Twenty years ago today, I walked out on a physically and emotionally abusive husband. It is an anniversary I remember each year and an anniversary I quietly celebrate. It was twenty years ago today I took back my life and my freedom.
I remember so many people asking me, "Why would you stay?" It is a question asked over and over and yet it is such a difficult question to answer. Today, as a stronger, more independent, woman, I would not stay. But even so, I understand why women stay in abusive relationships. I understand the tormented emotional roller coaster they ride each and every day. I understand they are afraid to leave and afraid to stay.
The abusive partner (in most cases this is the man) works hard to emotionally manipulate their partner. Fear and guilt are routinely used to fuel the roller coaster. I remember one time, my ex-husband took my hand in his and said, "You have such a small and dainty wrist. Do you know I could probably snap it if I tried?" This was said matter-of-factly, as if it was a normal conversation. But, of course, it was not a normal conversation. Normal people don't have conversations like that.
At other times, the guilt would be wrapped up in "loving" statements, such as, "I love you so much, you know I could never stand it if you left me. I just don't know what I would do." Sometimes suicide would be implied, sometimes harm to you, your friends, your family, your children would be implied.
All of this takes its toll on emotions. But besides the fear and the guilt, most abusive partners also put down their partners, trying to make sure they do not see themselves as lovable to anyone else. The abuser implies the abused is "lucky to have them." After a while, the abused partner actually begins to believe. They begin to see themselves in a degraded way, as if they do not deserve anything better or even if they do, they just won't get it. There is too much wrong with them... they are fat...they are ugly...they don't cook well...they are too something or other.
As so fear and guilt and berating take their toll. Each morning, the abuser must open their eyes and wonder what the day will bring. Each day, they walk around as if on eggshells, not wanting to disrupt the peace (if there is some) or make matters worse. Each day they believe there is something they did...or said...or didn't do...or didn't say to cause this pain. Each day they believe if they don't do it again today, it will get better.
But it doesn't get better. According to statistics, every 9 seconds a woman is battered somewhere in the U.S. It is the most under-reported crime and the Riley Center indicates that around 60% of all marriages have had some type of domestic violence.
I endured punches, angry (and unwarranted) rants and more. I felt the sting of being slapped. I felt humiliated. But today, life is good. I have found a good and loving husband and am content with my life. I shudder to think what may have happened had I continued to stay in the abusive relationship. Even though there were times I felt trapped, I found the courage to leave.
Domestic violence is a crime. If you, or someone you know, is suffering through abuse, please, reach out for help.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
I can attest that there is a better life. There can be a time when you don't need to worry about what you are doing, who you are talking to or what might happen later. You did not do anything to deserve to be treated this way. Reach out and talk to someone. Call the hotline, please.
Published On: December 10, 2008