By Carin Makuz
When the feel of his fist is fresh on her face…
Why does she stay??
It’s always the first question and it’s worse when there’s money involved, the implication being she stays for that, for the lifestyle. Right. The lifestyle…
And the answers, they’ve been all over social media recently but they’re not new. The sad truth is they’ll still be valid long after we stop listening, stop talking about it.
And so… we should not stop.
She stays because she’s afraid, isolated, shamed. Because it’s her home. Because she’s given away her power, been told she’s stupid and worthless one too many times. Because she’s been told her whole life she’s stupid and worthless. Because she believes she’s stupid and worthless. Because there are kids and pets and threats… to harm them or take them away.
Because there are threats. Always threats.
Because she is deflated, broken, and because he threatens suicide if she leaves. Always threats. Because to leave is failure; because she came from a broken home and doesn’t want her kids to come from the same place. Because she will be seen as pathetic for having stayed so long so it’s better to stay even longer and not let anyone know. Because people blame the victim. Because people blame the victim… Because people blame.
She stays because she’s fought this fight ten thousand times and hasn’t got the strength it takes to fight back anymore much less start a new life, no matter how right and good and sensible she knows that would be.
She stays because she doesn’t even know she’s being abused. It started small. It was only emotional. He has a temper but he loves me, the kids, he always says he’s sorry. Because this time is the last time. Because this black eye is the last black eye, he said so. He promised. He cried, he begged. He’s really just a teddy bear underneath… he needs her, he said. And she needs to be needed. What else does she have?
She stays because he is her family. Because of For Better or Worse. Because even though she looks fine and manages to function, she is so messed up emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically, she can’t even see straight. She stays because it’s easier at this stage to hope… so she hopes he will be in a good mood today and when he isn’t… it’s too late again.
She stays because she doesn’t want to be seen as weak, or overly dramatic. No bones broken, just a little scuffle. He’s got a temper. I mentioned that, right, the temper?
She stays because the most dangerous thing she can do is leave. It’s bad enough under normal circumstances but if the guy has money, that danger is multiplied. He can have her watched, followed, hurt or worse. And he almost always does.
And where is she supposed to go? Family? Friends? He’ll find her. A hotel isn’t safe. So you tell me… where does she go?? In this weakened state. Where?
That she leaves at all is extraordinary. It takes such monumental courage.
And the women that manage it should be applauded and protected. They aren’t just ‘leaving’, they’re fighting for their lives. I see them at the women’s shelter where I volunteer. They land on the doorstep not because it’s an easy fix but because, for a short time at least, they’ll be safe. The windows are bullet proof; there are cameras at the door, you have to be buzzed in. The police are on speed dial.
Sadly there are never enough beds, never enough shelters. The problem of abuse is only getting worse. Sometimes women are sent out of town, wherever a place can be found. Imagine leaving your home with nothing, your abuser’s voice still ringing in your head, screaming that if you leave he’ll kill you or someone or something you love, and it will be your fault he says. If you leave, he won’t be accountable for what he does. It will be your fault.
The shelters are a place to breathe and think and get some help with what to do next. They’re a place that reminds women they aren’t alone, that their problem isn’t unique to them.
Why does she stay?
Because until she finds the strength to do anything else, it’s all she can do.
And even if she finally musters the will to leave, she may very well go back at some point. For all the same reasons.
She wants things to be better. She really does. That’s part of the problem.
Factor in a situation where names and faces, celebrity and corporations and big, big money are involved, and you can be sure there are those that will do their best to convince her staying is to her advantage, in order that those others save face. And money.
Her face for theirs.
Why does she stay?
Here’s a better question: why does HE stay?
Carin Makuz publishes in journals and magazines across Canada and the U.K. She has won the Commonwealth Short Story Prize, been nominated for the Journey Prize; essays and short stories have been broadcast on CBC and BBC radio. She combines text with photography, reviews books and chats with writers on her blog www.matildamagtree.com. She is currently working on a book about what is remembered, and why. Featured image photo credit: Carin Makuz.
Your manifestations reach out & grab me every time – but the ones on domestic violence they mess still with my head. That sick, insidious violation & torture of what was once a healthy mind, body, soul – so unfair how it always pulls you in, brings you back, there’s always reminders, always someone wanting to know
And know what? That you get tired of making excuses to family/friends/people for the wrong behaviours, that you are fed up with apologizing on his behalf, that you too have become sick from putting bandaid solutions over yourself & the children, that you are exhausted from repairing holes in walls, replacing broken toys, shattered plates, that you are stressed beyond belief in trying to mend your emotional/mental/physical well being – somehow just trying to keep it together- but the elastic is wearing then, it can’t keep stretching back!
It’s the “behind the scenes” stuff that people just don’t understand, if you were to investigate the crime scene of D.V it is messed up stuff.
Why doesn’t she just leave? Forgets to tell how she actually has left many times before. But when no one ever sees, you don’t dare tell, how do you explain the things you don’t understand yourself. So you lock them away safe inside.
For the eyes that don’t see, let me try to explain – that hypervigilance, always working harder/faster, unable to slow down – the reason? To stop, to slow down, brings everything back, those invisible scars buried on the inside with such terrible pain- they’re still there, they will always remain. So run, run fast….
In moving away, it doesn’t just end- every step forward you make towards freedom/independence will bring a consequence, a punishment, a penalty of sorts – a further threat, more harassing texts, emails that denigraded you, humiliate you to others, letters that extend through to other family to hurt them- no, it doesn’t just end.
Where & how does it start, you want to know?
When you find yourself saying “he has anger issues”- but you’ll believe him again when he minimizes that, when it is clarified over & over again til as he says:”you get it right in your head” to “make you understand, cause you can be so stupid, you always forget” – hel’ll remind you again that this was just a fight, you’re the one being melodramatic. After all, he says abuse is just physical and “I love you, I buy you nice things, take you nice places…..”
Yes, you become worn down, you try to just accept your lot- you’ve fought too many battles, spent, exhausted, stressed, depressed, anxious from living on your nerves, never knowing what to expect next – tiptoeing on eggshells – a narcissist ensures no two incidents are ever the same
With no rhyme, no reason, what seems like no real pattern of same events (even though the cycle is always the same) with gullible stamped on your forehead you’re easily convinced it had to be you, the cancer, the cause, the reason, the blame.
What else really do people want to know? That for years like a broken record you have battled your own mind, repeating the saying in your head “should I stay or should I go” over & over again… That for so long the reasons to stay (even in dread) always outweigh the ones to go – for you will leave- many times before you actually say NO – that definitive line in the sand that only you can draw – the one that says NO MORE
So let me share with you what I know:
1. He is right when he says “I don’t punch you, or cheat on you or come home drunk”
2. He is right when he says that it’s not like the bad stuff happens every week
3.he is right when he says you have no proof, no one will believe you, there are no bruises
4.he is right when he says you’ve never experienced divorce, that you have no idea of the pain it will cause & the effect on him or the children
5.he is right when he says he takes care of you, buys you nice things, let’s you have holidays
6.he is right when he says no one is perfect/everyone makes mistakes & that sometimes he can be the best husband/father in the world
7.he is right when he says you are useless, pathetic, a nobody, that you won’t survive- you need him?
8.he is right when he says that marriage is for better for worse, in sickness & in health, for richer, for poorer…. Until death do us part…… Over & over again
BUT what isn’t right is this:
Any behaviour that deliberately undermines your confidence or ability, that leads you to believe you are worthless, pathetic, a mental case, that insults you, that entrap a you, that “steals your light”, that humiliates you, denigrates you, that instill fear, anxiety, stress – this I know is SO VERY WRONG.
Anyone that tries to withhold information, pushes you into isolation & creates financial control is ABUSIVE
Anyone that harms you physically/emotionally/mentally is subjecting you to DOMESTIC VIOLENCE.
Finally, know this- there are always reminders that wait in the shadows… You may wonder will they ever go away…. No answer can I give you but to say …. The actions of another are always his to control, for the mastery of creating yourself a new life begins in the art of letting go.
A GIFT OF THE SELF
A white heart is pure, it touches you inside
It stays innocent of pain, of death, it shines a light against the tide
It carries you beyond the realm of all that you’ve been told
It elevates your spirit, it weaves it’s threads of gold.
What you’re saying about a battered woman staying in an abusive relationship is probably true for the first one, but what about the subsequent abusive relationships she gets into?
I’ve had girlfriends who get away from one abuser and promptly get involved with another one. It’s an endless assembly line of abusive a**holes. (And they will reject decent guys who weren’t abusive.)
There’s something more going on here than that women are helpless victims of abusive men. I think women get addicted to the violence and the chaos that abusive men bring to their lives. In other words, it’s the dynamic of the two of them, not just him that’s the problem. Until we acknowledge her role in it, this problem of DV will never be fixed.
A very powerful story. It is often very hard to leave for many reasons. Though some go back for more there are many who escape and learn and never get in that position again. It takes time and there is always hope for a better life.
For the most part, you are right. As a victim of domestic violence, I can say that I did go from one bad relationship to another. Unfortunately, it’s not really that cut & dry. In my case, as well as many others, the next relationship does not start off as abusive, in fact, it starts off wonderful. The new person shows you the attention (good) that you longed for in your previous relationship. You start letting your guard down and letting this new person inside those walls. Unfortunately, there are predators that can put on a good face. They use your insecurities against you, and you dont even see it happening. Then, before you know it, you are right back where you started, if not worse.
Yes, we do have tendencies of going back to the same type of relationships. Is it stupid? Crazy? To the outsider, yes it is. To the recurring victim, it’s natural, or all we know. Sometimes, we enter in to these new relationships hoping for a fairy tale, only to relive the same terror or worse. Maybe it is a form of “guilt” for ruining the previous relationship, or not trying hard enough to make it work or walking out on someone you pledged your life and your love to. Maybe we are just glutton for punishment, as so many outsiders would say. Who really knows the answers to these questions? Definitely not someone that has never lived through it.
Yes, the victims do need to acknowledge their roles in the situation. They are victims! Until they can accept that they are not the reason they got abused; that they are not the cause for the black eyes, broken bones or lacerations; that they are not the reason for the abusers anger, etc. Etc. They have to realize and accept that the abusers problem was within themselves. The victim has to stop making excuses for the abuser; it was his childhood; he doesnt know how to control his anger and i need to help him; its not always bad; he only gets mean when he drinks; if i dont say anything to upset him, hes fine. When the victim can finaly stop making excuses aNd realize it is not their fault, then and only then can a victim begin to heal and move on to a different “type” of relationship.
Not being ignorant or anything, but please dont say that the victims get addicted to the chaos and the violence. Maybe there are some people that enjoy it or get off on it, but 98% of victims would do anything to have peace in their lives. I watched a woman I love go through 20 years of dv, severe dv, and even after they split up and he moved far away, this woman could not sleep a peaceful night, or breath an easy breath until she found out he had died. Only at his funeral did I see her and her grown children breathe a sigh of relief.
The best thing you can do as a friend of victims is to be there and let them know there are ways out. Find a support group and go, yourself, and learn how to help. Maybe then, you will understand why things happen tthe way they do.
And by the way, I am not just talking about women as victims. There is a large number of men victims, too, we just dont hear or see about them as much…..
Sorry this is so long, I just felt it should be said. God bless
So moving. My mother went through this with my father BUT after they split when I was about 8 my old man changed. Stopped drinking (which was the major issue) stopped smoking and was there more for us kids. This felt normal but it’s not. Most guys don’t change. So I’m proud of father. My girlfriend came from a marriage of 13 years with the same abuse. He still tries to control her. She has custody of the kids and he has them every second weekend. But then he will say sorry can’t have them this weekend I’m going away. Infuriates me to the bone. He does this a lot in the 13 months we have been together. She has to stop me sometimes because I’m ready to go and abuse him. The thing is though he never got his. Has fate got something big planned for him or am I what fate had been waiting for?
Adding on he also dictates when he will be nice and when he will be an ass. Drunk texts and calls. Saying it’s all her fault she’s the one that left not him. In my opinion man up boy. Take responsibility of your actions and when it’s your weekend with the kids your plans have to take a backseat. Again I ask: has fate got something big planned or am I what fate has been waiting for? I’m not the one talking to him or anything so I don’t even get to vent my anger towards him.
The prople I’ve knoen who escaped DV faced some hard truths. “Yes, I ignored the red flags.” “Yes, I wanted to believe the words over the actions.” “This was my normal; I rejected anyone who I didn’t feel I needed to rescue, who needed my help.”
Getting out of this means saying goodbye to all the madness that was normalized.
I’ve seen what happens when people ignore the work they have to do and stay. They ride with drunk drivers, are terrorized with their children. Get STD’s. And I’ve seen a woman so in denial that she was killed by her husband. My mother. So I say, change.