Why Does She Stay?


Why Does She Stay?
It's one of the most confusing aspects of domestic violence and the answers are complicated.

It happens more often than it should. The conversation with a client starts like this, "I don’t know if he's abusing me or not. Right then and there in that moment, my heart sinks because I know that woman wants two opposing things from me. Part of her desperately wants me to tell her what's going on is normal. It's alright, and she's going to be alright. The other part of her wants me to hear her and validate her fear and pain. She wants and needs saving.

Now, don't get me wrong. I know it's not always men abusing women. I actually had a male family member killed at the hands of his fiancé in the most horrific kind of domestic abuse incident. She shot him at point blank range in front of her own children. She'd been abusing him for years. However, statistically, women are at a much higher risk for being victimized.


Webster defines abuse as, "the use or treatment of something in a way that causes damage." That's broad because abuse comes in many forms. If you're asking yourself the question, "Am I being abused?" the answer is most likely yes. Abuse comes in many forms that don't involve physical violence, and physical abuse comes in many forms that don't involve being hit.

In one of my lifetimes, so different than my life now it seems like it was in another galaxy, I was in a relationship with an abusive man. He was an Iraqi War vet. At first, I interpreted his behavior as PTSD symptoms. Looking back, he probably was having PSTD symptoms; he had an official diagnosis to show for it. However, I quickly let that diagnosis become an excuse or a catch all explanation for his behavior, and the result of that was total devastation in my life.

This man never once hit me. He did throw a gallon of bottled water at my head, leaving me with a concussion and a broken tooth. He threw things and broke things a lot. He would tower over me, fists clenched and red faced, screaming, while I rocked on the floor in the fetal position. He would physically restrain me from leaving when I tried to get away. He left bruises on my arms from holding me too tightly many times. He would hide my car keys. He would threaten to drive off the road, to kill us both while I was a passenger in the car. He once took the wheel while I was driving, putting my car in a ditch. He threatened more times than I can count to kill himself, and on more than one occasion brandished a weapon to illustrate his point.

I knew for sure it was never going to end.  He told me that every day. I knew he would never leave, or let me leave. So I tried like hell to make the best of every day. I even desperately tried to like him. I would do anything to try to prevent the next unpreventable explosion of rage. I reached a point where I avoided going out in public with him at all costs because he could get me to do just about anything simply out of fear of him humiliating me in front of others.

He got ultimate control by threatening to kill my son and "destroy" my friends.

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