With all the media coverage on domestic violence and the recent Twitter campaign entitled #whyIstayed where thousands of abuse survivors shared their “why,” I thought now was the right time to share a bit of my own story. I grew up in a family where abuse was normal, where the words spoken hurt and if that didn’t work, then physical force was utilized. I learned that women were less than men, that living small was the only way to survive and that my feelings and thoughts were not important. This propelled me into decades of relationships that were mirrors of what I watched growing up, where I continued to play out my wounded spirit in familiar ways. This ultimately landed me in a marriage where physical aggression and mental abuse became the roaring whisper that I could no longer ignore. Why did I stay though in this hellish marriage for almost 4 years? I stayed because it felt familiar; I stayed because I was afraid of being killed if I left; I stayed because I was afraid that I could not make enough money to take care of myself and my then small child; I stayed because it was comfortable in a twisted way; I stayed because my confidence was low. There are LOTS of real reasons we stay with partners who do not treat us the way we deserve.
The questions that we should be asking ourselves are do we as battered women deserve ridicule and blame because we lack the courage to leave? Do we deserve to be questioned by our peers and communities because we haven’t left? NO. The answer to “why they stay” is so much more complex then we assume and deserve to be listened to with kindness and gentleness. The only way out of this type of relationship is to develop your sense of value and worth and to increase your confidence. Many of us stay because we haven’t found the courage yet to do these things; we haven’t put our fear in its proper place.
This is not an easy task to accomplish … it’s probably going to be the hardest challenge in your life! Please know that your reasons for staying are valid and make sense to you … please also know that the extra support and strength that you need is out there as well! Finding the right counselor, who specializes in working with victims of domestic violence, can be a game changer and I encourage you to find that person. We as women must band together to help ourselves, our sisters, our friends, our loved ones leave relationships that give us less than we deserve, to begin breaking this cycle of lower standard living. Please reach out, please share your story, please ask for the support and help you need. We are here for you.