One in every four women experiences domestic abuse.
This is her story.
"Why did I stay with him?"
I hear this from my friends every time his name is brought up.
I never have an answer. They push me, asking why I stayed, and all I can say is, "I don't know."
Because I don't.
It wasn't until later, when I read stories from others, heard their experiences, that I understood that abuse comes in many forms. Every time he promised to call but didn't. Every time he'd disappear for days without word, finally showing up randomly - often when I was with friends - demanding I leave with him, he was exerting his control over me bit-by-bit.
He even managed to make me feel guilty about this. It was my fault he decided not to come - I was needy or he couldn't deal with listening to me talk about my family. He was careful to tell me everything he was giving up to be with me; how much his family hated me. He stayed with me in spite of what everyone said about me.
He got angry when I got a ride with a friend (he'd showed up four hours late), yelling at me for making him "waste gas." When I took a modicum of control; told him that I was tired of being abandoned and treated like garbage, he got angry. He informed me he didn't need me, that I needed him.
Believing him, I stayed.
He also told me he loved me. Every now and again, he'd bring me a present or dedicate a song to me. It worked. It made me feel that if I waited long enough, he'd treat me like a princess. THEN everyone would see how wonderful he was. Behind my back, he told friends that he had no real feelings about me; he only slept with me because I was there. I wouldn't find this out until much later.
I suppose I was more vulnerable, more accepting of his behavior because it felt normal. For years, I'd watched my mother do the same to my stepfather, separating him from his friends, guilting him, disparaging his ability to make money and take care of our family. Then, she'd tell him that she loved him, she'd be lost without him, if he left, she'd kill herself. He stayed, too. Seventeen long years. He stayed until the day he died.
Four years later, I found someone who, without hesitation, treated me the way I deserved to be treated. My ex-husband told me that I was worthy, beautiful, that I could be strong. He told me so often that eventually I believed him. Even though we divorced, we remain friends. At my darkest hour - even now - he believed in me, took my hand, and picked me up.
The fear that I'll become like my mother is overwhelming. The scars of emotional and psychological abuse are every bit as deep, though not as visible, as those from physical abuse. Neither fades easily.
As hard as it is to remember the past, I make a conscious effort not to forget where I've come from. If I do, I may turn into an abuser. I remember the past, look into the mirror, and promise that I will never let that happen.
I will never make someone else ask himself why he stayed.3 Comments