From an outsider’s point of view, it is nearly impossible to fathom why a woman might return to an abusive relationship. While it seems logical that a woman would maintain her independence after going through the trouble of leaving, there are many things that might also compel her to return. Fear is one of the primary reasons that people go back to their abusers.
Often, abusive men step up their threatening and manipulative behavior right after their victims choose to leave. As a result, many women come to fear more severe abuse if they refuse to return. The situation becomes even more complicated when there are children involved, as many women go back in the belief that doing so is the only way to protect their children. Many women try to act as human shields, sacrificing themselves to stop abusive mates from harming their children.
Sometimes, the abuser may play on the woman’s love for her children, convincing her that she cannot support them alone. The abuser may also play on the woman’s desire for her children to have a father, convincing her to return to him. Even when a woman maintains her commitment to leaving an abusive relationship, the legal system sometimes fails her by failing to grant a restraining order or by giving the batterer custody of the children.
Sometimes, as a result of abuse, a woman’s self-esteem is so damaged that she lacks the confidence to maintain independence from her abuser. Often, women who leave abusive relationships have trouble earning an adequate income or finding safe and affordable housing. Women may feel compelled to return to the relationship because they lack resources and support.
Sometimes, an abused woman's own family members and friends place the blame on her, perhaps because they assume that she somehow caused the abuse. In some cases, the woman's family and friends may act as if the abuse is bearable or deny its existence altogether. If the abused woman is married, friends and family may try to talk her out of divorce, often citing religious reasons.
In some cases, women go back to their abusers because they feel sorry for them. A common tactic batterers use to control their mates is threatening to commit suicide. This may lead the victim to feel both guilty and worried, and she may return to the relationship to save the abuser. Just as often, batterers are able to convince their victims that they love them and are committed to changing. Some women very much want to believe the batterer and hope for real change.
According to statistics, the average abused woman leaves her abuser seven to eight times before she leaves permanently. Victims of abuse often live in a state of fear, confusion, and overwhelming sadness. To make a successful and permanent separation from an abuser, a woman needs support and easy access to organizations dedicated to aiding victims. With this support and the understanding that the abuse will continue if they return, many abused women are able to leave abusive relationships permanently.