In light of the recent video that has come to light showing ex-ravens player Ray Rice knocking then fiance, current wife Janay Palmer unconscious in a elevator, i have seen a lot of people asking "why did she still marry him?" and "why do woman stay with men that beat them?" I'd like to take a moment to offer some insight, as a survivor of domestic violence myself.
The day i was married, sept 2nd of 2005, 8 months pregnant and so naive, is the day my ex-husband first hit me. One of my male family members had said something incredibly rude to him, which caused us to argue after the wedding and reception. I made the "mistake" of defending that while my uncle was wrong, he said what he said because he loved me. I didn't even see it coming when he backhanded me. I locked myself in the bathroom, holding my stomach, thinking of my son, and sobbing. But he apologized...he was stressed, hurt by what had been said to him, and so sorry. He worked hard the next week to prove to me how sorry he was. Despite the fact that i grew up in a home with DV, i believed him. 3 weeks after our wedding our son was born, and for 4 months things were good.
What people who have never experienced domestic violence don't understand is, it's not like one day he starts beating you. There is a buildup to that point, where day by day he breaks down your confidence, makes you feel small, worthless. He isolates you from your friends, if he is the only one working he controls the money and the fiances. He does anything he can to make sure you are dependent on him. He makes sure you know no one loves you like he does, no one will understand or believe you if you tell them, that if you were just better he wouldn't get so angry. Usually, by the time the first blow comes, you already have been broken down so much you almost believe him when he says you deserve it.
Even an abused woman who has been broken down will tell you she had moments where she knew she had to leave. I certainly did. But that brings up new issues. Good woman, Christian women, they stay. They work it out. God hates divorce. If you leave you're a failure. Plus it's so embarrassing. Walking into stores with that fat lip, seeing people stare or whisper...knowing they know what happened, and yet here you are, walking through the grocery store at his side like an idiot. Who wants to admit the man they love, who vowed before God and family to "love, honor and cherish" them, is abusing them. Not to mention the fact that we live in a culture that plays down abuse and tries to justify why men do it. So we stay silent, we stay, we try harder.
Plus, it's not all violence and anger. There are good times too. When things were good they were really good. The picture on the right was taken while we were on vacation is California. That week was amazing. So much fun, so many good memories. Women in abusive relationships learn to ficus hard on the good times, because they make the bad a little easier to deal with. But even the good times always have a little shadow over them. Or they did for me. No matter how good it was, i was always aware in the back of my mind that at any moment he could snap and it would be ugly. I never knew what it was that i was going to do to make him mad, make him hit me. Christmas eve 2007 i used a seasoning he didn't like on the turkey and he tried to stab me with a butcher knife. He once did stab me with a small kitchen knife. The fat lip in the picture above was because i asked him to not have his buddies stay the night that weekend like they usually did.
As bad as that was, the worst part came after that. Sitting in the ER with a concussion and bruised ribs, trying to explain that my husband did this to me. Having to have my son's head looked at, just in case, because my husband threw him into the wall. Then the next day, opening my door to find police and 2 people from CPS at my door. Asking about the violence, how often it happened, did he often hit our son...so many questions. Them explaining to me how i had been negligent and could loose my son if there wasn't a change. I have never been so angry in my entire life. I gave this "man" everything, and he could be the reason i lost my son? That was the end. We were divorced not long after.
I dealt with a lot during the time of our divorce. There were people who didn't believe me. They could not fathom that this nice guy they knew was a wife beater. I still get people who believe him that i am crazy and he is the best guy ever. I;m the bitch who got him sent to jail. I felt very judged by the people in the church i had grown up in, so i left. I felt judged by my family, like it was shameful i had let myself be abused. I no longer associate with some of those people. I still deal with his violence. His anger. He has told me straight up that i'm only alive because he is afraid of prison. That he'd love to smack the shit out of me but he won't go back to jail. And my fears about my son losing his father were valid. He know see's him, maybe 4 days a month. He will go for 10+ days of not calling him. My son knows his dad values other things above him, and i know one day my ex will have to deal with the fallout from that. I do wish i had chosen a better dad for him. I was young and naive. I was stupid beyond belief.
I will carry these scars for the rest of my life. I am still learning to overcome my PTSD and the mental abuse i suffered. I am still learning to love myself and find my worth again. I was so strong and independent before my marriage, and i know someday i will get back to that place again.
So next time you wonder why a woman stays, try not to judge quite so much. There is a battle, an internal struggle, that you cannot comprehend. There is so much more to it than her just leaving. My mother had to plan in secret, hide away money, for months. He went to work one day, we loaded a small uhaul and were gone by the time he came home. This is the story so many survivors of DV have. Abusers will threaten everything, including the children, to keep the power they have. The best thing you can do is be educated, be available to listen or help if someone you know is being abused, and hold the men who do this accountable. There is NEVER a reason for a man to hit a woman. Even if she attacks him first, him hitting her should be the last resort. A lesson i am teaching my son. I am stopping the cycle of violence in my life, and in our family.