6 essential insights into understanding why women marry abusers

women marry abusers

In a society that increasingly vocalises support for gender equality and condemns violence against women, the narrative of women marrying known or proven abusers still unfolds with troubling regularity. The engagement announcement of Funfere Koroye, despite a backdrop of allegations including a public assault, brings this issue into stark relief. This case serves as a sobering reminder of the complexities surrounding abusive relationships and the reasons why women may find themselves in or remain in such situations.

The lure of the abuser

Individuals caught in the grasp of abusers often find themselves in a bewildering paradox, where initial charm and affection gradually unveil a darker, controlling nature. This stark transformation poses a heartrending challenge for victims, torn between the love they hold for their partner and the painful reality of their situation. The case of Funfere Koroye, with allegations from multiple victims, starkly exemplifies this dilemma, illustrating the profound difficulty victims face in reconciling the person they fell in love with and the abuser before them. The complexity of these relationships is deepened by societal narratives that romanticise perseverance in love, inadvertently painting endurance of abuse as a testament to the strength of one’s affection.

The sense of isolation and dependency fostered by abusers exacerbates the difficulty in leaving. By systematically cutting off victims from their support networks and controlling aspects of their lives, abusers leave victims feeling trapped, with no perceived way out. Understanding the dynamics at play—including trauma bonding and the psychological manipulation used by abusers—is crucial in extending empathy and support to those entangled in such relationships. A shift in societal conversation and response to abuse is necessary, fostering a culture that not only recognises the signs but also provides hope and support to those seeking to escape the cycle of abuse, ensuring they do not have to navigate the storm alone.

The tangled web of fear and love

The complexity of why women stay in or enter relationships with abusers involves an intricate tapestry of emotional, psychological, and social factors. At the heart of this dilemma is the powerful interplay between fear, emotional attachment, and the perennial hope for transformation. The abuser’s occasional assurances of change, intermingled with recollections of joy and love, create a potent emotional anchor, holding the victim fast to the hope that the pain of the present will eventually yield to the happiness of the past. This longing for a return to better days, for the person they fell in love with to reemerge and the abuse to end, is a compelling force that often outweighs the rational desire to leave.

Fear of the abuser’s reaction and societal stigma complicate victims’ situations, making the thought of leaving daunting or unthinkable. The cycle of abuse, apologies, and temporary kindness creates a psychological chain hard to break, eroding self-esteem and distorting perceptions of love and loyalty. This emotional attachment, combined with fear and a hope for change, traps victims in a mental prison constructed from desires for love and safety but barred by the abuser’s manipulation and control.

Power dynamics and isolation

Abusers wield control over their victims by meticulously manipulating the dynamics of power within the relationship. This manipulation often involves severing the victim’s ties to their support network, including friends, family, and financial resources, effectively isolating them and increasing their dependence on the abuser. Such control can manifest in various forms, from dictating whom the victim can see and when to controlling access to money and even monitoring or restricting their movements. This strategy not only disempowers the victim, making it exponentially more challenging for them to leave, but it also reinforces the abuser’s dominance and control.

The public assault by Koroye on his ex-girlfriend, witnessed by bystanders, highlights the audacity of abusers and their gamble on societal apathy or scepticism towards victims. This act of violence in a public space not only demonstrates a blatant disregard for the victim’s well-being and dignity but also a chilling confidence that there will be no significant repercussions. Such incidents underscore the importance of societal intervention and the need for a more proactive response to signs of abuse. Educational resources like “Why Does He Do That?” by Lundy Bancroft offer insights into the mindset of abusers and the dynamics of abusive relationships, empowering victims and bystanders with knowledge and tools to challenge and change these harmful patterns.

Societal Complicity and Silence

The silence and inaction that often surround instances of abuse are not merely symptoms of disbelief or fear; they are deeply entrenched behaviours that significantly contribute to the perpetuation of abuse. This societal tendency to remain silent, or worse, to shift blame from the abuser to those around them, effectively dilutes the responsibility of the perpetrator and overlooks the systemic issues that enable such behaviours to flourish. The outcry for Koromone Koroye to publicly denounce her brother’s actions is a stark illustration of how society often misplaces blame, focusing on the reactions of those connected to the abuser rather than on the actions of the abuser. This deflection not only hinders the accountability of the perpetrator but also fails to address the underlying power dynamics and societal structures that allow abuse to thrive unchecked.

Relevant research underscores the importance of breaking this cycle of silence and inaction. Studies have shown that societal attitudes towards abuse play a pivotal role in either deterring or enabling abusive behaviours. For instance, a report by the World Health Organization highlights the impact of societal norms on the prevalence of domestic violence and the importance of community and societal interventions in preventing abuse. Similar research emphasises the crucial role of social support systems in the outcomes for victims of domestic abuse, indicating that societal responses can significantly influence the decision-making process for victims considering leaving abusive relationships. These studies and others like them point to the necessity of a societal shift towards greater awareness, intervention, and support to effectively combat the cycle of abuse and ensure the focus remains firmly on the accountability of abusers.

The role of fear and financial dependency

The fear of retaliation from the abuser and the daunting prospect of navigating the world alone are significant factors that influence a victim’s decision to stay in an abusive relationship. Financial dependency adds another layer of complexity, with many victims fearing the loss of economic security and doubting their ability to survive independently. This confluence of emotional and practical considerations creates a formidable barrier to leaving. Despite allegations of abuse, the emotional ties and the hope for change often outweigh the logical decision to leave, as seen in the engagement to someone well aware of his past actions. This scenario underlines the intricate interplay of factors victims navigate, underscoring the need for a supportive and understanding response from society at large.

Studies have highlighted the role of financial empowerment and social support in aiding victims to break free from abusive relationships. Moreover, initiatives aimed at educating victims about financial independence and providing them with the necessary tools and resources can significantly impact their ability to leave abusive environments. Understanding these factors is crucial in developing effective strategies to support victims, emphasising the importance of addressing both the emotional bonds and the practical dependencies that tether victims to their abusers.

Societal and cultural factors

The cultural and societal norms surrounding relationships and marriage can significantly exacerbate the situation for many victims of abuse. Stigmas attached to leaving a marriage or relationship and the societal expectation to “fix” the partner play a critical role. Victims in environments that minimise or normalise abuse might stay, believing they can change the abuser or seeing endurance of abuse as strength. The pressure to adhere to traditional gender roles complicates this, with a patriarchal culture and moral views legitimizing violence against those who challenge these roles.

Research highlighting the cultural roots of violence against women shows that societies with rigid gender roles and dominant masculinity views experience more violence. Gender norms, social constructs that define roles within societies, intertwine deeply with violence against women. These norms shape individual attitudes toward gender roles and justify violent behaviour when people do not adhere to expected roles. Institutional frameworks and national legislation can either perpetuate these gender cultures or have the potential to transform them, thereby influencing the prevalence of violence against women across different countries​.

The path to support and healing

The journey toward healing and support for victims of abuse in Nigeria involves recognising the signs of abuse and the critical role of support systems in this process. Organisations such as the Domestic and Sexual Violence Agency (DSVA) in Lagos offer a range of services, including training, empowerment, and direct support to victims of domestic and sexual violence. They aim to assist victims and their families financially, emphasising the importance of community vigilance and support.

For those looking for organisations dedicated to the fight against sexual violence, Stand To End Rape (STER), Mirabel Centre, Hands Off Initiative, WineandwhineNG, and Women At Risk International Foundation (WARIF) play significant roles. STER, for instance, advocates against sexual violence and supports survivors with psychosocial services, while the Mirabel Centre offers medical, counselling, and aftercare services for survivors. These organisations work towards creating awareness, offering support, and ensuring victims receive the necessary care and legal assistance.

Recognising the complexities surrounding abuse, it’s essential for victims and society to understand the multifaceted nature of abuse, the power dynamics involved, and the societal change needed to prevent further abuse. Education, awareness, and a shift in cultural attitudes are vital in supporting victims and preventing abuse.

We still have work to do

The engagement of Funfere Koroye, despite his history of abuse, serves as a poignant reminder of the work still needed to combat domestic violence and support victims. Understanding the reasons behind staying in or entering such relationships is crucial in developing effective support systems and preventive measures. 

As a society, we must strive to create an environment where victims feel empowered to seek help and where abusers are held accountable for their actions. Only then can we hope to break the cycle of abuse and ensure a safer future for all women?



  • Coco Anetor-Sokei

    Meet Coco, the delightful and eccentric Content Editor at Marie Claire Nigeria. With a passion for mindful living and ample sleep, she's been weaving words since 2015. As a devoted mother, Coco cherishes moments with her inquisitive, spirited daughter, exploring the world to find deeper meaning in life.

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