When it comes to domestic violence, I have known several women who have said things like “I would just leave,” or “if you choose to stay, then you choose to be abused,” or “my brother/dad/guy friends would put an end to that.” I was one of these women. No way. Not me.
Have you said these things?
In the time I’ve spent volunteering with A Woman’s Place (AWP) I’ve encountered these people in person and online. I’ve become acutely aware of how uninformed the general public is about domestic violence. Here’s what people do not understand, abuse doesn’t start with physical violence. You don’t get punched in the eye on your first date. People read about and hear about victims being “isolated” but I’m starting to realize that they really don’t grasp the concept. How does someone isolate you like that? Manipulation isn’t always obvious.
Imagine this: Your relationship starts off amazing. You’re madly in love. You spend as much time as you can together. You cannot get enough of one another. He and you are in a perfect bubble of relationship bliss. It feels like everyone else is a little less important. You drift away from life a bit because you’re so wrapped up in one another. It happens a lot at the beginning of relationships. Eventually, you want to get out more. Hang with friends and family. But your partner thinks you’re flirting or cheating if you are talking with your guy friends. Who hasn’t had a little jealousy or insecurity in a relationship, right?
Perhaps your partner feels that your family and friends don’t like him (it’s probably true and for good reason). Since he feels they don’t like him, he’s not going to the family barbeque. What kind of person goes to the family barbeque without bringing her partner? What kind of partner doesn’t support the person she loves? Plus, if you go without him he’ll be mad at you for the rest of the day. There’s probably no point in going. You’re not going to have fun because you’ll worry about him being upset with you. Suddenly you’re not going to the barbeque either.
Over time this happens more and more often. Eventually you stop being invited to the game with the guys. You’re no longer invited to Girl’s Night Out. You’re no longer invited to the family barbeque. Everyone knows you won’t show up anyway.
They just don’t understand. You have him and he’s all you need. “Us against the world!”
You’re in love. You have a life together. That spat last night? Every couple argues once in a while. He didn’t mean to push you. It was just an accident in the heat of the moment. He’ll never do it again. He loves you. He would never hurt you on purpose. He won’t do that again. If he ever does, you’ll call the police.
That’s the plan… until it happens. You don’t want him in jail, you just want him to get himself together and treat you like he used to. You love him. Maybe you need some time to think before you make any decisions. Oh look! He brought flowers. He apologized. He knows he screwed up. Maybe you shouldn’t be so hard on him. Maybe if you’re nicer everything will be ok.
After some time another fight happens, more heated than the last. Sure he put his hands on you before, but this time he hit you. He HIT you. That’s it! You’re done! You deserve better.
But if you leave where will you go? If you move, where will the kids go to school? What if you can’t bring the dog? Where is the first and last month’s rent coming from? Maybe you can kick him out… but his name is on the house too. How will you afford the bills on your own? Suddenly you’re terribly aware that you have pushed away your friends and family. How embarrassing would it be to ask them for help? Maybe he can stay ‘til you figure these things out.
Days, weeks, months pass and you are getting along great. You’re in love. It’s going to be ok. You can stop worrying about trying to leave. He really has changed. Then you order plain pizza for dinner, like you do every Friday night. Today is different though. Today, he wanted pepperoni. Why would you do that? How could you not ask if he wanted something different? You must be really stupid to think that wouldn’t upset him. Apparently, you don’t understand him at all.
Your head is filled with questions. How is this even upsetting him? What is he talking about? Why does he think…? What is happening…? He proclaims you don’t love him, you’re just like everyone else! You know this will get worse as the night continues.
Did you ever think you’d get yelled at, beaten, or killed because of pizza? Have you ever said “I would just leave?” Have you ever looked in the mirror and asked yourself “How did I get here?”