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The Strong Victim: Why Victims of Abuse Stay

There are many myths about victims of abuse, such as, they tend to be passive, easily manipulated, pushovers, doormats, etc. Never do you hear people describe victims of abuse, particularly, domestic violence victims, as strong or courageous, or anything positive.

I would like to set the record straight. Many, if not most, victims of domestic violence and/or emotional abuse tend to be strong, intelligent, likable, well-educated and well-put-together women, with great personalities.  Many of these women are the sole financial providers of the home.  They tend to be very analytical and well read and understand the dilemma they are in and the problems in the relationship, but they find themselves loving an abuser and just can’t quite figure out why they stay.

The irony is that these women have many strengths and it is the strengths that keep them trapped. Here is a list of these strengths:

  • forgiving
  • compassionate
  • hopeful
  • forward thinking
  • flexible
  • strong
  • persevering
  • loyal
  • faithful
  • self-sacrificing
  • open-minded
  • responsible
  • patient

This list is not exhaustive, but these attributes seem to exist in most victims of abuse. Let’s discuss how these traits keep these women trapped in abusive relationships.

Forgiving:  As long as one’s partner is forgiving all the time, the abuser knows he can do whatever he wants and his partner will forgive him. Why would he bother changing if there was no incentive to do so?

Compassionate: The primary reason victims of abuse stay in with their abusers, is because they over-identify with the abuser’s “hurt self.” The victim feels sorry for the abuser, explaining that, “He doesn’t really mean it and he’s only acting this way because he had a rough childhood.”

Hopeful:  Victims of abuse are always hoping for a better tomorrow. They think positively and believe in all possibilities.

Forward Thinking: As mentioned above, victims of abuse have a great ability to simply move on and stop looking back. This is a form of “abuse amnesia,” which occurs when victims of abuse act as if the abuse never happened. In fact, they are so well-educated on “moving on” that they forget they were insulted just 30 seconds after it happened!

Flexible:  They don’t have to get their own way and are willing to bend with the wind. When the abuser wants to do almost anything the victim will be tolerant and accommodating.  Usually, they just go with the flow. This trait enables abusers to just do whatever they want without a care in the world for anyone else’s desires.

Strong:  Strong women can handle anything. Unfortunately, they sometimes don’t seem to realize that they don’t have to.

Persevering: Victims of abuse use the trait of perseverance to hang in there, struggle through, be tough, and never give up! An abuser’s perfect woman!

Loyal: Victims of abuse pride themselves in being loyal and “standing by their man,” no matter what. Abusers demand loyalty as well – along with secretiveness. Victims of abuse remain loyal to their abusers by telling no one the truth about their relationship.

Faithful: Faithfulness is a very noble trait. When abuse victims are faithful to their abuser, they are giving him a gift that he really doesn’t deserve, nor does he reciprocate. Faithfulness is devotion. No matter how hurtful an abuser is to his victim, she will remain steadfastly faithful to the relationship. In fact, she may assume that her abuser only needs for herself to improve in order for him to stop abusing. In this respect she becomes more faithful to the relationship than she is to herself as she turns herself into a pretzel in order to fix the situation.

Self-Sacrificing: Victims of abuse sacrifice their own emotional and mental well-being for the sake of the other person. Victims of abuse fail to even realize they have needs of their own that should be attended to.

Open-Minded:  People with an open mind tend to be minimally judgmental. Without judgment, perpetrators of violence and other types of anti-social behaviors are allowed to treat their partners any way they want, no matter how vile, and the victims will not pass judgment. Victims may believe this trait is noble, but as you can see, in the wrong relationship, it can be destructive.

Responsible:  Responsible victims will “own” the problems in the relationship, and will do anything humanly possible to fix the relationship; all the while, failing to realize the futility of their responsbility in the problem. When people are in abusive relationships, the problem is the abuser(s).

Patient:  One thing is for sure – victims of abuse can wait. They can wait until the tirade is over and life goes back to normal. Abusers capitalize on this trait in their victims by being angry, mean, disrespectful, and hurtful as long as they want and need. They have learned that their victims will take it and be there when the storm is over.

Over time, abusers “manage down” victims expectations for what to live with in their relationships. It’s the Stockholm syndrome in action; this occurs when victims start appreciating the times the abusers are not being abusive; ignoring the times they are.  Over time, abusers throw mere “crumbs” towards their targets and the targets don’t even realize what happened.

Victims of abuse, and others in general, fail to realize that perpetrators of abuse do not appreciate these good qualities in their partners in the positive sense of the word; rather, they exploit these good qualities for their own nefarious purposes.

Victims must come to a place where they realize that it is their personal strengths that are keeping them caught in their abusive relationships. Victims’ very best qualities are what perpetrators of abuse count on the most in order to keep the abusive patterns alive.

Victims can only recover when they stop and see that their belief system needs to be adjusted and they need to give themselves permission to walk away.




The Strong Victim: Why Victims of Abuse Stay

Sharie Stines, Psy.D

Sharie Stines, Psy.D. is a recovery expert specializing in personality disorders, complex trauma and helping people overcome damage caused to their lives by addictions, abuse, trauma and dysfunctional relationships. Sharie is a counselor at LIfeline Counseling & Education Inc., in Southern California ( Lifeline Counseling is a non-profit organization 501(c)(3) corporation. Sharie is also an abusive relationship recovery coach -


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APA Reference
Stines, S. (2018). The Strong Victim: Why Victims of Abuse Stay. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 11, 2018, from