How People Resist Abuse

Whenever people are abused, they often do many things to resist the abuse and to maintain their dignity and self-respect. 

The resistance might include not doing what someone wants them to do, standing up to that person, and trying to stop or prevent violence, disrespect, or oppression. Imagining a better life may also be a way that people resist abuse. 

Some people assume that victims of domestic violence and abuse passively accept violence, and lack self-esteem, assertiveness, or boundaries. Much attention is paid to these “effects” of violence. Unfortunately, this may lead people to have a stereotyped, negative view of victims. 

A person’s resistance to abuse may not be obvious or visible

Domestic violence and abuse can be very dangerous, so people often resist in ways that aren’t obvious. Resistance is often subtle. Others may not notice the resistance and assume that the person is “passive” or “not doing enough to stand up for themselves.” 

In fact, people are known to actively resist violence. The truth is, the so-called “passive” victim does not exist. For instance, some people will resist their partner’s abuse by leaving the house even though they have been forbidden to do so. Knowing this, the person who uses abuse may try to regain control by taking shoes, money, bank cards and car keys. Others might hide or destroy the person’s phone to prevent them from calling for help. This is an example of how people who use abuse often try to stop the person from resisting.  This also shows that these abusive or violent acts are deliberate.   

Abusive behaviour is a choice

Much attention is focused on trying to understand the reasons people act abusively. It has been suggested that perhaps people are abusive because they themselves were abused as children, or they have mental health challenges. Unfortunately, this sometimes leads to excusing the person from responsibility for their behavior. It is our experience that in most cases, the person is in control of their actions, and that they make deliberate choices about their abusive behavior. Often when people have been abused as children, they have made very different, more positive choices when they raise their own children. 

We believe any person can, at any point in time, choose to change and to behave respectfully towards others.

Empowering people who have been abused

We have found it is empowering for victims to consider what they did to oppose the abusive behaviour. Sometimes even seemingly “small” actions are true evidence of those efforts to resist abuse.

Victims have responded by saying, “I knew I was not weak,” and “I feel more capable now to deal with difficult situations I may encounter.” Some women have found that examining their resistance to violence has helped them to resolve their feelings of being “damaged” and/or somehow being responsible for the abuse.



Learn more about resisting abuse

Honouring Resistance: How Women Resist Abuse in Intimate Relationships

Learn More

Myths About Abuse

Forms of Abuse

How People Resist Abuse

Am I Abusive?

Children and Abuse

Escape and Safety planning

Help Stop Abuse

How to Support Someone