Abusive Situations - Why Is It So Hard To Get Out?

The first thing is that you should not blame yourself for the abusive situations that you experience or have experienced. The important thing is to work on a solution.
Abusive Situations - Why Is It So Hard To Get Out?
Gema Sánchez Cuevas

Written and verified by the psychologist Gema Sánchez Cuevas.

Last update: 01 December, 2023

Abuse is still a major issue in our daily lives. We constantly read about women who’ve been murdered by their partners or ex-partners because they couldn´t escape from abusive relationships.
Sometimes partners attack their exes yet still the victim goes back to the ex again and again. Or they never manage to get out of the abusive relationship at all. Why?

This is something that´s hard for many people to understand and they blame the victim. It’s common to hear, “if he’s hurt you so much, why do you go back or stay with him?”

The reality isn’t so simple. These women aren’t actually to blame. In fact, there are many reasons why it’s hard to leave an abusive situation. Keep on reading to learn why and perhaps help someone in this situation.

This irrational need for command, control, and power over another person is the main thing that leads to domestic violence.

-Luis Rojas Marcos-

sad woman staring at the floor because of an abusive situation

Emotional dependence and abuse

When you´re in a relationship you’re supposed to feel loved by the other person. So how do we define emotional dependence? It’s an extreme need for affection from the partner who feeds the other person’s obsessive thoughts and constant feelings of abandonment. This can make a woman act submissively so she doesn’t lose her lover.

She ends up prioritizing her partner over everyone and everything else (including herself) and idealizes him. This leads her to  only  focus on his good qualities (even if there aren’t many) and cover up his cruelty and aggression. She also accepts the aggressive partner’s beliefs that he’s the superior one.

This links with the fear of breaking up. That fear then causes separation anxiety, which makes the victim think the worst thing that can happen is that the relationship will end and she’ll end up alone. So she does anything she can to prevent this. This goes deeper if the abuse is consistent because the aggressive partner often feels sorry and tries to “make up” for the harm he’s done.

We fear violence less than our own feelings. Personal, private, solitary pain is more terrifying than what anyone else can inflict.”
-Jim Morrison-

It’s my fault

The victims in these abusive situations can end up blaming themselves for the violence they suffer. In the thought scheme where a woman assumes her partner is kind and caring, there’s no room to accept his violent behavior.

So when it happens the victim looks for a cause and usually sees herself as the reason. This is why these women don’t see themselves as victims, but instead, they feel guilty or responsible.

What then happens is the relationship has awful, terrifying aggression then good moments that give a sense of relief. In this scenario, the victim will usually do everything possible to make the second part much more frequent. She’ll do it even if it means she ends up burying herself deeper and deeper. 

depressed woman in her room

Other reasons why women stay in an abusive situation

There’s another factor that stops a victim from leaving an abusive relationship – low self-esteem. She sees herself as a person who can’t do things right or as a worthless person and this is something the abuser keeps telling her. “You’re worthless,” is a common phrase when it comes to verbal violence.

But the abuser doesn’t just use physical or psychological violence against his victim. It’s also common for a man to get rid of a woman’s social support network.

In this victim isolation, she remains dependent or becomes even more dependent on the abuser. The ultimate goal of this strategy is to ensure the victim has no one to talk to or to ask for help. 

Another form of abuse is learned helplessness. Little by little the victim starts to lose much of her power and freedom, so she ends up thinking there’s nothing she can do to escape. Then desperation takes over her life and she can’t see a way out.

Abuse is any behavior that is designed to control and/or subjugate another person through the use of fear, humiliation and verbal or physical assaults.”
-Susan Forward-

Images courtesy of Misael Nevarez, Volkan Olmez, and Xavier Sotomayor.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.