Abusive Relationships: Why She Stays and How You Can Help Her Leave

Understanding how abusive, unhealthy relationships work may prevent you or someone you know from staying in one.

This is the third part of an educational series I’m doing on domestic violence and abusive relationships. Too often people forget that manipulation, emotional and verbal abuse are still forms of abuse and should not be tolerated in any relationship. Read part one here and part two here.

When I first started my training as a domestic violence crisis advocate with Laura’s House, I wondered, how does someone let themselves get sucked into the downward spiral of domestic violence? I found the answer in my training to be simple yet profound:

“Domestic violence starts with one word, one action, one event that is overlooked, denied, passed on, or trivialized.”

As I went through my training — and especially after my training, once I started volunteering at the women’s shelter – I learned that there are no stereotypes when it comes to victims of abuse. I met well-educated women, impoverished women, black women, white women, Asian women, and Hispanic women. If the timing and circumstances are right, just about any woman could be susceptible to an abusive relationship.

A few other facts I learned that shocked and sickened me include:

  • 35 percent of all ER visits by women are caused by Intimate Partner Violence (IPV)
  • 25 percent of IPV victims are pregnant
  • 35 percent of all female homicide victims are killed by their partners
  • IPV happens in at least two-thirds of all marriages
  • There are three times more animal shelters than shelters for victims of domestic violence
  • 50 percent of all homeless women and children are fleeing IPV

So if just about any one of us could get into an abusive relationship, how is it that so many women become entangled in these destructive and unhealthy relationships for so long?

In the first part of the series where I told my friend’s story, I also shared The Cycle of Domestic Violence. In addition to “the honeymoon phase” that preys on the victim’s sense of nostalgia, the abuser often uses a variety of other ways to maintain power and control in the relationship. Here are some examples, according to the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project.

How an Abuser Maintains Power and Control

Using Coercion and Threats

  • Making and/or carrying out threats to do something to hurt her
  • Threatening to leave her
  • Threatening to commit suicide
  • Making the other person drop charges
  • Making the other person do illegal things

Using Intimidation

  • Making the other person afraid by using looks, actions, gestures
  • Smashing things
  • Destroying property
  • Abusing pets
  • Displaying weapons

Using Emotional Abuse

  • Putting her down
  • Making her feel bad about herself
  • Calling her names
  • Making her think she’s crazy
  • Playing mind games
  • Humiliating her
  • Making her feel guilty

Using Isolation

  • Controlling what she does, who she sees and talks to, what she reads, where she goes
  • Limiting her outside involvement
  • Using jealousy to justify actions

Minimizing, Denying, and Blaming

  • Making light of the abuse and not taking her concerns about it seriously
  • Saying the abuse didn’t happen
  • Shifting responsibility for abusive behavior
  • Saying she caused it

Using Children

  • Making her feel guilty about the children
  • Using the children to relay messages
  • Using visitation to harass her
  • Threatening to take the children away

Using Male Privilege

  • Treating her like a servant
  • Making all the big decisions, especially financial ones
  • Defining household roles

Using Economic Abuse

  • Preventing her from getting or keeping a job
  • Making her ask for money
  • Giving her an allowance
  • Taking her money
  • Not letting her know about or have access to family money

Again, if you are in an abusive relationship, there are many resources available to help. One resource is to call the national domestic violence national hotline at 866-498-1511. Another is Laura’s House advice on how to leave an abusive relationship. If you’re worried about a family member or friend, Laura’s House has excellent advice on how to help someone who is in an unhealthy relationship.

If you think this may help someone, please share it. Thanks.

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3 Responses to Abusive Relationships: Why She Stays and How You Can Help Her Leave

  1. melove54 says:

    You have a wonderful passionate site Ms. Bloor. I relate to the abuse as I myself as a male have been in a abusive relationship (verbal, emotional) with a Narcissistic Personality Disordered partner. That’s been over with for 2 years now. I have dedicated a blog, unbiased regarding gender, and it simply conveys that whatever reason, condition, or disorder your partner has, abuse is abuse.

    I was in that particular relationship for 5 years when I finally decided to take my life back. My blog was a form of self-healing and I am fortunate to have healed and learn so much from the experience. Many are not so fortunate to heal for what you have to deal with is not only the physical scars, but the emotional ones as well. Those do not heal like bruises, cuts and broken bones. Keep up the good work Ms. Bloor.

  2. Laura Lee Bloor says:

    Thank you so very much, MeLove! You bring up a very good point — men can absolutely be in abusive relationships, too. I try to use “abuser” and “victim” often so as not to assign gender. However, as you probably are aware, the abuse statistics — especially physical abuse — are much higher for women than men. Another term used a lot to avoid specifying gender is Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) because abuse can occur in homosexual relationships as well.

    So glad to hear you made it out of your abusive relationship! That is a tremendous goal and very inspiring! Trying to maintain a relationship with someone who has mental health issues can be very challenging if the person isn’t following through on treatment. It’s ripe for manipulation. You are 100 percent right though: “Whatever reason, condition, or disorder your partner has, abuse is abuse [and that’s never OK].”

    Thanks, again! If you ever want to share your story, I’d love to interview you.

  3. melove54 says:

    Thanks for your kind words, an interview could be possible. One sight that may peak your interest is http://www.shrink4men.com, Dr. T just initiated this .com site last week, the most of her articles are on shrink4men.wordpress.com. Wonderful and wise woman..you might find the abuse gap is closing between men and women where it concerns the percentages. The justice system (lol!) don’t typically recognize men being physically abuse, and women don’t get incarcerated like men do. I know I painted that with broad strokes and everything is circumstantial, however, take a peak at Dr. T’s sites, I believe you will find it highly informative. Thanks again and k.i.t.


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