Scott had a mantra he repeated so many times I began to just believe it. “No one will ever help you.” I had evidence to support that fact. On three separate occasions law enforcement agencies were involved and did nothing. The first time I managed to escape my house during a fight and get to my car. He however, got to the car before I could pull away. I drove to the local police station sobbing and he sat in the passenger seat while went in to report him. They ascertained the “fight” had started at my home outside the city limits so it was out of their jurisdiction. They told me to contact the sheriff’s department. When I went back to the car alone, he laughed.
The second time he was caught dragging me across a parking lot at a casino by my hair. Security called police. When I left that scene I believed he was being arrested. He wasn’t. Two hours later he showed up at home.
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The third time my son called because Scott wouldn’t let me leave my bedroom. When the Deputies arrived he met them in the driveway to talk man to man. Before they left they found his handgun in a drawer and left it there while they were looking for his car keys. They tossed him his keys and told him to take a drive and cool off. They left the gun.
This was my life for 767 days. During that time I denied there was a problem every time I was confronted. Looking back it seems obvious I was lying to my friends, family, neighbors, and myself. However, when I was in it, it wasn’t that clear.
It wasn’t just denial and shame. I wasn’t in victim mentality. I was in survival mode and survival mode is a very different animal. Survival instinct creates a physiological state that isn’t intended to last 767 days. It’s intended to be temporary, short bouts of fight, flight, or freeze. I’d come to the conclusion I’d die leaving so I had to make staying work at any cost. Truth of the matter is many women do die trying to leave.
The reason I am sharing this story is this. If you know someone who you think is at risk in a domestic violence situation, or if you are someone who is, it’s important to understand how domestic violence affects the victim. Being in high alert survival mode for an extended period of time affects the way a person thinks. Your ability to reason and be rational breaks down. Logic fails.You spend all your waking hours trying to avoid the next outburst or episode. You become exhausted. You become numb. You become a shell.
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You can’t expect a person who is a victim of domestic abuse to act how might be considered normal by someone else. A victim of ongoing violence isn’t in a normal situation. They can’t be expected to behave, react, or feel the way other people do. Their brains won’t allow them to. Women do not stay in violent relationships because they are victims. They stay because they are in survival and you can’t understand that unless you’ve experienced it.