I now understand first hand why women stay in abusive relationships. My Domestic Violence Story is typical and unique at the same time. Like most people in our society I had a very narrow view about Domestic Violence until it happened to me. My understanding was limited to the effects of physical abuse only, but completely oblivious to the signs of mental, emotional, verbal, spiritual, sexual, and financial abuse. In fact, I didn’t realize that I was in an abusive relationship until my spouse brutally attacked me in front of our four children. I always tell people “He knocked the sense into me” and people stare in shock at the words leaving my mouth.
The day my husband attacked was the day I had to ask myself “If I was an abused woman?” I called the Domestic Violence Hotline and the operator ask the questions that changed my life. She ask about money, conversations with my spouse, sex, and the lack affection between us. The operator asked about religious practices and I quickly understood that I was in trouble all along based on conversation. I knew that I was very unhappy in my marriage and I constantly prayed to God for guidance, but I didn’t think I was abused until the attack. There were so many times that I wanted out, but when I shared my concerns with others they minimized my concerns. Today, I understand they didn’t know about mental, emotional, verbal, spiritual, sexual, and financial abuse either. They didn’t know that most abusers try really hard to impress others with their charm and make the victim look bad.
I spent months in Domestic Violence Counseling while my husband refused to go. His behavior became more aggressive. I became more depressed and isolated. After we separated, he stalked the house. This is when the reality set in about why women stay with their abusers, because it so difficult to leave. Here are some things that I discovered about leaving an abusive relationship:
Mental, Emotional, Verbal, Spiritual, Sexual, and Financial Abuse are all precursors to Physical Abuse. Each one plays a role in Domestic Abuse, the physical violence is never alone in the act of Domestic Abuse. It is always paired with other forms of abuse.
The three biggest mistakes that victims make are protecting their abusers, not calling the police and staying in the same residence. I constantly protected my abuser’s character, because I was ashamed of his actions. The few people that I confided in, always diminished my concerns. I never called the police after he attacked, that was my worst mistake. I was in shock and I feared that he would go to jail. My children were there and I froze up. Now I know that it was a big mistake not to call the police. Lastly, my counselor told me to leave the home and I didn’t. I had nowhere to go with four young children. The thought of a shelter was frightening. One friend offered us to stay with her, but I felt like a burden. I had no job, no car, no cellphone, and no money.
Domestic Violence scares people. Family, friends and churches can’t process it. It’s ugly and when it rears its ugly head, everyone has to look at themselves. Nobody wants admit that something just wasn’t right or things didn’t add up. Mostly people just make excuses about turning a deaf ear.
My abuser had legal rights. My spouse was stalking me, has would just park outside our home and listen at the doors. I called the police and they said he had the right to come inside, because we were married. They told me to get a protective order. I got one that night. In retaliation, my spouse filed several false charges against me and filed for custody of our children in retaliation. Legally he could do that and much more.
Abusers will use any method to prevent the victim from leaving or to get what they want, including the children. My spouse defamed my character to anyone that would listen. I was in court two and three times a week for months. He took the transportation and finances. When that failed he use the children to make me stay.
I also discovered that the non-profit organizations are not all inclusive. Most in my county did not offer legal aid for victims, shelter, or job resources. I could get counseling and legal advice, but I had to go from agency to agency for help. I had borrowed my sister in-law’s car, but I had to pay for parking and gas to get to and from the courthouse. Getting the help was a constant mission that caused the use of resources, time and energy that I struggled to get daily. Including, child care while I went back and forth to court.
People treat you like you have the plague. I came into contact with very few people that were genuinely kind, in fact most were very nasty or insensitive. Some of the non-profit workers were down right mean and legal aid attorneys preyed on the vulnerable that needed legal help. The judges were twice as bad and could be extremely cold. No empathy or sympathy for victims. My husband had the money and got a great attorney, I had no money and had to borrow money for legal help. People as a whole would pity us for being abused or tell me what they would have done in my situation.
Abuse affects both men and women of all races, religions, income level, and ages. I met so many women that told me their personal stories. It was a unique sisterhood of women that wanted to survive, no thrive. I wanted to thrive! Survival was the bare minimum.
The list really goes on and on about my journey. In the end, I was more beat up from trying to get out of an abusive marriage. My children and I were exhausted. It would have been easier to stay with my abusive spouse. I knew my abuser and I knew that we had a place to stay. Being with him, made everyone comfortable. I understood his moods for the most part, but the physical abuse was new. My heart told me that he would strike again. So I found the strength to fight back by leaving and never looked back. I had little help along the way, just a few committed friends, dedicated non-profit workers and eventually my mother. The truth is people would have helped more if I stayed, but against all the odds I fought like Hell to leave my abuser. The truth is my battle is not over, but I can’t be silent about it.
I now understand why women stay. They stay because leaving is beyond difficult, it can be almost impossible. You never feel safe or not judged by others. If you are being abused (remember the other forms-mental, emotional, sexual, spiritual, and financial) you must find the courage to leave. You will have limited help and resources, but God will make a way out of no way. God will give you the courage needed to leave. You must leave for your children and yourself. It is the best decision that you could make for your future and theirs.