Why Do Victims Stay With or Continue to Return to Their Abuser?
As I travel across Texas sharing my personal testimony of having been married to an abusive husband for 16 years, I hear a question so often: “Why do victims stay or return to their abuser?”
While some say the question is not why does the victim stay but “why does he batter?” as a victim, when I left my husband in 1994 and began Christian counseling that was my exact question. I wanted to know what was broken in me that I thought being abused for 16 years was okay. And this wasn’t my first abusive relationship. So what I’ll be sharing today will be from a very personal perspective in hopes that someone who may be in that violent relationship will find hope and the courage they need to make that very difficult decision to leave and stay gone.
Therefore, I won’t be addressing, in this article, why men/women batter but why do we (women) stay or return to a life-threatening relationship. Please keep in mind that I am not a licensed counselor but simply someone that was battered and have gotten healed to the point that I can set across the room from a batterer and be able to separate the “who” from the “do” as I minister God’s healing to him/her. In my own quest for healing and wholeness God has shown me many things and I have been my own “guinea pig” so to speak.
According to Liberty Savard’s book Breaking the Power of Unhealed Hurts, Unmet Needs and Unresolved Issues she makes this statement “The question is not why do they stay or return to a violent relationship but why do they not want to leave?” She gives this example: If an individual fell into shark infested waters that person would not refuse help and deliverance from certain death…if they were in their right mind.” Now don’t go say that Liberty is saying or I am saying that people who stay in violent relationships are crazy! That is absolutely not what I’m saying. I wasn’t crazy! And I went back several times before I made that final departure. So what was going on in my mind? Why did I keep going back?
I found this about myself and have found it to be true for women like myself: When women love their husbands/boyfriends they really do love them unconditionally. And my reason and the reason so many other victims use is, “But I love him”. I had to finally understand that love has absolutely nothing to do with it. Sometimes we women live in the land of “if only”. If only I could love him enough…if only I would do this…if only I wouldn’t do that…if only he’d get some help…if only, if only, if only! The bottom line is we as women must come out of our fantasy land mentality and recognize that he is responsible for his choice to hit us, etc. and no amount of love or wishing is going to change any of that because it’s not up to us. We can’t change him or love him enough for him to want to change. I finally came to the realization that because I loved my husband I should have held him accountable for his behavior. Not because I wanted revenge but because I loved him. But I never did until I left him in 1994 hoping even then that my leaving would encourage him to get some help. Well, it didn’t. He just found him someone else.
While this article may seem as though I’m just rambling on, really I just wanted to share my heart. This is not from a “professional” opinion but from someone who has been there and gotten on the other side!
The bottom line is this; in my journey for healing I have found that I had a wrong perception of myself, my worth, my value. When my perception changed about myself my choices began to change. And in my life that change came as I learned how to cooperate with the Lord for my healing. You see, OTBPM is a Christian organization. We believe that only God can heal a broken heart. And He healed mine.
Our desire at OTBPM is to help those who have broken hearts and broken lives.
This article is not an attempt to present an exhaustive study on the subject but to simply share my heart with yours. We can get on the other side of abuse. And we can be more than overcomers!
If you need to talk to someone who has been where you are please call me at (325) 372-3276. Together we can get to the other side of this pain. God bless you!