Abusive Relationships Relationships and dating

Abusive Relationships 101: Why won’t they just leave?

Ever wondered why someone was in an abusive relationship or being treated poorly but still refused to leave? This article will go into that and let you know how to recognize the signs and symptoms of abuse and offer advice on how to help your friends, family or self. Because knowledge is power.

By: Elle Alexander

December 5, 2016


When a lot of people think of domestic violence or abuse, traditionally speaking, the first thing that comes to mind is physical abuse. What people fail to realize is that there is so much more that it can be and often times, it’s happening to our friends and loved ones, our ourselves. It doesn’t happen to be discriminatory as far as gender, age, sexual orientation, ethnicity or a person’s socioeconomic status, either. It can happen to anyone, at any time.  According to The United States Department of Justice (2016),
“We define domestic violence as a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner.  Domestic violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. This includes any behaviors that intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, terrorize, coerce, threaten, blame, hurt, injure, or wound someone.”
This can be broken down into five different categories which include:
  • Physical Abuse
    • hitting
    • biting
    • slapping
    • punching
    • shoving
    • pulling hair
  • Sexual Abuse
    • Rape (including marital)
    • Forcing or coercing one into sexual acts
    • attacking sexual body parts
    • Sexual degradation
  • Emotional Abuse
    • constant criticism
    • Diminishing one’s self worth
    • Name Calling
    • Damaging one’s relationships with their family
  • Economic Abuse
    • maintaining total control over resources
    • withholding one’s access to money
    • Preventing someone from going to work
    • Preventing someone from going to school
  • Psychological Abuse
    • Inciting fear or using intimidation
    • threats of physical harm (to the person or loved ones)
    • Destruction of pets
    • Destruction of property
    • Isolating the other person from friends, family, & others
Looking at the qualifying factors within the categories listed above, that probably happens to more people than what others realize. Furthermore, this doesn’t always get discussed due to the underlying fears that are involved for the victim. So it’s important to recognize the signs and symptoms that might be present in those we care about, as well as ourselves, so if someone is in an abusive environment they can get the help that they need when they are ready to do so.
Initially, abusers never truly present themselves in this fashion, which is why it’s so easy for people to fall in love with them. Generally, they’re very charming and go out of their way to make the other person feel exorbitantly happy in the beginning stages of the relationship, which tends to move much more quickly than it would for a normal “healthy” relationship. They come on strong and fast, almost in a way that is seemingly too good to be true. Which is fitting, because it generally is. This is when friends and family start to question if it’s normal for things to be progressing so quickly and start to get concerned about their loved ones.
Once the partner has fallen for the abuser and they have them right where they want them, things slowly start to change. Initially it’s in small doses, where they try to isolate the victim by convincing them to spend more time together with them as opposed to their friends and family. They might make it seem like they’re doing it out of good intentions, but in all actuality, they can’t stand the thought of anyone else having the power to influence the victim’s decision and possibly cause them to question their newfound relationship.
On the outside to everyone else, abusers look very put together. They are sometimes more quiet than others but personable. They often have good jobs, nice attributes, nice things. It seems like they’re a great package to everyone else. But inside, the abuser feels inadequate and can’t stand things being outside of their control. There’s often an overwhelming fear of rejection or failure that doesn’t get discussed, which is why they often overcompensate by seeking out positions of power or status. They are so afraid of what others might think that they can’t stand the fear of rejection. They are typically attracted to those that they view as weaker, or being easily dominated, who don’t have the best self-esteem or are easily manipulated. These victims are generally people pleasers or happy-go-lucky types that are openly concerned about what others think of them and want everyone to just be happy. These people are idealists, dreamers, but insecure about who they are in aspects or suffer from underlying depression or anxiety.  The victims are generally good hearted people, but that doesn’t mean they are the only ones who get targeted. Strong-willed people can also end up as victims, it just usually doesn’t happen in the same way that it would otherwise, because they’re harder to manipulate and control.
Sometimes the abusers will do a projection of a false sense onto the victim when getting to know them so they even start to question who they really are and what they stand for. They’ll elaborately describe to the person something like, “You’re the sort of person that…[x],” even if it’s not true at all. Maybe that’s who they want them to be or imagine them to be, but it’s not who they really are. They’re making a guess and when the person doesn’t end up being that way in all actuality, it angers the abuser and they get upset when they are wrong if the victim stands up for herself/himself. At some point, the victim just starts to go along with it to avoid conflict and keep the peace, and things gradually start to get worse.
Domestic violence doesn’t usually start out with physical abuse. It’s usually name calling, manipulation, isolation, threats, severe jealousy, intimidation, and emotional outbursts during disagreements that lead to disrespect. This can occur with name calling, throwing items across the room to scare the person or out of impulse, grabbing them to make them listen or making threats that if the person leaves that something bad will occur. The victim then feels trapped as though they have no choice and emotionally worn down to the point where they don’t even know who this person is anymore that they’re in a relationship with. Where is this person that they once loved so much? Who is this monster? What happened to the person I met?
The victim will start to make excuses for their partner because they remember what they used to be like when they first started dating. They know that something is wrong, they can usually feel it in their gut or sense that there’s red flags but they ignore them because they want things to go back to the way they were. This is usually when the victim will start to open up about arguments and fights to their friends and family, which causes more rage and fear onthe abuser’s end because they don’t want anyone else to know about it. Why? Because if someone finds out, they might do the logical thing and tell that person to leave, because it’s a dysfunctional and unhealthy situation. They’ll vent and cry to people about the arguments or disagreements but continue to make excuses for their partner and will refuse to leave because they want to try and work it out. You’ll hear things like…
  • “It’s just a bad time right now for him/her.”
  • “They’re going through a lot at work.”
Or the victim will start to blame themselves for their partner’s emotional instability. They’ll start to say things like…
“Well maybe if I wouldn’t have wore that low cut shirt , they wouldn’t have gotten so upset. Maybe I shouldn’t have done it. It’s my fault. He’s right; I just won’t do that again.”
(Insert any other possible explanation you want here where I italicized the above example, as i’m sure you’ve heard it for yourself and realized it was complete bullshit.)
You know damn well that your friend had every right to do what they did and that their partner is being out of line, but they won’t see it that way because now they’re so mentally fucked up (excuse my language) that even they believe the bullshit their partner is feeding them. Because by this point, they really have started to lose self-esteem and believe all the horrible things that were said to them. The sad thing now is, they think they deserve this and that they might not be able to do better. So chances are, unless someone cares enough to help them out, they probably won’t ever leave. Because the cycle of abuse usual goes through recurring stages and patterns.
cycle of abuse.jpg
After the emotional, psychological and mental abuse start, it sets the stage for the physical abuse to start. Because again, if the beginning of the relationship started out this way, nobody in their right mind would commit to someone who treated them like that. The abuser has to mentally break the person down over time so they have complete control over them. It’s a process. And until you’re in that situation, you’ll never understand it. You can easily sit there and say “I’d never stay with someone who talked to me like that,” or that you wouldn’t tolerate the same things they’re tolerating. But guess what, a lot of people say that and still end up in these terrible situations. I know because I was one of them. I just got out before it got to the point where I was in danger or it became physical.
I was in counseling for two years off and on due to issues within a previous relationship and thank God I went. I was so fucked up in the head from the things that were said to me that I had no sense of self worth and I didn’t want to live like that anymore or go through that ever again. I was also scared to leave because I didn’t know if I’d be able to survive without the person helping me and “taking care of me,” since I had become so financially dependent on them. I had hardly any money, nowhere to go…You can’t just pack up with kids and move in with someone. Granted if it were just you, it’s a lot easier to find a couch to sleep on until you get on your feet but what about in the meantime?
I don’t think people truly understand just how scary it is to be in that situation until they’re in it themselves or watching someone else go through it. Since not a lot of people talk about it, I want each and every one of you to think about the characteristics I talked about earlier, the fear, anxiety, withdrawal, loss of interest, etc. Sometimes when people are in abusive situations they will have a hard time making eye contact with people or initiating conversation.
Not all abuse will leave marks on someone. And it doesn’t have to be violent to be hurtful. Emotional, psychological and mental abuse are just as scary and hurtful (if not worse) and anyone whose been through it will usually say the same thing. If someone hits you or pushes you, when it’s done, it’s over with for then. If you’re a victim of verbal and emotional abuse though, you won’t forget what the person said to you or how terrified you were, how degraded or worthless you felt. It’s horrible. It’s like it keeps playing on repeat in your head and it starts to break you down.
Last but not least, if you do recognize that someone is going through this or they’ve finally admitted it to you, the last thing you want to do is force them to leave before they’re ready. The chances of homicide go up 23x when a victim decides to finally leave their abuser. So even if you know it’s going on, you don’t want to try and force someone to do it before they feel ready and have a working plan in place. This might involve packing a bag with the essentials for survival and keeping it elsewhere and having a “safe place” to go with a disposable phone. This might include a safe word for a friend if a call is made or text is sent to notify the police if there’s an emergency. Forcing someone to leave before they’re mentally prepared and physically prepared can be more dangerous to them than staying and the last thing you want to do is have someone you love end up dead or resent you. I don’t know about you, but i’d hate to wonder if I lost a friend for something like that and having to wonder if they were okay afterwords because we didn’t talk anymore. If someone loses trust in you or doesn’t think you respect their decisions, they’re going to back off. Nobody likes being pushed into things that they’re not ready for. That’s common sense.
So…the best thing you can do for your friends or loved ones in this situation, or yourself for that matter (which I hope none of you have to go through/are going through), is to help rebuild the person’s self-worth. Listen to them. Don’t judge them. Give them strength. Tell them that you’ll be there for them and respect their privacy. With that being said, never discuss it in front of the kids, since kids have a tendency to talk and this could possibly make things even worse. Make sure they and the kids are not in immediate danger (with weapons in the house, etc.) and have an action plan for if the abuse does occur again. Some suggestions might be to remind them to always stay near an exit and not be in a position where they’d be trapped in a corner of a room. Make sure the kids are safe, etc.
This is a really hard thing to watch someone go through as a friend or family member, as well. You want to be able to protect the people you care about and help them but you can’t always do that. But let them know you will if and when they’re ready and mean it. Don’t judge them or turn your back on them just because you don’t agree with their decision to stay or don’t understand why they’re staying. Because until you’ve been through it, you’ll never get it and you don’t have the right to judge them for it. Just love them and support them and hope that one day, you’ll be the one they come to when it’s go time.
That’s all for now. Please spread the word by sharing this.
You never know who it might help. Thanks for following.






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