“I don’t think it is domestic violence. She’s a really strong woman.”
I knew the context of the conversation. There was no ill-intent by the person who made this statement. I believe the statement was made with the entire purpose of being positive, and reassuring, and I’m certain this person had no idea those words could be construed in any other way than it was intended.
However, as a domestic violence survivor, this is what I heard:
“You must be a weak woman if you’ve experienced domestic violence.”
With all of the media accounts of recent domestic violence charges, the arguments for and against those involved, and all of the assumptions, one question always remains the same.
“Why do you stay?”
Before I had experienced domestic violence, I too, asked those questions. I couldn’t understand why anyone would stay, but I learned it wasn’t that simple.
According to http://www.domesticabuseshelter.org, a woman will leave an abusive relationship seven times before she’s able to leave for good, and yet, the most dangerous time for someone who is a victim of domestic violence is after they leave. Approximately 75% of women, who are killed by their batterer, are murdered when they attempt to leave, or after they have already left the relationship.
When I was asked why I stayed for so long, my answer was always the same. It was much safer for me to stay in the relationship than to flee, because at least I could see it coming. I never knew what ‘it’ was, and as ridiculous as it may sound to someone who hasn’t experienced this, I felt safer staying than I did leaving. My ex-husband didn’t just threaten me. He threatened my family. He told me if I ever left him, he’d burn down my parent’s house with them in it. I believed if I stayed, I would have a better chance of protecting the people I loved the most.
Was I weak? No.
I was scared, though. Living constantly in fear is terrifying, but for me, watching over my shoulder was worse because everything was completely unknown.
It has been over a decade since I was in this situation. I wasn’t weak, but I am stronger now.
Domestic violence is prevalent in our communities. If you are being abused, or know of someone who needs help, please find local resources to assist. Please make it your business to help someone who needs you. And, if you need help, please, please reach out. You may read more about my story, and my experiences, by clicking here.