Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Why We Stay

He is manipulative.  He is controlling.  He is a jerk.  He is abusing her.  He is hurting her.  He treats her like shit.  

He hit her so hard he knocked her out, and she STILL married him?! 

Why doesn't she just leave?

Time after time, we hear this question asked.  

(I won't even get into the 'why doesn't HE just not abuse her...)

Here is your answer.

"Because I thought he just needed someone to not give up on him, someone who believed in him, someone who loved him unconditionally and that when he finally had someone to give him those things, he would change.  But they don't change. And then sometimes you ride it out too long and it gets physical...  At least I finally got the picture at that point."
"Because he was so manipulative he made me feel like I was the crazy one."
"Because I thought he loved me as much as I madly loved him. The good days were so good and I thought they offset the bad days that I rationalized with: he had a bad day, or he's stressed, or I caused this, or this is just a stressful time it will pass etc until they were all bad days and the sociopathic behavior became so extreme that my life was in danger and I had to leave. I thought I could love him enough that he would change. I would have done anything for him, I loved him so strongly." 

"Because I believed I wasn't worthy of better. Because he was "trying". Because he never hit me or even yelled, so I didn't even realize how abusive he was."

"Because for one month I got a chance to see the sober him and I desperately fought for that person to come back. I stayed because I loved him and it hurt my heart to think of not being with him. It hurt more than every time he cheated on me. I stayed because I thought Id never get over him. I stayed until he choked me one night in a drunken stupor."

"Because I was 16 when I started dating him and we were together for 4 years. It is so important that we talk to our children about emotional abuse in relationships. I truly didn't understand just how bad it was until I got older."

"Because that fake person he had shown me had be so wonderful. He could go back to that, right? He would, wouldn't he? No, he never did."

"Because who else would want me? I was broken. HE broke me. And he loved it."

"Because every man who ever mattered to me (dad, brothers, step-dad, best friend, ex-fiance) abandoned me in some really huge hurtful way... If my marriage didn't work it would mean that I really was unloveable."

"Because I was "never going to get divorced" and I thought I could love him enough to fix him. Because I thought I could work hard enough and love big enough for both of us. Because he looked at me with a straight face and told me he would never allow a divorce and would kill me before he would let someone else have me. Because I excused the physical abuse as part of his PTSD from being over seas. Because he convinced me it was always my fault." 
"Because when you live in a life completely controlled by violence and fear, and see no one else living that life, you feel so alien, so other, and so unable to reach out for escape." 
"Because he threatened to kill me, my dog, and my family if I continued to try to press charges."

Those quotes above are not from a website or a book somewhere.  They are from women in MY community.  Women who I interact with regularly.  Some acquaintances, some friends, some close friends.  Every one of those quotes came from the mouth of a woman near me who carries the pain of wondering why she stayed so long.  Every. Single. One.  Including me.  

They are women with different philosophies, some are working mothers, some stay at home.  Some are business owners, some are young, some are older.  Some have babies and some have teenagers.  Tonight, one of them posted this article about 19 #WhyIStayed Tweets That Everyone Needs to See.  What happened next was what I can only call an outpouring.  

One voice spoke, and then another, and another.  The thread grew as we let go, safe in the knowledge that we were NOT alone.  All of these feelings we had felt: embarrassment, denial, fear, pain, stupidity, disbelief, these were not our crosses to bear alone.  I'll venture a guess that I am not the only Bellingham Mama in tears tonight as my heart aches for these women who are part of an awful sisterhood that is still pervasive and widespread in our culture. 

If you haven't been living under a rock, you probably heard that this week a NFL player's contract was terminated after a video went viral of him punching his wife (then fiance) so hard she slammed into the wall of an elevator and remained unconscious for several minutes.  The fact that this incident, or this person's suspension from the NFL, are the subject of any sort of debate is ridiculous at this point in time.  If he had punched another player that hard, would his punishment even be a question?  But this is what we get.  We get Fox news anchors making jokes about how the lesson to be learned here is "take the stairs."  

Domestic violence is an extremely complex issue.  It's not as simple as walking out the door.  Approximately 75% of women who are killed by their batterers are murdered when they attempt to leave, or after they have left an abusive relationship.  It's not simple, if you consider what it REALLY means to be able to leave.

A lot of times, hashtags are silly.  We make fun of them, and with good reason.  But hashtags are also a way for this generation to define our voices and be heard.  Where once there were burning bras, now we have #YesAllWomen.  Where once there were marches, now we have #IfTheyGunnedMeDown.  Of course there are many, many forms of activism and many ways of letting our voices be heard.  There are many ways to stand up and say something important.  Whatever you believe, it would be foolish to deny that social media and these hashtags are not a powerful and necessary way of reaching those in our technology-obsessed culture.

This week, we have #WhyIStayed.  This is important.  These are not other women, somewhere else.  These are your friends.  Your neighbors.  Your mothers, and your daughters.  And no matter how smart and strong a woman is, it does not make her immune to manipulative, abusive, terrifying behavior.    

We are rich, we are poor, we are homeless, we are bloggers, we are writers, we are teachers and we are senators.  We are politicians and grocery store clerks and police women.  We are professors and lawyers and fast food cashiers.  

We are women.

Hear us.

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