Why do People Stay With (Or Return To) Their Abuser?

Why do People Stay With (Or Return To) Their Abuser?

There are many reasons why people stay in an abusive relationships. It may seem like the only viable option when there is no obstacles with finance or finding a safe place to stay. However it’s not always as straight forward as it may appear. 

This guides aims to discuss some of the reasons why victims choose to stay with their abusers and how the cycle of abuse can be broken. 

How do victims feel and what causes them to return to their abuser?

It’s important to remember that most victims have been stripped of their basic human rights, their self-worth has been broken by the abuser in order to control them. This would affect how the victim feels, they often feel responsible for the abuse and prioritise the needs of the abuser. 

Some victims feel they want the abuse to end but not the relationship, they live in hope that the abuser will change. Trying to understand why victims return to abusers is not as straight forward as it seems, let’s look at some of the reasons why a victim may go back;

  • The victim fears the abuser may harm or kill them
  • Financial control, the abuser makes it hard for the victim to survive
  • Lack of support from family and friends
  • Living in hope that the abuser will change
  • Confusion, the abuser using manipulation to maintain their control over the victim
  • Cultural or religious beliefs which do not support the idea of separation
  • Believing it’s better for the children to have both parents present, despite the abuse.

Please note this list is not exhaustive and there will be many other reasons. 

However we will now discuss the following three factors in more detail; financial control, fear, emotional control and manipulation.

1. Financial control

The abuser will use or misuse money with a view to limit and control the victim’s freedom of choice. This can leave the victim with no money for basic essentials and without access to their own bank accounts. Victims become dependent on the abuser and have lost the confidence to manage finances. The abuser uses financial control to create financial instability for the victim, unfortunately victims feel they cannot survive without the abuser and will often go back to an abusive relationship

2. Fear

Some victims are simply too scared of what the abuser may do and end up going back to the abusive relationship. For the victim, leaving is not a guarantee to their safety, in fact it may escalate any violence. The abuser will make threats about what they will do if the victim leaves or doesn’t return, the victim then lives in fear of what will happen to them, this is made more difficult with limited resources to keep safe.

3. Emotional control and manipulation

Abusers are masters of manipulation, they are good at making excuses and will even use emotional blackmail to control their victim. They will make the victim feel like it was their fault or make false promises to change, this can make the victim question if the situation is all that bad. The victim may believe the abusers pledge to change and remorse to be real and will return to the abuser, not knowing this is part of the abusers tactics to keep them trapped.

Is there a scientific name for these conditions?

Trauma bonding is the term used to describe the attachment a victim feels for their abuser. The bond is created due to a cycle of abuse and positive reinforcement. After abusing the victim, the abuser often claims to regret their actions and cites their love for the victim, making them feel safe and needed for the abused person. The victim normally has loving and positive feelings for the abuser, feeling attached and dependent upon them. Trauma bonding can make it difficult to leave an abusive situation due to the positive feelings a victim has developed for an abuser.

What causes people to fall in love with abusers?

Falling in love with someone who is abusive towards you is not uncommon, especially if the love happened before the person became abusive. Abusers tend to be very manipulative and know how and when to use their charming skills with their victims. Some victims will continue to love the abuser despite the abuse, living in hope that things will get better. They remember and hold on to the good times of the relationship when the abuser treat them kindly, they tend to focus on the good qualities of the abuser. 

How can the cycle of returning to or staying with an abuser be broken?

It is important to reach out and speak to someone, the victim needs to be assured that they are not responsible for the abusethey deserve a happy and peaceful life in which they are treated with respect. A victim’s safety and well-being is priority and so breaking the cycle of abuse is important. Ending the relationship is not going to be easy, especially when someone has been isolated, physically beaten, and emotionally and financially controlled. This can be a long process but the cycle can only be broken when the victim realises what the abuser has been doing to them. Learning about abusive behaviours will help the victim understand the need to start taking responsibility for themselves and free themselves from the abusers trap.

We understand how difficult it is to see someone you know or love experiencing abuse, sometimes trying to help a victim is not easy. It’s important to remember that you are not alone and the first step that you should take is to talk to someone. No one should have to deal with abuse alone.

Here at the Criminal Injuries Helpline, we help victims of violent crime and abuse recover compensation. You may want to help the victim gain some justice, get in touch with us today to see if the victim would qualify.

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