Why they Stay: The inner-workings of Violent Relationships

Love hurts…sometimes figuratively, sometimes literally.

America’s Got Talent finalist Michael Ketterer was arrested in Hollywood on Thursday, September 20th, on a felony charge for domestic violence by the LAPD. This arrest came after he and his wife, Ivey, got into an argument in a hotel room. When the police arrived, Ivey allegedly had a visible red mark on her body.

Ketterer was later released after posting $50,000 bond. He reportedly told TMZ, the website responsible for breaking the news, that his arrest was a “misunderstanding” and that his wife did not want to press charges. A week after the incident, Ketterer shared new family portraits on his Instagram page, which included two photos of he and Ivy smiling and kissing. His wife also posted pictures of the couple together and with their kids that same week.

Love Punch

Marital issues is a topic that has been addressed by various outlets and academics. According to Filipović, Vukosavljević-Gvozden, and Opačić (2016), the quality of the relationship in most marriages declines with time. Typical issues may include financial burdens, sexual differences, and less than ideal communication skills. With these problems also comes a host of solutions, such as counseling and therapy. Despite this, however, certain marital issues are concerning, especially when physical altercations are present.

On average, nearly 20 people are physically harmed by an intimate partner per minute. This results in over 10 million physically abused women and men annually. Domestic violence or intimate partner violence — which are used interchangeably though not the same — can take a heavy toll on victims. Estefan, Coulter, and VandeWeerd (2016) stated that the rate of depression in victims “is twice that of the general population” (p. 1398). Moreover, physical damage caused by perpetrators can result in life-threatening or fatal consequences. A 2017 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) surveying homicides of adult women in the US from 2003 to 2014 found that more than half of all homicides (55.3%) were related to intimate partner violence.

Given the research and statistics on physically violent relationships, one must ask why victims decide to stay? If Ketterer and Ivy’s domestic dispute resulted in red marks on Ivy’s body and Ketterer’s arrest, why would Ivy choose to forgive him and continue their relationship?

Love Drug

There are multiple factors that explain why individuals might stay with a physically abusive partner. Two major reasons include issues with stability and fear. For example, Katerndahl et al. (2016) identified both social isolation and fear of deportation as two potential reasons why some Hispanic women lack a willingness to act when in violent relationships — this is not meant to stereotype all Hispanic women as undocumented immigrants. Financial burden is another area of stability that might cause an individual to remain with their partner. If the victim is a mother, walking out on their partner might mean immense struggle when trying to provide for she and her children alone. Ironically enough, victims of violent relationships could also suffer financially from not leaving. According to Pearl (2013), domestic violence costs $8.3 billion annually. This is a combination of high medical bills and lost productivity at work.

Regarding fear more specifically, fear of retaliation is also a reality faced by victims of domestic and intimate partner violence. There have been multiple instances where an abusive partner has killed their loved one for threatening to leave or filing for divorce.

In certain situations, one might be unaware of abusive behaviors exhibited by perpetrators or unwilling to believe that they deserve better. In their study of dating violence among adolescents, Helm et al. (2017) stated that romantically involved adolescent boys and girls might consider their partner’s physical aggression to be a form of “playing around.” This mindset is arguably the result of inexperience with dating or a lack of maturity. Katerndahl et al. (2015) furthermore highlighted the role religion plays in one’s tolerance of abusive relationship behaviors. Couples’ involvement in religions that are more conservative with “fundamentalist” faith traditions can bring about domestic and intimate partner violence. For example, couples who practice Christianity might subscribe to Ephesians 5:22–23, which reads:

“Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.”

This, in turn, could be used as an excuse for a male figure to mistreat their female counterparts and for female victims to accept violent behaviors.

Love You

It is necessary that proper actions be taken to help victims of domestic and intimate partner violence sooner rather than later. Violent relationships not only cause strain on the victims, but also destroy communities. This is evidenced by the costs of domestic and intimate partner violence mentioned earlier. Despite this understanding, however, those willing to help must be careful not to enforce their ideas upon victims of abuse. For example, Katerndahl et al. (2016) stated that women in violent relationships “want nonjudgmental, nondirective, individualized intervention from providers” (p. 20). Listening to and empathizing with people who stay in harmful situations is just as important as offering alternatives. After hearing the victim’s viewpoint, one can then offer advice on how to go about leaving violent partners.

Another solution for helping victims could be to address the source of violent relationships. Regarding abuse caused by religious beliefs, Zust, Flicek, and Moses (2018) suggested that pastors — when focusing on those who practice Christianity — speak about the issue to their congregations and address how individuals might feel bound to violence because of social religious beliefs. Arriving at this step also requires one to educate pastors about violent relationships in a manner that shows cultural humility. Addressing the source of domestic and intimate partner violence could also mean teaching individuals about the issue at a young age. Helm et al. (2017) asserted that teens can benefit from programs that teach skills in respectful communication and appropriate behaviors in relationships.

Solving domestic and intimate partner violence in the US is a collaborative effort that requires more than just one party. Vinton and Wilke (2014) stated that domestic and intimate partner violence victims need assistance from agencies who provide protection, basic resources (ex. food, clothing, and housing), health care, mental health services, education or job training, legal assistance, and children’s services. All in all, violence in relationships is a public health issue. As with HIV/AIDS, cancers, and opioid use, domestic and intimate partner violence deserves nationwide attention.


Estefan, L. F., Coulter, M. L., & VandeWeerd, C. (2016). Depression in women who have left violent relationships: The unique impact of frequent emotional abuse. Violence against women, 22(11), 1397–1413.

Filipović, S., Vukosavljević-Gvozden, T., & Opačić, G. (2016). Irrational beliefs, dysfunctional emotions, and marital adjustment: A structural model. Journal of Family Issues, 37(16), 2333–2350.

Helm, S., Baker, C. K., Berlin, J., & Kimura, S. (2017). Getting in, being in, staying in, and getting out: Adolescents’ descriptions of dating and dating violence. Youth & Society, 49(3), 318–340.

Katerndahl, D., Burge, S., Ferrer, R., Becho, J., & Wood, R. (2015). Effects of religious and spiritual variables on outcomes in violent relationships. The International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine, 49(4), 249–263.

Katerndahl, D. A., Burge, S. K., Ferrer, R. L., Becho, J., & Wood, R. (2016). Predictors of perceived need for and actual action taking among women in violent relationships. Journal of interpersonal violence, 0886260516669543.

Pearl, M. R. (2013, December 05). Domestic violence: The secret killer that costs $8.3 billion annually. Retrieved October 08, 2018, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/robertpearl/2013/12/05/domestic-violence-the-secret-killer-that-costs-8-3-billion-annually/#22f4d03f4681

Vinton, L., & Wilke, D. J. (2014). Are collaborations enough? Professionals’ knowledge of victim services. Violence against women, 20(6), 716–729.

Zust, B., Flicek, B., Moses, K., Schubert, C., & Timmerman, J. (2018). 10-year study of christian church support for domestic violence victims: 2005–2015. Journal of interpersonal violence, 0886260518754473.

Media Educator | Brain Activator | Health Motivator | Immerse yourselves in my passion by following K3mistry Productions: https://bit.ly/2LLuZ3N

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