|The most frequently asked question concerning a battering
situation is why does the victim stay? While there exists a variety of
reasons, it is also very possible the victim may be locked into a cycle of
violence. Below are some of the most common reasons why victims
stay with the batterers.
- The victim loves the battererÖ the batterer is not always violent.
- The victim fears the batterer, believing the batterer to be
almost "godlike." Often threats are made against the victim, for
example, the batterer will kill the victim if the beatings are reported
to anyone. Police, in the victimís eyes, offer no long-term protection
from the batterer.
- Even if it is a neighbor who reports, the batterer may take
it out on the victim. Often when the police come, the victim will not
admit the battering.
- The victim may be economically dependent on the batterer
and, not having a marketable job skill, the victim has no realistic
alternative to the battererís financial support.
- Socialization creates a powerful inertia in relationships,
people feel they must stay in a relationship and are highly resistant to
change as a means of problem solving.
- Socialization and/or religious or cultural beliefs demand
that the victim maintain the facade of a good marriage.
- Often the batterer is the victimís only psychological
support system, having systematically destroyed the victimís other
friendships. Other people also feel uncomfortable around violence and
withdraw from it.
- Learned helplessness. The victim has been taught and
believes to be powerless, and therefore views the situation from that
- Often the victims stays for the sake of the children
"needing a father," or the batterer may make threats of violence against
the children if the victim tries to leave. The batterer frequently
threatens to take the children away from the victim if the victim
leaves, and the victim believes the batterer.
- The victim believes law enforcement and judicial authorities
in some jurisdictions may not take domestic violence seriously, hence
the victim believes the batterer is often not punished or removed from
the victim. Yet any attempts by the victim to consult authorities are
seen as a threat by the batterer and he/she may beat the victim for
- Sometimes the batterer is otherwise well respected or mild
mannered, so the victimís concerns are not taken seriously. Often the
batterer is violent only with the victim and frequently concludes there
is something wrong with the victim.
- The victim may rationalize the beatings, believing that the
victim must have "deserved" the "punishment" or that the batterer was
just "too drunk" to know what the batterer was doing (beliefs the
- The victim may have no idea that services are available and
may feel trapped.
- The battering takes place during a relatively short period
of time. Afterwards the batterer may be quite gentle, apologetic,
loving, and may promise never to beat the victim again.
- The victim may be convinced that this beating will be the
- The victim may have lived in a home in which one parent beat
the other and/or the children and sees violence as an inevitable part of
the way in which couples relate.
- Often a battered person, motivated by pity and compassion,
is convinced that the victim alone can help the batterer with the
"problem" (whether it is drinking, "pressure from the outside world",
"victimís mistakes", etc).
- Economic dependence
- Fear of greater physical danger to self and children if they attempt
- Fear of emotional damage to the children
- Fear of losing custody of the children
- Lack of alternative housing
- Lack of jobs skills
- Social isolation resulting in lack of support from family or friends
and lack of information regarding alternatives
- Fear of involvement in court processes
- Cultural and religious constraints
- Fear of retaliation
- Fear of loneliness
- Insecurity over potential independence and lack of emotional support
- Guilt about failure of marriage
- Fear that partner is not able to survive alone
- Belief that partner will change
- Ambivalence and fear over making formidable life changes
The Stockholm or "Hostage" Syndrome
Many women feel locked
into a "hostage" syndrome and thus continue to remain in an abusive
relationship. The victim of domestic violence:
- and the abuser are bidirectionally bonded
- is intensely grateful for small kindnesses shown by the abuser
- denies the abuserís violence against them, or rationalizes that
- denies their own anger at the abuser
- is hyper-vigilant to the abuserís needs and seeks to keep the abuser
happy. To do this, the survivor tries to "get inside the abuserís head"
- sees the world from the abuserís perspective, they may not have
their own perspective
- Sees outside authorities trying to win their release (for example,
police, parents) as "bad guys" and the abuser as the "good guy". They
see the abuser as the protector
- finds it difficult to leave the abuser even after their release
- fears the abuser will come back to get them even after the abuser is
dead or in prison
- shows symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- has a recurrent emotional reaction to a terrifying, uncontrollable
or life-threatening event
- develops symptoms such as nightmares, overwhelming feelings of fear
and anxiety, difficulty concentrating, and increased stress in
relationships after a personís sense of safety and security are violated
Symptoms and reactions are common and an important part of initial
adjustment and later recovery
Some batterers are life endangering. It is possible to evaluate whether
a batterer is likely to kill his partner, other family members, and/or
others attempting intervention. The following are indicators often used in
making an assessment of a batterer's potential to kill.
- Fantasies of Homicide or Suicide - The more the batterer has
developed a fantasy about who, how, when and/or where to kill, the more
dangerous the batterer may be. The batterer who has previously acted out
part of a homicide or suicide fantasy may be invested in killing as a
viable "solution" to the abuserís problem.
- Weapons - Where a batterer possesses weapons and has used them
or has threatened to use them in the past assaults on the battered
victim, the children or self, the battererís access to those weapons
increases the potential for lethal assault.
- Obsessiveness about Partner or Family - A batterer who is
obsessive about their partner, who either idolizes and feels that they
cannot live without their partner or believes they are entitled to their
partner no matter what because they are their spouse, is more likely to
- Centrality of the Battered Woman - If the loss of the battered
victim represents or precipitates a total loss of hope for a positive
future, a batterer may choose to kill.
- Rage - The most life endangering rage often erupts when a
batterer believes the battered victim is leaving.
- Threats of Homicide or Suicide - The batterer who has threatened
to kill himself/herself, his partner, the children, or her relatives
must be considered extremely dangerous.
- Depression - Where a batterer has been acutely depressed and
sees little hope for moving beyond the depression, may be a candidate
for homicide and suicide.
- Drugs or Alcohol Consumption - Consumption of drugs or alcohol
when in a state of despair or fury can elevate the risk of lethality.
- Pet Abuse - Those batterers who assault and mutilate pets are
more likely to kill or maim family members.
- Access to the Battered Victim and/or Family Member - If the
batterer cannot find the victim, the batterer cannot kill the victim.