Why Victims Stay
As an outside observer, it may be difficult to understand why people stay in abusive
relationships. You may think, "If someone did that to me, I'd leave in a second."
But being subjected to abuse takes a toll on a person’s spirit, on their perspective
of life, and on their ability to see clearly what is going on. Abuse affects their
body, their mind, and their soul, even if the abuse is not physical.
Among the reasons why victims stay are:
- Fate: They consider it their destiny, something that is written
and cannot be changed. Something they are strong enough, and meant to handle.
- Mistaken Understanding of Islam: The victim may mistakenly believe
that Islam does not allow him or her to leave an abusive relationship. See, for
Islam Does Not Tolerate Abuse, and even a very conservative scholar’s
acknowledgement that the woman may leave, among many others.
- Protecting the Image of Islam: The victim may believe that remaining
silent about the abuse keeps others from thinking badly about Muslims and Islam.
- Protecting the Image of the Family or Community: The victims may
worry that speaking up about the abuse, or leaving the abuser, may harm the reputation
of the family or community.
- Divorce: divorce may not be considered acceptable in the victim's
culture or family. While the laws regarding divorce in Islam are complex, a woman
is permitted to initiate divorce. See, for example, this article.
- Custody: They may be scared of losing the custody of their children.
- Fear of physical harm: The victim may be frightened that if they
tell, or try to leave they will be physically hurt, or even lose their life.
- Immigration status: They may be afraid of losing immigration status
or be afraid of deportation.
- Financial dependency: The victims may not have any source of income
and they may depend fully or partially on the abuser.
- Age: The victim may feel too old to make a new start.
- Love: The victim may have truly deep feelings for the abusive partner,
regardless of the abuse, and be unwilling to leave.
- Promises, promises: Abusers may promise that the behavior will
never happen again.
- It's what they know: The lines between love and being controlled
may become blurred if they've grown up in this environment. They may not recognize
that while abuse may be a normal part of his/her relationship, it is not normal
for a healthy relationship.
- Guilt: Abuse often includes a pattern of blaming the victim and
making them feel as though it is their fault.
- "No one would believe me": The victim may feel as though he/she
lacks support if they tell the truth. He/she may also fear being alone and losing
family and friends.
- "I can change him/her": The victim may believe the abuser can change
- Low self-esteem: After being verbally/emotionally abused, a victim
may feel that he/she can do no better than the current relationship, or that no
one else will want them. The victim may feel they deserve the abuse.