. This is also the phase where the abuser may enter or promise to enter counseling. Many times the partner perceives that change is happening and stays in the relationship. Remember – the victim wants the relationship, not the violence. This cycle theory of violence can also be seen in abusive relationships where there is no physical violence – sexual abuse, emotional abuse, verbal abuse, and economical abuse as well. Unfortunately, in most cases, the cycle starts right up again at some future time.

Without effective intervention, abuse in relationships can escalate in severity and can sometimes lead to death or suicide. Victims of domestic violence are most often killed by their batterers after they have separated from them or have taken some action to end the relationship. Victims who leave their abusive partners are at a 75% greater risk of being killed than those who stay. Because leaving may be dangerous does not mean that victims should remain in abusive relationships. Remaining in violent relationships is highly dangerous. Violence may increase in frequency and severity over time. The violence will never disappear without intervention.

Next week’s article – How can we increase safety for victims who do make the courageous decision to leave? How can we help victims who are not yet prepared to leave the abusive relationships?

Living Free Ministries

Liz Johnson

P. O. Box 2815

Reserve, LA 70084

(985) 652 – 9938