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barriers to leaving an abusive relationship

  • Economic dependence: Abusers often restrict their victim’s financial resources to keep them dependent.
  • Parenting: Our culture puts a great deal of emphasis on the need for two parents, regardless of whether or not one parent is abusive.
  • Religious and family pressure to keep the family together.
  • Security: fear of being alone and that the responsibility of handling children and home will be overwhelming.
  • Loyalty: Victims often believe that their abusers are sick, and that they should stay with them like they would if their partner had cancer or another disabling condition.
  • Pity: Victims often believe that their abusers are worse off than they are themselves.
  • “Savior Complex”: Many people believe that their love can change a partner for the better.
  • Fear of the abusers suicide: Abusers often threaten to harm themselves if their victims leave
  • Denial: “It's really not so bad.”
  • Love: “I love him. When he's not being abusive, he is quite loving and loveable.”
  • Guilt: Abusers may convince their victims that marital problems are the victim’s fault.
  • Responsibility: Victims may feel obligated to try to make the relationship work in order to fulfill marriage vows or other promises made to themselves, their children or their abuser.
  • Shame, embarrassment, humiliation: “I don't want anyone to know.”
  • Identity: Many people feel they need a partner to feel complete.
  • Optimism: “Things will get better.”
  • Low self-esteem: “It must be my fault.” “I deserve it.” “I'll never find anyone better.” “A little love is better than no love at all.”
  • Survival: Abusers often threaten to follow victims and hurt them or their children if they leave.
  • Learned Helplessness: The feelings of passivity and paralysis which begin when a person is battered are reinforced by the responses of family, friends and helping professionals who ignore the problem, don't believe it really happened and/or blame the victim.
  • “Stockholm Syndrome”: When hostages are held for a period by their captors, they begin to identify with the captor. This syndrome is manifested by many victims who are literally held hostage by their abusers.
  • When a person lives in unending terror/stress, their ability to resist gets worn away. They become confused, exhausted and lack the energy needed to make changes.

Leslie Morgan Steiner: Why Domestic Violence Victims Don't Leave

Leslie Morgan Steiner was in “crazy love” — that is, madly in love with a man who routinely abused her and threatened her life. Steiner tells the dark story of her relationship, correcting misconceptions many people hold about victims of domestic violence and explaining how we can all help break the silence. (Filmed at TEDxRainier.)

Leslie Morgan Steiner is a writer and outspoken advocate for survivors of domestic violence — which includes herself.