#whyIstayed Why Women Stay In Domestically Violent Relationships…

… After a disturbing video of Ray Rice hitting his then-fiancée, Janay Palmer, surfaced online, hundreds of women who escaped abusive relationships flooded social media to respond with hashtags, “#WhyIStayed” and “#WhyILeft.”

The responses are heartbreaking but need to be seen so people can finally stop blaming the victim. Also, so they can see that domestic violence doesn’t always look like this…

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It sometimes looks like this..

domestic-violence-md-new

So why did I stay… for much of the very same reasons listed below. (copied and pasted with permission)

Why I Stayed – an incomplete list:

-Isolation from anyone who would have provided support and understanding;
-Getting hurt, or watching the kids get hurt worse when I fought back or intervened;
-Indescribable shame for choosing so badly;
-Being told over and over again that anyone who represented women was a flaming liberal modernist feminist, leading others to Hell;
-Being told that the government, police, and CPS agencies were out to get the children, and that they would take the children into foster care where the kids would be “truly abused” and most likely die, if I didn’t stop “overreacting” about how much he was hurting us;
-A deep and pervasive fear of making things worse;

-Trying to keep it together “for the kids”;
-Not wanting to let anyone down who thought highly of us;
-Not wanting to bring shame to my family;
-Interpreting other people’s positive compliments of our family as a “sign” that we were doing something right;
-A false sense of guilt for not being a good enough wife & for causing his abuse (Eventually believing I deserved it)
-Self-doubt about my own perception of the situation; “Maybe it’s all in my head” and, “Maybe I’m crazy”;
-With our bruises usually under our clothing, I didn’t recognize myself as a victim because of those stereotypical posters you see everywhere for violence awareness with the black eyed women;
-His abuse was always in secret, in our house, in our van, in our tent, in our hotel…he wasn’t the stereotypical loudmouthed, threatening-in-public type…he was so well-controlled and professional in front of others most of the time,,,and that was terrifying, too. It sent the message to us that nobody would ever believe how badly he treated us because others only saw the professional him;
-Fear of being called “overreactionary” or “crazy”…fear of being a bad Christian for not trying harder…fear of actually going to Hell for not staying and persevering; fear of being a bad example to my children of this lifelong commitment called marriage.#WhyIStayed
-Anonymous

I can hear myself in those very same words. Two years ago I wrote this,

Usually victims of domestic abuse live in shame and blame themselves – how could they have been so stupid to fall for such a vile man. It embarrasses me to this day to admit to my past marital failure and my stupidity for marrying him in the first place. It’s often that humiliation preventing women from seeking the help they need.

I stayed because of pride. I didn’t want to admit I made such a colossal mistake and that I was so easily fooled and manipulated. I stayed because I know how lonely it is growing up as a child of divorce and I didn’t want to inflict that same loneliness on my own son. I stayed because my ex-husband had convinced me no one else would want me and that I couldn’t do any better. I stayed because I was scared of raising a child alone. I stayed because I doubted myself and my strength to persevere. I stayed because he hadn’t started hitting me yet so it wasn’t really abuse abuse. I stayed because I thought it was my fault. I stayed because he always said he was sorry and would try really hard to change. He never did. But eventually I changed. And that’s why I left.

I left because I did not want my son to grow up to be a man like his father. In the end, that reason won out over all else. Over the threats and intimidation. I looked at my ex-husband and realized if I never left I would look at my son in the same way, with fear and loathing.

But it really doesn’t matter why I stayed or why I left, and really, I shouldn’t have to explain myself. Yet I do. I do so for every person who has ever asked themselves why a woman would stay in a violent relationship or wondered what was wrong with her for staying, you completely misunderstand the psychology of abuse. And now you know.

Instead of demanding an explanation from the victim (why I stayed), we ought to be demanding abusers to explain why they abuse. The #whyIstayed campaign has good intentions but I still find it victim blaming and misdirected. If you can look at an abused woman and ask her why she chose to stay instead of just asking how you can help you’re contributing to the shame that makes it so hard for her to leave.

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