Sometimes, the abusers are truly mentally ill. And, the abusers are not only men. They are men, they are women...they are people. Abusers come in all shapes, genders, and sizes. That is why it is so easy for them to blend in and get away with their behaviors.
My father was immature, selfish, and egocentric. My mother was and is a paranoid schizophrenic. Our parents were very physically and verbally abusive w/each other and with us kids. It was a very interesting/educational upbringing. By age 6, I knew my mom was just not right...seeing walls that bled and people that flew, among other things...she terrified me. I did not blame my dad...at least he did not see/do weird things. Besides, he was kind enough to leave when I was 9, so no more beatings from that department. I gave a prayer of thanks the day he left...to me, it meant my parents would not be killing each other after all.
At 13, I attempted suicide because I thought I was the problem and maybe if I was gone my brother and sister would be safe. I then tried to get help from a school counselor, but she sent someone to the home, where everyone lied and said I had made it all up. I was severely beaten for that attempt.
It was a regular event for me to go to school w/black eyes and bruises or for my mom to throw me out of the house, only to turn around, call the cops, and tell them I had "run away and was a junkie/prostitute/lesbian/whatever." The first time the cops looked at my arms with a flashlight I had no clue what they were looking for...only years later did I realize that they may have been looking for tracks! Ironically, I have never done drugs or abused alcohol...I never wanted anything else to be in control of me except me.
The beatings and other forms of physical abuse finally stopped when I was 16, but only because that time I struck back. Mom was so infuriated that she began hacking at her wrists. I called the cops. She ended up Baker Acted, but was later dc'd to home and allowed to get us from the facility where we had been sent.
The last time I saw my mom was in 2003. My brother cares for her. 2003 was the second and last time I visited her. She ended up turning on me and verbally attacking me in front of my kids and DH, then my brother joined in. I have not been back since. Periodically talk to them, but am not invested in having a "real" relationship w/them. I know I am not strong enough to endure such torture. God forgive me...I just am not that strong. When mom asks me when I will visit or why don't I visit, I just say I just can't...sorry. If she begins raving on the phone, I hang up.
I do not think I ever made a conscious decision to not be in an abusive relationship. However, whenever I saw behaviors that signaled danger (i.e. guy who spoke to his mom/sister derogatorily, yelling, loss of temper for perceived slights) I would run like the wind in the opposite direction and never look back.
I did finally find someone that I could trust, but it has taken him 10 years to get past my walls and protectiveness. For a very long time, it frustrated him that I could not hug or allow physical closeness when I was truly hurting or sad, that I did not know how to express what I felt and became tongue-tied when angered/upset/hurt, that I could not discuss an issue while it was still fresh and chose instead to hide within myself. It took me a while to learn to be a good parent, sometimes finding myself leaning toward the same aberrant parenting style I had run away from and having to apologize to my sons for my behavior. However, I made it. Sadly, my siblings did not.