Why do victims of abuse, assault, and domestic violence go from one abusive relationship to the next? As a criminologist and victimologist, I am often asked this question by friends and family members of victims, as well as by victims. Typically, with victims of incest and those who are indirectly victimized by a family dynamic of domestic violence (those who witness their parents constantly verbally/physically fighting or with one parent emotionally, psychologically, or sexually assaulting the other), those children who do not seek counseling early on; they are more likely to end up in abusive relationships. But, it is not that the majority of them enjoy the victimization or even that they consciously seek out an abusive partner - anymore than a rape victim who seeks out repeated sexual violence when sexually assaulted more than once. In fact, more to the point, repeated victimization such as this tends to be a subconscious decision. Whether or not, they remember their childhood victimization is irrelevant because to them, the incest or indirect victimization of domestic violence is what they have been condition to believe as how love and affection is perceived to be real.
When they go from one abusive relationship to the next, it is as if they are driving on autopilot. For example, have you ever driven somewhere and when you arrived at your destination, you paused for moment and thought yourself, "Odd, I do not remember even driving here or which streets I drove, or when I stopped at the stoplights;" or even realized what was going on around you as you drove to your destination? This is because we have driven this route too many times to count and without thinking, we just drive it every time. In fact, you probably do not think about every time until you have realized that you just ended up in the same place all over again. We cannot fault people or even question why victims choose to repeat this type of behavior but we can support them by helping to educate and catch them when they fall.