It’s been 4 years since I left Mr Who to start over and there is a question that people have asked me often that drives me up the wall and tests my self-restraint. The question? Sometimes it’s phrased slightly differently but it always boils down to the same thing: “Why didn’t you leave?” or “If it was that bad, why would you stay” or the version I like best, “You’re a smart woman, why would you put up with that, you should have just left“. These are all easy things to say when you haven’t lived in a situation of domestic abuse, but when you say that to an abuse survivor you are re-victimising the person by judging them.
Nobody stays in an abusive situation because it’s fun. Most of us find it hard to even admit that what we are going through is abuse. What someone who has had the courage to take the step to leave doesn’t need to hear from people, especially their friends is judgement and blame. Because essentially, that’s what these questions are; victim blaming. People seem to believe that if you don’t leave immediately you must somehow, deep down, like this treatment and by staying there the victim is saying it’s ok.
That’s not what the victim is saying at all. It isn’t easy to walk away from someone you have spent years of your life with, even if they are not always the person you would like them to be. No domestic situation is violent or abusive all day every day, there are times when things are going well but it’s all part of a cycle.
This diagram shows the phases in the cycle of domestic violence according to the website of SA Police
Why do we stay? A lot of the time, like I have already said, victims really don’t want to believe that someone could profess to love us one minute and be calling us horrendous names, or cutting up our clothes in a fit of rage the next; the blame is placed within the relationship by the abuser turning it back on the victim with statements like; “if you just did like I said, none of this would have happened” or “you know I don’t like it when you do that and you still do it, you deserve whatever you get” None of that is true but when you hear it over and over again, you start to believe it and then finally it just becomes what you think you deserve.
A friend of mine, while she was still in an abusive relationship took the blame for her husband breaking her jaw by saying that she had burned the roast and it made her husband mad. In her mind it was her fault because her husband had placed the blame on her; she burned the dinner – that made him mad – he beat her so badly he broke her jaw – it’s her fault for burning the dinner and making him mad.
This isn’t love, this is domestic abuse. We need to stand up and be heard. It is never ok to hit anyone, love never gives you a broken jaw or any other injuries, internal or external.
There are many organisations that help and provide information online regarding domestic violence and abuse and I have included a few links at the bottom of this blog for easier access.
Stay safe, take care.