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Monday
Sep082014

I Quit You, NFL

Amidst the dull roar of outrage, there is a question that has reared its ugly head over and over again today. It's a question that I asked once.

But just once.

"Why do they stay?"

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The question cuts like a knife for some people. If you need evidence, just spend two minutes reading the #WhyIStayed hashtag on Twitter.

Two minutes. If you are human and have a single empathetic cell in your body, that's all it takes to start to understand. You may still walk away thinking it could never happen to you, but maybe you will understand just a little bit more.

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I looked across the table at the strong black woman who ran an extremely successful non-profit agency. The wall behind her was adorned with certificates testifying to her intelligence and success. As we worked on a project, I asked the question.

"Why do they stay?"

She sighed heavily as she locked eyes with mine. She paused for a long moment then asked, "Could you leave? I know your husband would never do something like that, but if he were to just once make a bad decision, would you be able to leave?"

I thought for a moment and quickly assured myself that I could. But then she asked more questions. "Is your car in your name or your husband's? If you left, could he report the car as stolen?"

I didn't answer.

"Are your bank accounts in both of your names? Could you stop him if he changed the PIN or cancelled your debit card? Do you always have enough cash on you to pay for a hotel room?"

I sat silently.

"What if he told you that he would kill you if you left? Would you be willing to take the risk?"

That question seemed just far-fetched enough to snap me out of my silence, but then she said something that sent me right back.

"What if he seemed like a great guy 99% of the time and only hit you once in a while? Would you be convinced you could fix it? Because I always thought I could."

As I sat dumbfounded, she continued. "By the way, it's never a 'bad decision.' That's just what we tell ourselves when that guy we thought would never do such a thing does such a thing. It helps us not feel quite so stupid when it happens to us."

I've thought about that conversation a million times in the years since it took place. Every time I see or hear about a domestic violence incident, I think about the situation and wonder if I could easily leave if I were the one in it.

The answer is always no.

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There is a thing that has happened over the years, I suppose as a result of Christmas Crazy. Sometimes I find out. Sometimes I figure it out because of comments or tweets or seemingly unconnected emails, but mostly women bravely tell me their stories.

That's why I've read the #WhyIStayed stories before.

It's also why I've seen the answer to the question before. Still, when a strong, successful woman sends me an email asking me to post her words in this space, I do it. More people need to read the answer.

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"Why did she stay? Why did she apologize? Why did she still marry him?"

Those are easy questions to ask when you've never been there. Domestic abuse can often be hidden, because there is more to what we all saw with the Ray Rice video. Maybe the public hears more about the physical side because we are visual learners, but the psychological hold an abuser has on a woman is strong and long-lasting. 

I have had a man who I loved--and "loved" me--squeeze his hands around my neck after hiding the battery in my flip phone. I had to promise I was sorry for what I said and did that set him off (I forget what it was now), and promise that I wouldn't call anyone before I was allowed to have my phone back. I have been held down and hit in the head, while kicking to get him off of me. After my kicks left bruises on him, I was threatened to have the police called on me for abusing him.

Every single time I was the one apologizing through tears. Begging him not to go. Never telling anyone, because for some reason, I didn't want my friends and family to judge me for screwing up. "How could she pick such a loser? Why did she stay with him? How is she so weak to not fight back?"

 

I'm safe now. But my advice is this: If you have a friend or family member experiencing abuse from an intimate partner, listen to her, but don't push. Let her make the judgments on her partner and don't say yours out loud, because she may take it as a judgment on herself too. The whys and how could yous--let them stay in your head--because psychological abuse and physical abuse are often hand in hand, and a victim never turns into a volunteer no matter how long she stays.

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Thank you for sharing your words, M. 

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Reader Comments (10)

Thank you for posting this and thank you especially to M for her beautifully written thoughts. Abuse takes so many forms – verbal, physical...but it's always demeaning, controlling, frightening, meant to inflict pain and fear. It's not exclusive to one gender, age group, or socioeconomic status. As the post said, our job is not blame and certainly not to judge the victim. Ours is to be vigilant, supportive, and willing to help at any moment.

I think the bad news is that abusiveness will always be a part of human behavior. The good news is, we are becoming more aware, more tolerant of others, and more intolerant of abusive behavior. Thank you again for the wonderful post.

September 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

I had no idea. And I have no idea, not really. How something starts with love and ends like that. How hard and terrifying it can be to try to get out. Glad you're where you are now and did get out. Glad you let us know because it knocks me for a loop and this post reminds me not to judge, reminds me it's simply luck that I have no idea...

September 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterE.

I almost wished for him to hit me so people could see what he was doing to me. For me, it was verbal abuse. Slowly he eliminated all my friends. It took me 5 years to leave but I got out. The scars are still there and the doubt and insecurities are just under the surface. It has been 14 years but it might as well be yesterday.

September 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMary

Thank you.

September 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDG

Thank you for posting this. It's so easy to look at women and say, "why didn't she just leave?" It's never that simple, or easy.

I dated my first husband for nearly five years before we got married. Everyone thought he was the perfect catch - handsome, intelligent, had a great job, confident, a "charmer", etc. While we were dating, there were some nasty fights, never physical, but at one point he threw my bags out of his apartment at 11pm at night (2 hours away from where I was living at the time). Yes, I should have seen red flags. The first time he hit me was three weeks before our wedding - we had bachelorette and bachelor parties the same day, and then all met up that night. In the hotel where we were all staying, a handful of us were sitting on a bed. He had drunk way, way too much and somehow thought that I was doing something sexual with his friend (??!) and he went off the rails. He lunged at me and got one hit in before it took three of his friends to hold him down. He destroyed the hotel room - throwing the TV on the floor, breaking lamps, etc. I shook all night. The next morning he told me he hated himself and was going to kill himself. I begged and pleaded with him to not do anything stupid, he was drunk, etc. Three weeks later I married him.

It only took another three weeks or so for me to completely regret my decision. The fights, insults, demeaning comments, making me feel stupid constantly... he would punch holes through our wall when he got mad. Everything was always my fault, and I was always left crying and apologizing so he would just stop. I begged him to go to anger management classes or for us to go to therapy, and he laughed it off. I started to break out in hives, which took months to disappear. It took another year and a half before he put his hands on me again in anger, and when he did, I finally left. However, it was NOT easy. Telling my mom and sister was the hardest thing for me to do. I felt like they would look at me and think, "how could she be so stupid?" "why would she marry him if he was that way?" Friends and family were stunned... most people thought he was perfect and we were the perfect couple. He was dumbfounded and couldn't understand why on earth I would leave. His MOTHER told me, "Oh, all men have tempers". WHAT?!

I left, but much of what the woman above told you is true. Our joint checking account had him listed as a primary, and he pulled all of the money out of it. I literally had nothing. I moved in with my mom. I was hours away from having my car repossessed. There are attorney fees. It took a solid two years from when I left to truly get back on my feet. It's a humbling experience and it makes you feel worthless all over again. But through it all, I kept reminding myself that I was better off with no money than being a statistic.

Yes, I still married him. Yes, it was, by far, the worst decision of my life. There is always SO MUCH MORE to the story than what you see on the surface.

September 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterANONYMOUS

He tried to kill me. Choked me unconscious. Punched me in the face and head. Kicked me. Then convinced everyone that I started it. That I did it. And everyone believed him.

Not one day goes by that I don't think about it. When public incidents like this happen, I look over my shoulder all over again. The nightmares come back. I barely function.

It was when I was trying to leave him, physically, right then, walking away that he tried to kill me. How could anyone actually leave?

September 9, 2014 | Unregistered Commentervivian lee croft

Powerful post & comments.

Thank you!

September 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCarla

Well said, post and comments. This is an important conversation. Although it is shameful that a videotape rather than the violence is the reason this situation was brought to a head (of sorts) in the first place, the upside is the conversations, like this one, that arose from it. Thank you for raising your voice and for raising awareness.

September 11, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCheri @ Blog This Mom!®

5 years - I stayed. Tried twice to leave. Finally one night staying awake with a shotgun in my lap waiting for him to come home was my breaking point. Left everything behind and walked out the door and never went back. 2 year of threats, police calls and lawyers after that but then finally free. 20 years (still) always looking over my shoulder and avoiding that neck of the woods. Everyone has a story.

September 11, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMia

"listen, but don't push" is so true. the abused will often defend the abuser in an effort to make you not judge the abused for taking it.
praying so hard for so many.
thank you for using your space here to share m's story. love you.

September 19, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterhellohahanarf
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