Ending the relationship
"Ending the relationship was the toughest decision I'd ever made. Looking back I was so emotionally battered that taking any kind of decision at all was very tough."
Many men find themselves with what seems an impossible decision. Thirty years ago women in abusive relationships had nowhere to turn to. Many men find themselves in that situation now. They feel that they cannot get justice in the courts or the family courts and they stand to lose everything - their home, their children, any financial security, and even their jobs (through stress or homelessness). Men also face stigma as admitting to being the victim of a woman goes against widely held social concepts of masculinity. We are socialised to believe that women are in need of protection but that men should be able to take care of themselves.
But not ending the relationship can be even tougher. Domestic abuse has a tendency to get worse rather than better and can strip its victims of their physical health, their mental health and their sense of self-worth. Victims also have to weigh up the possibility that the perpetrator may move on to another relationship because of their tendency towards intense and unstable relationships anyway. Many abusive relationships start with intense 'love-bombing' in which the victim is made to believe that they have found the partner of their life. The perpetrator may ruthlessly use this pattern of behaviour to 'trap' their next victim. It is not uncommon for perpetrators to have a series of abusive relationships. If the victim's children remain with the perpetrator this will provide a backdrop for their early lives that will almost certainly lead to problems later in life.
Only the victim can make the decision to end a relationship but helpline support, counselling and friends can help him find his way, and help support him in his decision.
Barriers to leaving
It is common to still love your partner and to believe that they may change. Sometimes this is attributed to a process called traumatic bonding. Shame or embarrassment can play a part - it is difficult for men to admit to being bullied by their partner as this goes against cultural stereotypes of masculinity. Inertia can be a factor - hoping that the problem will go away. Being a victim of abuse diminishes feelings of self worth and can result a judgment that 'this is all I deserve' or 'I'll never find another partner'.
Housing and financial considerations are are often critical. Some victims become homeless on leaving an abusive relationship and homelessness can lead to job loss compounding the problem.
Very many men stay in abusive relationships for the sake of their children. They face the reality that the family courts award residence of children to mothers in more than 90% of cases. If they take their children with them when they leave there is every chance that the children will be taken from them by the family courts and returned to their mother. The family courts may believe that the father acted irresponsibly in removing them - he may be accused of abducting them. The family courts are widely recognised to be biased against men although of course this is denied at an official level.
Cover your tracks
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Top ten reasons given for staying
1 Concern for children
2 Got married for life
3 Still loves her
4 May never see children again
5 Thinks she will change
6 Not enough money
7 Has nowhere to go
8 Embarrassed he's being abused
9 Doesn't want to take children away from her
10 She threatened to kill herself if he leaves