“Why Don’t You Just Leave?” That is the most-often asked question of victims of domestic violence. I would hazard a guess that less than 2% of those asking that question were themselves ever victims of domestic violence or abuse. If I had a dollar for every time I was asked during those years of domestic violence, “Why don’t you just leave?” not to mention the countless times I’ve been asked since then, “Why didn’t you just leave?”, I’d be a very wealthy woman many times over by now. For every woman who has had to endure being verbally and emotionally abused, sexually assaulted or yanked around by her hair as I was, there is not a single answer, but that individual’s answer or reason. Domestic violence is reaching pandemic levels in American society, but let’s not forget it effects individuals as their own disease to survive. Every situation pivots around fear. That is indeed a fact. But each victim’s fear is ignited by the conditions of their own environment and emotional status. Being in the throes of an abusive relationship does not make for the best times of emotional wellbeing.
Domestic violence usually means you have run an obstacle course of deterioration of your self-esteem, doubt of your own worth or value, hearing degrading words for so long that you have come to accept them as truth, threats of bodily harm or having your children taken away… Until you have been on that side of the fence, you cannot possibly have a true understanding of how it feels to be a victim of domestic violence.
Then there are the statistics. The norm is that a victim of domestic violence or abuse will not call for help until at least the fifth incident of threat or harm. How many victims don’t live long enough to reach that fifth round and make that call?
Why didn’t I just leave? I had no idea where I would live. My children needed a dry roof over their heads and food in their stomachs. It was apparent to me that if I was as inefficient as I was being told, I better stay put to ensure they would at least have a house, if not a home.
Why didn’t I just leave? There was an overbearing fear of repercussions. I was told if I tried to leave he would take my children away from me, and if I dared take them with me, he’d hunt me down and kill me, or make me wish I were dead.
Why didn’t I just leave? How would I explain this to my family? The happy, smiley-faced optimistic, vibrant young woman they knew had been lost along the way. Where had she gone, and how did they not know? Besides, by that time, I didn’t even know who “I” was.
Why didn’t I just leave? I could only imagine what sort of embarrassment would be involved if my friends were to find out the rather bright, intelligent individual they had known for so many years had become a stupid, ignorant “bitch” with nothing to live for. You hear something over and over again, you start to believe it.
Why didn’t I just leave? I tried to…once. The vehicle of travel was a deadly combination of pills and alcohol, mixed together in an effort to take me to a place where the pain and fear would cease to exist. You see, when a victim of domestic violence falls that near to bottom, the concept of death being an eternal state just doesn’t seem to register. I reached the point I would have done anything to just have one day of peace in my life.
When did I leave? The day I was being dragged by my hair through the house, being cursed loudly, and suddenly finding my head, in an alcoholic’s rage, being slammed numerous times into a door. That’s when I reached my decision. It was when I looked up to see the faces of my precious children, wide-eyed with fear, watching the turn of events. The message I saw in their eyes seemed to ask, “Are we next?” That was the day I made the choice to leave the relationship. Things are a bit different these days, and the laws have changed, but we still have a long way to go.
Not everyone gets another chance. Not every victim lives long enough to leave. So, now, what was your question again?
Please visit Carolyn’s Everyday Health blogs (links at right) or her website: http://www.orangeblossomwishes.com.