I am going to need y’all to go over to twitter and type in the hashtag #whyistayed.
Actually, I will cliff notes a few for you, to keep your attention here.
- my father said he was the kind of guy to do this, and I was ashamed to tell him he was right
- he would kill me if I left
- financially I had nothing, he controlled even that, I had no money
- he made me believe I deserved it
- my scars are not visible on the outside, and no one would believe me
- he said I was unworthy of better
- he would take my children from me
- she was a woman, no one thinks it’s abuse
- I wanted to believe he was sorry
- our religion told me it was a mortal sin
- societies reaction online didn’t feel any safer than staying
- they said if it wasn’t physical, it wasn’t really abuse
- I didn’t want my marriage to be another statistic
- I never had a better example
- he did just enough to convince me, every time
There are thousands of people’s personal reasons. I mean thousands. But my question to anyone who asks “why would you stay?” is “what does it matter?” Does any reason that a person feels they should stay ever make enough sense to someone who has never lived such a nightmare? I stayed for freaking years! I can tell you my reasons, but if you have never felt the grip of fear, the seduction of their control, the absolute raping of your life, you will never get it. If I were to say, well our kids needed us both, would that matter? Or what about if I said the good times, and amazing chemistry was like a drug I couldn’t get enough of? Would the fact that I wanted to see it through because I could never imagine a life with anyone else matter, you know like we are originally taught to be, and do? Or that in the early years, when he wasn’t physically abusive, led me to think I had changed or done something wrong to make him react the way he did? How about the example that I got as a kid, from any source? What if I had tried to leave, but I had no one there to help me because I was ashamed of what I had let happen, and when I told people the first thing I felt was judgement, because I should have left sooner? Or better yet, what about just saying I was fucking scared out of my mind? Does any of that help, make it better, ease your mind about what I went through? Let me reiterate that last part, should anyone need to help you feel better about what they survived?
I tried to leave, and you know what people did? They shamed me for staying as long as I had. Is it not easier for a victim to stay where it is bad yes, but where they know how to ride the vicious waves? Would it feel safe to you, to leave an abusive life, only to live in fear with no one to help you get out?
I ask these questions because everyone seems to have an opinion on what a domestic violence victim “should do” without having any understanding of what actually has to take place to make it happen. I had to leave my home in a one day move. I didn’t trust many to keep it quiet, in fear of his retaliation, and following to my new house, so it was a small crew. I had a detective that kept watch, because he was happy I was finally leaving after he found me running down a major road with no shoes, just to get away from him. I had to get a protective order, which also means I’d have to face him in court, alone, and lay awake knowing his rage in being subpoenaed. I faced the reality that he could come at any moment and take my life. I had to rob Peter to pay Paul to find a place I could manage to afford alone, and I often didn’t even have enough. I had to work more hours than I could manage to make enough to not eat PB&J every night, or go without, but we often did. I had to make my baby a latch key kid, because I couldn’t be in two places at once. I had to look over my shoulder every where we went. I had to explain to my son how he found us on his Birthday and left a note inside my vehicle, and the fear it brought to my face that I couldn’t hide. I had to face the scrutiny of his family and friends as he spread lies about me, just to try and get me to take his bait. I had to take my son to therapy because he did not want to talk to me “and make me cry more”. I got towed home on many occasions because my beater of a truck just couldn’t go anymore. I had to seek the mercy of neighbors to keep a watchful eye, and report any, and everything.
Does any of that sound easy, or something anyone would just opt to do? No, it does not. It was the greatest struggle of my life. It was painful, and embarrassing, and sad, and isolating, and full of fear, defeat, and pain. It would have been easy to go back. To succumb to that life, but I wanted my baby to be a better man. I wanted to be there for him as long as I could…. both things diminishing by the second I stayed.
I finally stayed the course.
We have to change the landscape of conversation. Not talking about these issues, enables the abusers. Shaming the victims, extends the time they stay. Publicly ridiculing survivors with assumptions and questioning makes the world seem scarier than the abuse itself. It happens. One in four women, one in seven men. The next time you are at the office, or at target or in line at the bank, look around and realize there are victims right next to you. STOP asking why they stayed, or what they did!
Ask why the abusers are doing what they do, rather than why anyone stays… shift the focus!
Be an ally, be an advocate, be better to each other.