Celebrity gossip sites are beside themselves with the news that Rihanna has gotten back together with singer Chris Brown, even after photos of the bruises Brown allegedly gave Rihanna became public knowledge.
It’s nothing new that women often return to men who abuse them. And too often, in the rush to judge women who return to abusers, we forget that abusers aren’t abusive 24 hours a day, and it’s much more difficult to permanently leave an abusive relationship than many of us wish to acknowledge.
Moreover, sometimes — very rarely — abusers do actually get treatment and change their behavior, so in the case of Rihanna and Chris Brown, it’s important not to assume we know the facts of their relationship.
Nevertheless, in most cases women are returning to men who will continue to abuse them. Here are some of the factors that can contribute to such a decision.
It’s easy to forget that abuse doesn’t necessarily make a woman love her abuser any less. Indeed, for women with low self-esteem or who have been abused by others in their life, the abuse may actually make them more attached to their abusers.
In almost all cases, legitimate love for the abuser plays a significant role in the woman’s decision to return, and people working with abused women must be willing to help them grieve over the loss of the relationship if they leave the relationship.
Abusers aren’t typically abusive all of the time. Frequently, they are people with real problems controlling their anger and serious issues with women. They often harbor sexist ideas about women’s roles and experience intense regret when they lash out at a woman.
The cycle of abuse followed by extreme apologies lures many women into believing that the abuse was a one-time thing or that the abuser will really change. Combined with a deep love for the abuser, this hope can be a powerful thing that compels women to re-enter extremely dangerous situations.
Women who have been abused by multiple people, who grew up in abusive households, or who have low self-esteem may not view abuse as the aberrant behavior of someone with serious problems.