Abused Spouses & Partners: Why They Refuse to Leave

Domestic violence is a chronic and widespread crime happening in more households and plaguing more families than we imagine. In the Philippines, one in five women has experienced physical abuse and that 14.4% of married Filipina have been victims of domestic abuse. Let’s be clear here. Women aren’t the only ones falling victim to domestic abuse. Men, too, can be at the receiving end of hurtful words, physical harm, financial deprivation and harassment. Men can also be victims of domestic violence.

So then, we as outsiders, we’re merely spectators or witnesses of the domestic violence happening in our neighbor’s household. We look into what’s like a keyhole. We don’t always see or remember the entire picture. We don’t always understand why people behave the way they do or why things happen. But it’s never difficult for us to realize that some things aren’t right in the world, that the couple next door, screaming, crying, throwing stuff and whatnot, aren’t having the time of their lives.

And so we think to ourselves, or even take the opportunity to ask our abused neighbor the big question: why don’t you (she/he) just leave? Problem is, leaving away seems harder than we think it is. Because if it weren’t, then our abused neighbor could simply pack up and leave. Problem solved, right? Well, not really. Here’s a list of possible reasons why victims of domestic violence find it difficult to leave their abusive partner.
10. They don’t have anyone to turn to.

Domestic abuse victims may have been wanting to end the relationship, but just can’t find enough confidence to do so mainly because their families and friends are not around for support. Perhaps their nearest loved one is a thousand miles away. Perhaps their families are ignoring their need or desire to leave. Victims of domestic violence have gone through some of the toughest and nastiest experiences, and they may never be able to get out of such an unhealthy relationship without the aid of other people. Mind you that some victims have physical and mental disabilities.
9. They’re not ready to be financially independent.

Some victims are afraid to leave because they know doing so would mean less or no funding. Domestic abuse may come in the form of financial deprivation wherein the abuser cuts or limits financial support to their partner in order to control their lives. More often than not, it takes money to leave and for starting over. Often, the partner or spouse who works and earns money holds greater authority over the relationship, although there are instances where the one who earns isn’t the one in charge. At any rate, some victims of domestic violence don’t have the confidence to leave their abusive partner because they don’t have work, their funds are held up (joint account), or can’t find work (lack education or skill). These financial worries may escalate when there are kids involved since kids need much of the financial support.
8. They are afraid of being alone.

There are people who are afraid of being alone (monophobia). They’d rather be with someone who uses and abuses them than be alone because the latter is far scarier. While alone time and solitude helps most people to relax and be in tune with themselves, some become restless, nervous, emotionally and mentally unstable when they’re alone. Victims of domestic abuse may have been through several abusive relationships, and it seems they haven’t learned their lesson. Truth is, they may not be looking for gentle, loving partners because any partner will do so long as they’re with someone. In some cases, abusive partners would brainwash their victims by telling them no one else would “love” them because they’re already used, old and scruffy.
7. They think divorce is a sin or not an option.

Let’s face it – some people are bound by principles or beliefs where divorce is frowned upon and never an option for a married couple. Conservative religions teach that no one and nothing should ever separate a married couple, and some people take this very literally. They seem to forget that husbands and wives are meant to love each other, not abuse or hurt each other. Also, nobody ever wants to be labeled as diborsyada (divorced), separada (separated), disgrasyada (abused or disgraced), pinaangkan (female single parent) or battered wife.

Smiling and happy family lying together on the grass outdoors

6. Their families want them to make things work.

When a victim’s sufferings fall on deaf ears and blind eyes, they become helpless. How much more when their very own families coax them to just stick it out, pray some more, endure some more, and make the marriage work. This is insane. The relationship is falling apart and one of them is experiencing emotional, mental and physical pain. How much more abuse and violence can they take before they break down completely? If the victim leaves, their families will disown or shame them. If they stay, they will continue to be abused. Victims are often caught between a hard place and a huge rock.

5. They worry about the kids (or pets).

Here comes the hardest part of all. Victims of domestic abuse fear for their children. For the most part, they stay for the sake of the kids, in order for them to experience a complete family. And when they can’t take no more, they still stay because of the kids. They just can’t leave them with an abusive person. What if the kids become victims, too?  Who will take care of the kids when the victim has fled? My abuser is a drug addict, very violent, an alcoholic, pathological gambler, womanizer, etc. – what will become of my kids when they grow up with such a person?
4. They feel they’re the reason for the abuse.

Some people, no matter how violent and abusive their partners are, they still stay because they blame themselves for what’s happening. They think it’s their fault that their partners are abusing and hurting them. Perhaps they’re not good enough in bed, in the kitchen, or in making money. Perhaps they’re not attractive enough. They have very low self-esteem, and they blame their shortcomings (whether real or imaginary) for all the hurt and pain they’re going through. They feel like they deserve the abuse as punishment for not being perfect. This is very sad.
3. Their abuser threatens further violence if they leave.

This is quite common. Victims of domestic abuse would simply yield for fear that their abuser would become more violent than they already are, maybe hurt other people like their kids or their neighbors. Rather than leave, victims would stay so as to confine the abuse. They stick around and play the part of the punching bag. However, abusive partners can be very aggressive, super jealous, obsessed and very violent. They’re like a time bomb that will explode any time.
2. They feel that fights are part of the relationship.

Sometimes, victims themselves would rationalize or justify the abuses. They reason that the violence are just episodic and that the relationship is great overall. They reason that their partners are only violent when they get drunk, but super loving and gentle when sober. Although sobriety may be hard to come by. Sometimes, they tell people that their abusive partner was reasonable for hurting them that time, because the victim had done something wrong, but a burnt steak isn’t reason enough for getting a black eye, is it? Well, couples fight and argue, but when seasonal, petty fights become chronic and bloody, that’s something else.
1. They seem to enjoy abuse.

Now, this is intriguing. We understand that some people are deviants. They like tough love. They enjoy sadist advances. They love being hurt, being controlled, being victimized, being abused. For us spectators, this is abnormal. This is crazy. But there are actually people who take violence as a loving gesture, an expression of affection. This is masochism, it’s a mental disorder. Masochists find pleasure and sexual enjoyment through physical pain, humiliation, degradation, submission, etc. We might think that the receiver of the pain is the victim, but come to think of it, the actual victim may be the giver of the pain because he or she was coerced by their partner to inflict pain because that’s the only way to please them. Because they love their masochist partners so much, they stick around and play the role of the loving abuser. There’s also a case when victims feel less entitled to a loving and protective relationship, especially when they have grown so accustomed to abuse. Remember the story of a kidnap victim who fell in love with the kidnapper? That’s the Stockholm Syndrome.

So there, we hope that we’re able to enlighten you on the possible reasons why “victims” of domestic violence just can’t seem to leave their partners. It’s just that, for the most part, leaving isn’t something they do without planning, without preparing, and without thinking more than twice. Leaving an abusive situation is not an event, but a process. In some instances, “victims” stay because they want to. Period.

If you need help with domestic violence, we urge you to contact your local barangay official and/or seek assistance at the Violence Against Women and Children (VAWC) help desk. Sorry, men. You might need to stick it out some more until this country realizes that men too can be victims of domestic abuse.

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