Friday, April 24, 2009

Why Don’t They Just Get Out?

At Break the Cycle we get lots of emails from teens who want to know if their relationship is unhealthy and what they can do if it is. But lately, we’ve also been getting emails asking why people in abusive relationships don’t just get out. If the situation is so bad, why do they stay with the person? Simple question, right? Well the answer isn’t so. The truth is that ending an abusive relationship is much harder than just saying it’s over and walking away. There are MANY reasons why a person in an abusive situation will remain in the relationship…

Fear – The victim may be afraid of what may happen if they decide to leave the relationship. In fact, ending an abusive relationship can be a very dangerous time for a victim. If they’ve been threatened in the past either by their partner, his/her family or friends, they won’t feel safe leaving. This can include a fear of being “outed” if they’re secretly in a same-sex relationship.

Embarrassment – Some people are not willing to admit that they’re relationship is abusive. Recognizing and telling someone that one’s own relationship is unhealthy and that a partner is being hurtful is not an easy thing to do. This can be especially true for male victims.

Low self-esteem – People go through many different things in life, good and bad. And if they find themselves in an abusive relationship where they are constantly put down and blamed for things, after a while they may begin to believe it’s true and that they deserve the abuse.

Believing abuse is normal – If a person grew up in an environment where there was always abuse, especially domestic abuse between their parents, they may not know what a healthy relationship looks like, which means they likely don’t realize there is something wrong with their own relationship. And unfortunately, no one really talks about what healthy and unhealthy relationships look like. It’s hard to correct any misperceptions we may carry if all we have to model our behaviors after is whatever is happening at home.

Pregnancy or parenting – If there’s a baby in the picture the person may feel pressure to raise their baby with both parents together, even if that means enduring the abuse. They may also feel scared that their abusive partner will try to harm the child or take the child away if they leave.

Love – This can be one of the toughest. Think about it. Love is a strong emotion. If the person you love tells you they will change, of course you’ll want that to be true. So you stay, hoping that change will happen and that you will be happy. It’s hard to blame someone for loving, believing and hoping.

So as you can see, for these reasons (and many others!) walking away from an abusive relationship is not easy. So if you know someone or hear of someone who may be involved in an unhealthy relationship, don’t make them feel worse than they probably already do. Understand that their situation is unique and likely complicated. Offer to find them help. And above all give them your support. Visit to find out what you can do.

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