I Quit You, NFL
Monday, September 8, 2014

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?"


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.


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.


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.


"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.


Thank you for sharing your words, M. 

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