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Why Do Victims Return to, or Stay, with an Abuser?

Until recently, domestic violence was a topic that was largely swept under the carpet so to speak. Victims rarely admitted to being a victim. Abusers rarely sought help for their conduct and law enforcement usually considered the problem a "family" matter, meaning they did not intervene. All of this, of course, served to perpetuate the cycle of abuse. In the 21st century, however, domestic violence is no longer a taboo topic. Despite this, many victims return, or stay, with an abuser. Why? There is no simple answer to why victims return, or stay, with an abuser; however, there are some common reasons.

One of the most frequently given reasons why a victim doesn't leave an abusive situation is fear. The abuser often threatens the victim with serious harm, frequently including other family members in the threats. Because an abuser typically isolates the victim to the extent possible, the victim may be more inclined to believe these threats. If the victim has tried to leave in the past, only to be found and "punished" for the attempt, the victim will be even less likely to believe that escaping is a viable option.

Another common reason for staying is that the victim lacks the resources to leave. A victim who does not work, or who earns very little, may be afraid of trying to make it financially without the abuser. Often, all the family assets are in the name of the abuser, meaning a victim would have to leave the situation with nothing. The victim may also lack family support. After years of isolation, the victim may not believe there is anyone to whom he or she can turn for help.

Finally, victims often remain in an abusive relationship because they truly love the abuser and/or because they don't want to break up the family. Whether as a result of strongly held religious beliefs or for other reasons, a victim may not believe in divorce. The victim may believe that the abuser can be rehabilitated if the abuser will just agree to seek help. In some cases, this does actually work. If the abuser wants to stop the abusive behavior, counseling can go a long way toward accomplishing that goal.

If you are in an abusive marriage and are concerned about the ramifications of seeking a divorce, consult with the family law attorneys at SIMON & GILMAN, LLP. Help is available, you just need to ask for it.

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