1. At first because they love or care about the abuser. Believe that the violence is temporary and/or caused by unusual circumstances. Hope that it will soon stop. (This hope is typically reinforced by periods of time in which there is no abuse and the partner is loving or at least civil.) Also referred to as the ‘honeymoon period’.
2. Belief that they should understand their attacker and help them to stop their abuse. For women especially this is part of the spousal role. Her inability to help her partner may mean to her that she is failing in the role of the nurturer.
3. Belief in the value of holding the family together. Putting this value above their own personal pain, fear, etc. May feel pressure from family, religion, etc. to do this.
4. Feelings of personal incompetence such as a feeling that one must have a partner to get by in the world even though they are abusive.
5. Self-blame. Belief that they are in part responsible for the abuse: Their abuser is punishing them for their inability to act properly or to meet the abuser’s expectations. NOTE: Self-blame is a recognized side-effect of repeated traumatic stress.
6. Increasing mental and physical exhaustion due to unpredictability of abuse. The victim experiences increasing confusion and difficulty in thinking clearly as a result of the pressure of living with someone who changes from kind to cruel without warning, of never knowing what’s going to set them off next, and of living on continual alert.
7. Growing self-doubt about their value as a person, their judgement, capabilities, and attractiveness as the effects of abuse eat away at self-esteem. (“Maybe he’s right, maybe I’m exaggerating; and anyway, how could I manage on my own?” “How will I ever find anybody else?”, etc.)
8. Need to defend the abuser. Battering reduces faith in oneself and increases isolation so that the victim comes to feel they cannot survive without the abuser. At this point any threat to the abuser may be perceived as a threat to themselves, and they may act to protect the abuser.
9. Belief that all men are abusive. This is reinforced by growing up in a culture in which physical aggressiveness may be perceived as a threat to themselves, and they may act to protect the abuser.
10. Belief in the omnipotence of the abuser caused by abuser's control tactics. (This will be stronger if the victim has separated and been forced or enticed into returning only to have the abuse continue).
11. Terror induced by prolonged abuse.
“There is no better way of making people compliant than beating them up on an intermittent basis.” Richard Gelles, Director of the Family Violence Research Program at the University of Rhode Island, quoted in Newsweek, 7/4/94, page 29.
Provided by the National Domestic Violence Hotline
1-800-799-SAFE(7233) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY) hearing impaired