Victim blaming is not something we became aware of recently. It coincides with domestic violence. There are many psychological reasons why people blame victims for abuse. It could be that they want to maintain their perfect view of family life and marriage, or they are not familiar with unhealthy relationships, and are unable to accept that domestic violence is more common than they could imagine. According to Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence (BTSADV), victim-blaming “whether intended or not, ends up humanising the abuser while simultaneously demonising the victim.” Victim blaming can include comments like, “and yet she stays, if it were that bad, she would leave, I’d never allow anyone to put their hands on me, if someone tried that with me, I’d…”
If you know someone who is in an abusive relationship, it is important to understand that it is not easy to leave an abusive relationship. Apart from the threats to their life, which is common in domestic violence relationships, they may have also experienced intense emotional and psychological trauma inflicted on them by the abuser, such as gaslighting. The abuser confuses them with a cycle of momentarily good and prolonged bad times; therefore, victims of abuse find themselves in a cycle of violence where they continuously hope for a better day. The victim is left confused by the abuser’s mind games, not sure whether the abuser truly loves or cares for them.
Below are some of the common reasons that victims of abuse stay with the abuser.
1. They have no money.
Financial abuse is prevalent in domestic violence situations. The abuser wants to leave the victim powerless, and what better way to do that than to leave them penniless without any access to attaining funding. According to BTSADV, abusers achieve this by “denying access to family resources, confiscating money, forcing them to quit work, opening lines of credit and taking out loans in the victim’s name without consent and without informing them, and this makes the victim reliant on the abuser for basic necessities.”
2. They stay for the children.
Abuse has a ripple effect. When the abuser inflicts financial abuse on the victim, and the victim has children, they may be too afraid to leave as they won’t be able to take care of the children on their own. Some partners threaten that they would sue for full custody of the children. The victim may come from a broken home and don’t want to put their children through the same experiences.
3. They have nowhere to go.
Abusers need control and cutting the victim off from family and friends is one of the ways they maintain their power. They create friction between the victim and their family, cutting off communication and they move far away, so the victim has nowhere to turn for help or support to escape the abuse. “If a victim tries to leave, they may find themselves in an unfamiliar area with no family around to help.”
Therefore, before judging someone for staying, first try to understand why they stay. Empathise. It is the only way you can help a victim of abuse. To read more on why victims stay, read the full article on the BTSADV website.