Why Victims Stay in Abusive Relationships

 by Bobby Lawson

I am still learning and gaining new insights and understanding about domestic violence. It is hard for me to realize that a woman will go back to her batterer 5-7 times, ON THE AVERAGE, before she finally finds the strength to break away for good.  Why would someone keep going back to an abusive relationship where they will never feel safe or be safe?  Why does someone have a hard time leaving an abuser who has controlled her, threatened her, beat her and even put her in the hospital?

As I have been learning, there are numerous reasons.  Those reasons can be financial. It could be fear.  It could be lack of family and social support.  The reasons are vast.  I want to share with you one reason that has become evident to me in the short period of time I have been working with domestic violence victims: emotional and mental paralysis.

I have learned that a perfectly functional, very intelligent, very capable adult can be so traumatized by domestic abuse that they are unable to make good decisions that anyone else could make in a heartbeat without a second thought.  Going through such an experience can paralyze a person’s ability to make good decisions.  As a result, victims of domestic abuse are literally betrayed by their own minds.  They are not capable of making life-saving decisions without help.

David wrote in Psalm 13, “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart?  How long will my enemy triumph over me?”  How many victims of domestic violence wrestle daily with their own thoughts?  How many fight a daily battle within their own minds?  Conflicting emotions and trauma can paralyze the strongest person.

Should we abandon victims who are “paralyzed” to their own fate?  Do they deserve more of what they get because they weren’t “smart enough” to get out?  Absolutely not!  Those of us who have not been victims of domestic abuse, probably have little understanding of such paralysis.  May we never have to go through such an experience to understand, but let us not abandon those who are victims because we do not understand.  Let us seek understanding. And let us help those who are victims of domestic violence to find counseling through someone qualified so that they can break free from the paralysis that chains them to their batterers.  They need this counseling so that they can find the healing and strength to break free and live free.