10 reasons why women stay in abusive relationships and why men don’t understand. Photo – Joe Hildebrand and Rosie Batty, mother of murdered 11 year-old
In this week’s Success Newsletter, I would like to reveal the 10 reasons women stay in abusive marriages and relationships, and explain why outside men don’t understand women in these situations.
First a quick update:
**** LeAnn Rhimes – another wicked stepmother? – Is LeAnn Rhime’s decision to do a reality TV show an example of a step-mother turning wicked by setting out to punish the ex-wife? It certainly looks that way. Read my insights and the challenges and attitudes of stepmothers who use the children against the husband’s ex-wife: https://patrickwanis.com/blog/leann-rhimes-wicked-stepmother/
**** Follow me on Twitter – You can now choose to follow me and receive a few words of wisdom on Twitter: @Behavior_Expert
Now, let’s talk about the 10 reasons women stay in abusive marriages and relationships, and reveal why outside men don’t understand women in these situations.
There was a furor in Australia when a TV show host Joe Hildebrand commented on a new law making it a crime (punishable by up to 3 years in prison) for not disclosing a case of child sex abuse:
“Obviously you can’t help but feel a huge amount of sympathy for anyone who’s in an abusive relationship but … you have to get out, you absolutely have to get out…There are huge economic costs associated with that, yes there are often other things, but anything is better than staying in an abusive relationship. Frankly, to say that you’re going to not report a case of child abuse or child sex abuse by your partner because you are scared for your own safety, I’m sorry, it is not an excuse.”
The uproar occurred when the next guest on the TV show was Rosie Batty, the mother of an 11-year old boy who was murdered by his abusive and estranged father who bashed him in front of onlookers at a cricket oval. Mrs. Batty had not previously heard about the new law and she quickly defended herself:
“Do you know what happened to me? Greg [my husband] had finally lost control of me and the final act of control, which was the most hideous form of violence, was to kill my son. So don’t you ever think that if we don’t report it’s because we don’t want to. It’s because we are so scared about what might happen.”
Are women in abusive relationships (family violence) truly guilty for the violence and sexual abuse that their children suffer at the hands of the abusive father?
People spoke out for and against Rosie – even though the new law and the TV segment were not directly about her:
Kate writes: “Her choice of words shows why we have a problem – ‘do you know what happened to me?’… what about your defenseless child who you should’ve protected above all else? Women in domestic violence situations where the child is also a target do NOT get to play the victim.”
Anon writes: “I was a victim of emotional, sexual and psychological abuse…She [my mother] was more concerned about her own stability and attachment then she was for the safety of her own children. She is a hypocrite and I resent her for keeping my siblings and myself in a very unsafe and scary place.”
Why do women stay in abusive relationships?
Here are 10 reasons why victims of abusive relationships and marriages find it impossible to break away; the reasons can be divided into mental/emotional, physical, financial, social and spiritual blocks:
1. Denial – It’s not happening
Surprisingly, this is one of the most common responses to abuse – denying it is actually happening or even making excuses for the abuse and violence: “He’s under a lot of stress…it’s not him, it’s the drugs and the alcohol, etc”
2. Hope & commitment – I can change him; I must save the relationship
The man hits her but also often promises to change; he says “sorry” but he hits her again and again, every time promising to change. He also says “I need you” and “I love you” and “it won’t happen again.” Meanwhile, she believes him and also holds onto the hope that things can change and believes she can change him, regardless of the frequency or severity of the physical/sexual abuse. She also focuses on the positive aspects of the relationship/marriage as a way to cope. Women who are physically and sexually abused appear to do this more than women who are verbally abused. I explain this phenomenon further below.
“Results of a discriminant function analysis suggest that women who remain with abusive partners appear to employ cognitive strategies that help them perceive their relationship in a positive light.”
– Tracy Bennet Herbert (University of California, Los Angeles), Roxane Cohen Silver (University of California, Irvine) and John H. Ellard (University of Calgary) “Coping with an abusive relationship: How and why women stay” https://webfiles.uci.edu/rsilver/Herbert,%20Silver,%20&%20Ellard,%201991.pdf
3. Fear & stress – I don’t know what will happen at any given moment
Fear takes two forms: 1. a pervasive mental and emotional fear; 2. fear for survival (see No. 8.) The mental and emotional fear is better described as terror – the constant hyper-arousal and elevated stress levels created by the anticipation of pain – physical beatings and mental, verbal & emotional abuse; fear of retribution against other family members – abusers will threaten to hurt, injure or kill other family members such as the mother-in-law and so forth. There is also a pervasive fear of the unknown – ‘What will happen if I leave? I will be all alone.’
4. Manipulation & control – he is always watching me
The abuser is able to control the woman various ways: controlling the money; isolating her (controlling her communications and outings); intimidating her with threats and explosive outbursts (smashing things and shouting); demeaning her; controlling the children (hurting the children when she does something he doesn’t like); threatening to kill himself if she leaves; giving love and affection then screaming, shouting, hitting and so forth, thus creating periods of anxiety & anguish and periods of calm. He will also blame her for the abuse, saying she caused it. See reason number 6 revealing why she is more than ‘trapped’ – she is bonded with the abuser.
5. Shame & guilt – I am bad, it’s my fault and there is something wrong with me
Some of the shame is directly due to the constant criticism and attacks which destroy the victim’s self-image and self-esteem forcing them to believe that they are worthless and unlovable. The second aspect of the shame is the subconscious belief “It must be my fault that he is so angry and violent; I am not doing enough. If I could be better, he wouldn’t be so angry.” The third aspect of shame is the belief that the victim has failed in the relationship – be it the choice of partner or the fact that the relationship is not working and is abusive & violent. Finally, for women who experienced abuse as a child, the subconscious belief forms that abuse is the expression of love and, ‘this is what I deserve.’
In next week’s success newsletter, I reveal reasons 6 through 10 why women stay in abusive relationships and marriages and why outside men don’t understand women in these situations.
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I wish you the best and remind you “Believe in yourself -You deserve the best!”
Patrick Wanis Ph.D.
Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert & SRTT Therapist