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MICHAEL NERHEIM
Lake County State's Attorney  
Why Battered Women Stay
With Their Batterers
 

The list below is incomplete and each motive is not operating in each case. But, a combination of some of the factors listed below is usually enough to keep a woman together with her batterer. Every victim of domestic violence has his/her own reasons for staying in an abusive relationship.

List of Reasons

  1. They love him.

  2. They fear him, believing him to be almost all-powerful. Often threats are made against her, e.g. he will kill her if she reports him to anyone. Police, in her eyes, offer no real protection.

  3. Victims do not have faith in the legal system to protect them.

  4. Even if it is the neighbors who report, he may take it out on her, so often when the police come she will not admit to being battered.

  5. She may be economically dependent on him and see no real alternative. Often relatively mild, in her eyes, battering is worth putting up with in exchange for economic security.

  6. Religious and cultural belief, or the eyes of society, demand that she maintain the facade of a good marriage.

  7. Often he is her only support system psychologically, he having systematically destroyed her other friendships. Other people also feel uncomfortable around violence and withdraw from it.

  8. Often she stays for the sake of the "children needing a father"; or he may make threats of violence against her children if she tries anything. Or he may threaten to have children taken away from her if she tries anything.

  9. Learned helplessness.

  10. Often batterers are otherwise highly respected and mild-mannered, so her concerns are not taken seriously. Often he is violent only with her, and she may therefore conclude that there is something wrong with her.

  11. She often believes his reasoning-- that she "deserved" the punishment or that he was too drunk to know what he was doing.

  12. She may have no idea that assistance is available and may feel trapped.

  13. The battering takes place in a relatively short period of time. Afterwards, he may be quite gentle and loving and promise to never hit her again. This is part of the Cycle of Violence. Many battered women describe their men as charming and loving when they are not battering.

  14. She may be convinced that this battering was the last.

  15. She may have lived in a home where her father beat her mother, and accepts it as natural.

  16. Often battered women, motivated by pity and compassion, are convinced they alone can help the batterer.

  17. Often women believe that if only they could improve, stop making mistakes, that the battering will stop. They remain through guilt.

  18. Often women believe that things will change for the better.

  19. Many women are ambivalent about their situations. People dealing with battered women-- police, lawyers, doctors, mental health workers-- may need a decision quicker than she can make one.

  20. Fear, even terror, of loneliness. The thought of living alone terrifies them.

  21. Social stigma-- because others cannot understand why any self-respecting woman would stay in that situation, she may be embarrassed to admit it.

  22. Often relatives get tired of helping her out, time after time, giving her a place to stay, etc. Or he may threaten them if they help her out.

  23. Often they do not see themselves as battered women. They may realize that they have problems, but don't identify the battering as being their main problem.

  24. Many have been raised to believe in the all-importance of a good relationship, and that good relations are their responsibility.

  25. Some don't know they have the right not to be beaten.

  26. Some women are afraid that if they report the crime, the batterer might lose his job-- the family's only source of income.

  27. Some believe that outsiders should not be involved in the affairs of family.

  28. Some women are afraid of incurring the wrath of the extended family, if they break up or report him.

  29. Many women do not want any change in the relationship except not to be beaten.
Contact Information
State's Attorney's Office
18 N. County St.
4th Floor
Waukegan, IL 60085
847.377.3100
Related Links
 Orders of Protection
 How to keep safe
 Why women stay
 Victim rights
 Victim notification
 Elderly abuse
 General information
 Helpful links for victims
 Reporting domestic violence
 Support and counseling
 911 cell phone program
 Characteristics of an offender