Every minute that passes in the United States, 24 people become victims of rape, violence, or stalking by an intimate partner. Over a year, that number adds up to over 12 million people.
Domestic violence takes advantage of control, shame, and fear to create a problem that people feel like they can’t escape from. All too often, people who are abused find themselves sticking around much longer than they should, often to the point of their death.
But why is leaving abusive people so difficult? Keep reading to find out more.
Identifying Unhealthy Relationships is Hard
One of the main reasons that people find it difficult to leave toxic relationships is that it’s hard to decide when a relationship has become toxic. So many of the behaviors of abusive people are normalized by society to the point where abuse no longer looks like abuse.
Abuse doesn’t always mean physical violence. It’s often much more subtle than that. What starts as a slow trickle of mean words can often turn into absolute control over a person’s entire life and still, to the person who is in the middle of that chaos, it won’t look like abuse.
The first step towards freedom from a toxic relationship is to learn what the signs are, no matter how small they may seem.
The Self Esteem Factor
One way that abusers manage to continue abusing people who love them is that they break down the other person’s self-esteem. Someone who is in a toxic relationship will often start to feel like that treatment is what they deserve or the best they can get.
Breaking out of this vicious routine is often near impossible without the help from someone on the outside reminding the victim that they are worth the effort it takes to break free from abuse.
The Abuse Cycle
With every abuser comes a pattern or cycle of abuse. There’s an inciting incident, like intoxication assault, and afterward, they follow their behavior up with something that feels like a honeymoon phase.
This phase is filled with false promises and good behavior. It may start to feel like things are the way they’re supposed to be. The victim is left feeling like that abuse was the last time. Everything is sunny and golden and it’s never going to get bad again.
The problem is that those good times are a farce. The next time something doesn’t go an abuser’s way, there’s no doubt that the toxicity and abuse will kick up again.
The Danger of Leaving
Aside from the fact that deciding to leave is difficult, the act of leaving is dangerous. Many abusers keep their victims under their thumb by telling them that they’re going to hurt them or their family if they ever leave.
When someone is constantly under the threat of physical abuse, the fear is enough to control them. On top of that, many abusive people also threaten to hurt or kill themselves if their victim ever leaves them.
The Nature of Control
As we mentioned before, abuse doesn’t just have to be physical. There’s something much more insidious beneath the surface of most toxic relationships.
Many abusive people have complete control over their victim’s life even if the victim doesn’t realize it. They keep track of exactly how much money is in every account and they’ll know the second any money is taken from it. They keep tabs on their victim’s clothes so they know when things go missing, or worse when things that don’t belong there show up.
They even keep track of how much food is in the fridge or when the gas tank is less full than it should be.
All of these factors contribute to the difficulty of leaving. How can a person leave a toxic relationship when every move they make is under a microscope and there’s always a threat of physical violence?
Personal responsibility is another factor that often convinces victims to stay with their abusive partners. They feel as though it’s their job to fix or save the abuser, no matter the cost. And while this might feel like loyalty, it’s incredibly detrimental to the victim’s well-being.
Additionally, the threat of self-harm or suicide is often enough to keep a victim right where an abuser wants them. The victim of an abusive relationship will feel guilty if something bad were to happen to their abuser, which is also a reason why many people never involve the police in their abuse.
For whatever reason, society has painted a picturesque portrait of a “ride or die” couple who are there for each other no matter what. And while at first glance, this might look like a pretty picture, but when you look closer you’ll see the ugly parts that no one talks about.
No one deserves unconditional loyalty. We are all humans with faults and flaws, sure, but there is no reason why anyone should tolerate every negative behavior a person has just for the sake of loyalty. It’s this exact belief that keeps people in abusive relationships for so long.
They’re afraid of what society will say if they choose to leave. It’s time to break free from that stigma and start focusing on the victims instead of a picturesque family portrait.
Hope for Change
Lastly, the main reason why people in toxic relationships choose to stay is that they are always full of hope that things will change. But the fact is that people who are abusive to their partners aren’t new to the game: they’ve been doing it for a long time and they’ll continue to do it for as long as their victims will allow them.
Kick Abusive People to the Curb
Abusive people and the abuse they inflict on their victims come in all shapes and sizes. No matter how well you think you know someone, you never know what goes on behind closed doors until you see it for yourself. If you suspect that someone you love is dealing with an abusive relationship, or you’re afraid to leave one yourself, there are tons of resources out there to help.
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