This blog lists the twenty most common reasons women return to the men who abuse them so brutally that they end up in the hospital. But the list, while poignant, misses the point
Pervocracy highlights the reasons most commonly heard in an emergency room, but these reasons are more verbalizations of symptoms not problems.
The reason victims return to their abusers is a fear of the unknown.
It is often said that victims of childhood abuse (verbal and physical) are predisposed to enter into relationships with people who themselves are victims of abuse. What makes one the abuser and the other a victim is a function of their coping mechanism in response to that. The simple coping mechanisms are along a spectrum from exaggerating the weakness in the hopes that the abuser takes pity, or feels shame in picking on someone so helpless, and on the other extreme to internalizing the abuser, reflecting his (or her) attitudes in the hope that the abuser comes to identify the victim with himself.
What makes this vicious cycle so acutely depressing is that there seems to be enough of a supply of abuse victims in every generation to perpetuate the cycle. Abusers and victims seem to have no trouble finding each other. And this gets to the heart of the matter, I think. For people from this background, it is impossible to understand how people who never experienced abuse think. From the standpoint of the abused, the unabused are alien with a worldview that at times seems baffling and at times nonsensical.
And in part because of this, the abused see no common ground with the unabused. They can’t communicate with each other effectively. The words are understood, but their contexts and connotations are not. The abused, given their history, assume everyone is an abuser given the right circumstances, but with this group, you don’t know just what kind they are.
So why return to the abuser? Because I know him (or her). I know what will set him off. I know his patterns and his triggers. And that is infinitely more comfortable a feeling than being in a relationship with someone who you assume will also beat you, but whose triggers and patterns are totally unrecognizable. Better the devil I know, then the devil I don’t. But everyone is a devil.
The difficulty in treating abuse victims, and getting them to leave their abusers, seems to me to be to get them to recognize the fallacy of the underlying assumption. Not everyone is an abuser. Not everyone is like you.