There are 20 victims of domestic abuse every minute in the United States. Despite dangerous circumstances, domestic violence victims oftentimes stay with abusive partners. Here we explain why domestic violence victims choose to stay.

A list of potential reasons that a domestic violence victim won’t leave an abuser include:

  • The belief that a two-parent household is better for children despite abuse.
  • Unsupportive family and friends
  • Fear that homelessness would be the only option if they left
  • Fear of being a single parent and the financial burden of that situation
  • Fear that the abuser will become more violent if they attempt to leave
  • The victim facing emotional distress and confusion about the relationship
  • Lack of access to support and safety
  • Fear of losing a custody battle for their children
  • Fear that the abuser will harm or kill their children
  • Lack of access to their personal finances
  • Religious beliefs that do not permit divorce or leaving an intimate partner

Leaving an Abusive Partner Can Seem Dangerous

It is always best for victims to try and leave their abusers, but unfortunately for many victims, this can be difficult. Abusers go through great efforts to prevent their partners from leaving them. Victims who do manage to leave their abusers face the highest statistical chance of being severely harmed by their former partner. A U.S Department of Justice report found that men who murdered their partners tended to do so when the victim threatened separation or when victims managed to escape the abuser.

A victim’s reasons for staying with an abuser tend to align with their fear that the abuser will follow through with the threats they have made. These threats include hurting the victim, killing the victim, hurting or killing their kids, losing custody of their children, harming or killing their pets, ruining the victim financially, etc. Victims in abusive relationships are in fear of the length that an abuser will go to in order to maintain control of them. A US study found that 20% of domestic violence homicide victims were not the abuser’s intimate partner. 20% of the time, the abuser is responsible for the death of neighbors, friends, family members, law enforcement responders, or bystanders.

Related: Emotional Abuse Laws in California

Societal Barriers to Leaving an Abuser

When leaving an abuser, a victim won’t only face personal dilemmas to overcome, but they may also be faced with a plethora of societal barriers, including:

  • A victim fearing the loss of their children and assets, or being charged with desertion.
  • Police failing to take the victim seriously and treating the event as a domestic dispute instead of a crime. Victims of abuse are oftentimes arrested for attempting to defend themselves against their abuser.
  • A restraining order failing to prevent an abuser from returning and furthering their abusive acts.
  • Reluctance of prosecutors to take the case.
  • Convicted abusers only tend to face a fine or probation, thus allowing them to continue the abuse.

Related: Domestic Violence Laws in California

Stockholm or Hostage Syndrome

Stockholm Syndrome is defined as a victim developing feelings of affection for their kidnapper or abuser. Stockholm Syndrome results in feelings of bonding, love, empathy for the victim’s abuser. Many women who are victims of domestic abuse feel trapped and thus continue to remain in their abusive relationship.

According to the LAPD, victims of domestic abuse who suffer from Stockholm Syndrome remain in abusive relationships due to the following.

  • Denying their own anger toward the abuser
  • Gratitude toward the abuser for small acts of kindness
  • Rationalizing the abuser’s violence
  • Recurrent reaction to a terrifying, uncontrollable, or life-threatening event
  • Seeks to keep the abuser happy and is hypervigilant about the abuser’s needs
  • Sees the abuser as the good guy even when police or friends try to protect the victim from the abuser.
  • Adopted the abusers world perspective and gave up their own.


How prevalent is Stockholm Syndrome?

It’s hard to provide an exact estimate due to the lack of reported data, but the FBI estimates that 8% of abused victims suffer from Stockholm Syndrome.

Where can I find help if I suffer from Stockholm Syndrome?

Websites such as Talkspace and Psychology Today can help you find a competent mental health professional.

Contact Us

If you or a loved one has been a victim of domestic violence, contact us. We’ll get you in touch with the most qualified attorney to protect your legal rights. Get connected to an attorney with one of our California Domestic Violence Attorneys today!