Do people stuck in abusive situations have any responsibility at all for their decisions?

In this thread there are two main positions outlined re the responsibility of people who stay in physically abusive relationships.

To be clear we are not talking about very extreme situations where the abuser is raping the abused, locking them up and torturing them, making various death threats and threatening to kill the abused. We’re talking about more common scenarios where there is occasional physical abuse, and the abused could pick up and leave if they chose.
Position one is that after being abused the first or second time a person who decides to stay in that toxic situation, and let the abuse continue has primarily themselves to blame if they stick around and keep being physically abused. They are making a volitional decision as an adult to stay in that abusive relationship. The rationale is that you can make what excuses you want about why abused people stay put, but in the end not leaving is a concrete decision that a person has to be responsible for.
Position two is that the abused person has effectively no responsibility for being abused, even if they stay in a physically abusive relationship where they continue to be abused. The main reasoning for this position is that the abuser is dominating and manipulating them emotionally and the people being abused are so oppressed or intimated they are not competent to make rational choices.

The other part of the reasoning is that being physically abused, regardless of whatever events transpired between abuser and abused to precipitate it, is never the fault of the abused. The abuser as the actor being violent owns all of the responsibility for being abusive.

Which of these positions makes the most sense?

Neither one makes sense to me, really. Assuming we’re talking about actual domestic abuse, and not some sort of S&M situation, the abuser is always 100% responsible for being abusive whether it is physical or emotional. The victim does not consent to the abuse. Failing to leave is not consent.

But- the victim is responsible for his or her own actions. Some victims don’t really choose to stay- they stay out of fear, because they believe the abuser will kill them or take the children and who knows what will happen to the kids then. I’m not talking about them, because they didn’t choose to stay anymore than someone chained to a pipe in the basement chooses to stay. There are others though, who choose to stay- because they don’t want the social services busybodies coming around , or because he’d be embarrassed if people knew a woman was abusing him , or because her mother never liked him to begin with and she doesn’t want to hear “I told you so”, or because she’s convinced him that no one else would ever want him, or because if she leaves now it will mean she wasted the last two years, and he promised not to do it again. It doesn’t mean he or she consented to the abuse or wants it - but it does mean he or she chose the continued abuse over the busybodies, or embarrassment , or “I told you so” or being alone. The abuser is responsible for the abuse- but the victim is responsible for his or her own self-preservation.

The question only makes sense if you put it into some sort of context.

I mean, if you are asking if abused people somehow should lose “pity points” because they play a role, so the rest of us don’t need to feel sorry for them, or not as sorry for them, well, I think that’s a pretty useless way of looking at the world. There’s no point in trying to do some weird calculus that factors in responsibility and misery and decides who wins or loses.

If you are asking if abuse victims have any leverage, any ability to improve their lives through changing their own actions, if there is any use in educating people, especially children, how to avoid and/or escape these questions, or if it’s just a random horrible thing that happens to some people, utterly outside their control and unpreventable and unstoppable, then I tend to agree with the former.

If you are asking if there are times when it is ok to socially tolerate abuse because the victim is complicit, then no. I don’t think a complicit victim makes an abuser any less wrong.

If you are asking if there are times when you have to finally respect a victim’s choice to stay with an abuser because they are an adult and if they feel the positives of a relationship are enough to make the abuse worthwhile . . . damn, that’s hard. Is tolerating any level of abuse evidence of insanity and incompetence in and of itself?

I guess I see a lot of potential questions here, but I think it would be easy to focus on the first one, but I think it’s the least interesting.

I’m a big proponent of personal responsibility, so my gut reaction whenever the topic is brought up is to agree with the former scenario. But with that said, people are not calculating logic machines who always make the most rational decision possible in any given circumstance. There are numerous social phenomena in which otherwise sensible people are incited to act in a completely irrational manner, and I include abuse victims staying with their abusers to be one of them. I would honestly love to say, “If they stay in that situation, they’re making a conscious decision to allow themselves to continue to be abused” but the reality is that it happens far too often to simply dismiss it as poor decision-making skills. I just can’t accept that explanation. There MUST be something that drives an abuse victim to stay with their abuser because it’s just much too common for me to believe otherwise.

The OP’s summary is a mischaracterization of the debate going on in the other thread. I would characterize it more as:

Position A: Abuse is consensual. By remaining in an abusive situation, the victim consents to the abuse.

Position B: Abuse is not consensual. While the victim bears some responsibility for leaving the situation, remaining in the situation does not constitute consent to abuse.

I take the second position.

I certainly never consented to continued abuse while I remained in the situation. I tried, like I’m sure many men and women have, to explore ways it could be brought to an end and she would both stop, and accept responsibility for it. Like the vast majority of cases out there, it didn’t work for me either.

Ultimately, I filed an OfP against her and had her removed from the house. My intent was to try to force her into some kind of treatment and maybe hospitalization, since she was and is mentally ill. Of course, it didn’t work and she filed for divorce and slandered me to the world as this incredible monster who was abusing her, trying to steal her house and lying about her. Projection really, since she was the one doing the abuse and telling the lies.

Edit: The odd thing is that I think she really did think that by being a destructive hardass about the whole thing, she could force me to come crawling back.

Before all of that, I absolutely agreed with the proposition that people who were being abused had 100% responsibility for what happened if they did not leave immediately. Going through that showed me that it isn’t as easy as all that.

I don’t think all abuse victims are responsible for what happens, but there are cases where I think it applies. I’m thinking of scenarios like the case of mutually abusive couples who each assault each other at times, or when the cops show up to arrest the abuser and the abused person will then turn on the cops in anger, or cases where the abuse victim will violate no-contact orders to contact the abuser even after they’ve been forcibly separated by the law…yeah, I think you can say that in some cases the abused person does contribute to the problem. Often both parties are unhealthy in some way when these unhealthy relationships continue.

However, I think most people are very reluctant to put any blame on the victim because they don’t want it to discourage people from admitting they need help or people who really aren’t doing anything to cause the problem to blame themselves. There are definitely many cases where abuse is in no way the victim’s fault.

Personally I feel that in the vast majority of cases position two is more correct. The abused is mentally trapped in the situation.

They get abused for little or no provocation. It’s easy to think that if your abuser can get so enraged over what amounts to nothing then what will they do if you give them a real reason to be mad at you.

There are enough women (don’t know of any men in this situation) who are killed by their abuser after managing to leave the relationship, that I think it is pretty arrogant to say those who stay are complicit in their own abuse. Maybe they just are hoping to survive.

I can’t remember how old I was when my stepfather started sexually abusing me. I thought that getting slapped around and raped was normal, because I saw and heard him doing it to my mother. She never stood up for me, so I just thought it was because I deserved it.

I ran away and was homeless until I finished highschool, then I joined the Air Force at 17. That’s when I went to classes that said that nobody should be hit and raped, but those lessons didn’t sink in. If my boyfriends hit me, it was because I did something wrong.

Of course, I always picked the wrong ones because I didn’t think/know that anything was wrong with them, it was just me.

When I finally realized that I’d rather be alone and unloved, except for Fred my cat, than get beat up with all the drama and drugs, I quit the speed and spent several years feeling smug.

Hey, if I can just walk away from abusive relationships and a dime a day speed habit, anyone can do it, right?

I have spent a lot of mental energy on this, and bottom line is that this was not my fault. The only reason I had the strength to get out of the cycle of abuse was because I loved Fred more than I loved myself.

Blaming the victim is never right.

I’m 34 now. I devote my life to cat rescue. I focus on strays and ferals. I’m engaged to someone who lives thousands of miles away. He has given me the second floor of his home so I have the choice to go upstairs and lock the door if I feel threatened. Bill would never raise his hand to me, but he understands that I need that option.

I’m a survivor, it wasn’t easy and I certainly don’t feel smug about getting out anymore.

Don’t blame the victim. Many times, we learned it at our mother’s feet.

I guess one way to look at it is what you want to tell the abuser. Do you want to tell them that the victim bears some responsibility and its not entirely on the perpetrator about the abuse?

One problem with these kinds of conversations is that the abuser is seen as some kind of robot or essentially absent from the discussion. Whatever you’re telling the victim you’re telling perpetrators and potential perpetrators as well.