I wrote about my personal experience of Domestic Abuse here. It wasn’t easy to stare in the face and put down on a page, but I felt compelled to after reading many other articles from survivors; I didn’t want them to feel they were alone. I also wanted to try to highlight the fact that it can and does happen to so many women, from many different backgrounds and circumstances.
More recently I have encountered a swathe of the ‘why doesn’t she just leave’ rhetoric. I often comment on those Twitter conversations and online debates, or respond to blogs, my hope being that I can at least offer a perspective from someone who knows why they didn’t leave. Or did, but returned. Because that was my experience. I stayed and returned a number of times for a multitude of reasons, but looking back it was mainly due to exceptionally low self-esteem, so when the lies came flooding in about “change” and “undying love” I wanted to believe, because I didn’t want to be alone. When I write this, I realise how pathetic it must sound and it gives me an insight in to why many cannot understand. Because in truth, now I am out of the lion’s den even I struggle to fathom why I stayed for so long. I can see why the incredulity exists.
But the thing is, my reasons for staying are not the same as every woman’s. Every experience is unique, they often bear similar hall marks, they often follow a pattern-but the reasons for remaining with an abuser are manifold. Having talked to a number of survivors and having assessed my own experience in detail through therapy, it really is a complex web. Many women will be trapped in emotional turmoil, not wanting to harm their abuser, not wanting to separate their children from its other parent. They will have economic reasons for staying-this particular government are cutting lifelines right left and centre for women in these situations. Many women will literally not realise the behaviour is abnormal-they will have become normalised to the abuse-they may have grown up with it and their relationships with abusive partners becomes a continuation of those experiences.
Every time I read a comment that calls out the “why does she stay” it reaffirms the myth that the victim is to blame, remove yourself from the path of the fist or out of earshot of the “you ugly fucking bitch” then you’ll be just fine. It is in no way different to telling a woman to cover up, wear the right clothes and she’ll avoid being raped. Abusers abuse, this is what they do, if they aren’t abusing one woman, they will find another to replace her, nothing that their victims do justifies this.
The high-profile cases in the media of abuse against celebrities garner a worldwide catalogue of responses, with the Domestic Violence survivors, charities and those who understand the dynamic calling for support of the victim and everyone else on the other side, either blaming or turning the other way. How on earth we can expect victims of Domestic Violence to come forward, accuse their abusers, set themselves free, it’s beyond me. When STILL we think as a society that it is on any level the fault of the abused we fail those victims. We fail the ones fighting to leave and we fail the ones still stuck in the nightmare.