Last year social media were abuzz regarding domestic violence. I have participated in two discussions about domestic violence as a result of the Ray Rice incident. Currently, #Why I Stayed and #Why I Left are trending topics. Domestic Violence is front page news now. I thought well I already have a post on domestic violence, but I realized it didn’t answer the question of why I stayed. I had never asked that question or wondered why I left actually. I know the first time I left an abusive relationship the I paid attention to the red flags. Why I stayed, that answer is more complicated.
A few years ago my personal experience with domestic violence was a subject I wouldn’t discuss. I felt I was an advocate. I would support a women’s decision to leave and, I volunteered at an agency that was dedicated to helping victims of domestic violence. I would even admit I had been through domestic violence, but that is where it stopped. Before I had saw an episode of the Tyra Banks show on the topic of domestic violence and teens. I felt so sad. I thought these girls shouldn’t be going through this; they are too young. In 2012, I read about a teenager named Sarah Billingsley-Walker.. Her story hit home for because she was choked to death, and I learned choking was a leading cause of death in domestic violence situations. I had been married, and my ex-husband would choke. I asked his friend about it, and his friend replied, “he would have killed a long time ago if he were going to kill you.” After reading, I realized I had played with a loaded gun when I thought I was playing with a toy gun.
Why did I stay in that relationship back then? I stayed because I felt my husband at the time loved me unconditionally. He told me I was smart and beautiful, which was the opposite of what I had heard growing up. I went back repeatedly because I thought he needed me. I thought I needed him to boost myself esteem. He made me feel accepted regardless of bad choices. He made me feel I was smart and beautiful. He was my cheerleader. He would encourage me after my failures, relationship, jobs, etc. I continued the relationship because I didn’t want to admit I had made a mistake. My pride got in the way I didn’t want to be humble.
I was groomed for domestic violence from an early age. My maternal grandmother was verbally and emotionally abusive to Paul (my grandfather). I felt abandoned by my parents. My mother and father had divorced. I lived with my mom and her parents. She was emotionally distant, and my dad was absent from my life for a while. I struggled with low self-esteem. I listened to my adult cousin abuse his wife daily for years. I wondered as I listen why she stayed. As a teenager, I talked that I wish a ***** would.
At 17 years old, I dated an abusive guy. After he had shoved me one time too many I thought I am not going down this road, but two years later. The guy I had a major crush on for years married me. The first time he choked. I was hurt and shocked. I left for the night. My mother told me if you go back it won’t stop. She right it didn’t.
I learned how to manipulate the cycle. I used verbal and emotional abuse to instigate violence. My logic was if I know when it’s coming I can handle it. I thought about leaving, threaten to leave but never because of abuse. I accepted the abuse. I felt heart was broken, and nothing else mattered. I didn’t care if I lived or died. I would tell my friends in college he was the kind of person that might snap and kill me. They encouraged me to leave. I left after I became pregnant with our daughter. But the relationship continued off and on for the next 18 years. The physical abuse lessened over time, but the financial and emotional abuse continued. I continued my abusive behavior as well.
I continued my pattern in abusive relationships. I rationalized a man had to be controlling to be strong. In 2012, I started on my current journey to healing. I started going to women’s group for survivors of domestic violence and sexual abuse. The first meeting was so hard; I wanted to leave. I thought about saying I was in the wrong place. I had never really talked about domestic violence and impact I had on me. I had gone through years of counseling, but it was off limits topic. I was in denial. How could it not have impacted me? I have been in three domestic violence shelters in my lifetime. The second time I went to a DV shelter a social worker had to convince me to go. I told her I was not having an issue with domestic violence because I hit first. She had to explain to me domestic violence is more than physical abuse.
Following group therapy at the shelter for domestic violence, they suggested I go to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder counseling. I was in denial; I said I didn’t have any issues with that. My domestic violence experience was mild because it never required any trips to the hospital or emergency room. Heated arguments increased my anxiety and sent me into panic attacks.
My most recent domestic violence relationship was kind of cunning and baffling like alcoholism. It crept up on me slowing. In DV Group, I learned domestic violence is like a river; you wade in the water, and an under tow or the current can just carry you away. It started off I would give in to avoid arguments I didn’t think it was a big deal. My daughter asked me at one point why are you putting up with this. I didn’t have an answer. The relationship became more and more controlling as time went on. My significant others parents even asked me why I put up with it. I ignored the behavior as much as I could. The holy spirit had people to try and discourage me from continuing the relationship. I thought to myself I am David, and this is my Bathsheba. I can handle it. It worked out for David in the end.
The beginning of the end was when I had a thought, I never had before while beginning in an abusive relationship. I thought what if I get scared, and I do something to him and end up in jail. I started trying to reach out to a woman I had met that went to jail for killing her husband. I felt like I needed to hear her story. Had she thought she would pull the trigger? Even though I started thinking I should leave, I refused to do an escape plan. We were going to have to downsize and I feared being in a smaller space would create more opportunities for altercations. Finally, I left.
Now, as I began healing, I realize why I stayed. It’s because I was groomed for this role as a domestic violence advocate.
Because abuse often happens behind closed doors, it is important to understand the statistics that show just how many people are affected.
Domestic violence can be devastating to families, but its effect on entire communities runs even deeper
1 in 4 women reports experiencing domestic violence in their lifetimes.
- 2 million injuries and 1,300 deaths are caused each year as a result of domestic violence.
- All cultural, religious, socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds are affected by domestic violence.
- Nearly 2.2 million people called local and national domestic violence hotlines in 2004.
- More than 1.35 million people accessed domestic violence victim services in 2005.