Every time I tell God what I’d like to do, He answers back with things He wants to add into my plans. Most times I’m okay with that, but for the month of April — participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge — I had decided that I was going to stay away from the topic of domestic violence and keep it light and positive. I guess God’s thinking differently because as I was planning out my ‘d’ topic, it all fell through and He immediately placed domestic violence on the top of the ‘d stack’. I’m reluctant to write about it, but who am I to say no to the Omniscient One?
I am a survivor of domestic violence. I discuss it only when the need arises — and it’s usually to help another victim. I don’t walk around broadcasting it, and most of what I suffered is known only to me, my abuser, and God. I plan to keep it that way. I’ve written several times about surviving, and the stigma victims carry. People who know nothing about my circumstances throw out ignorant comments such as:
- If anyone ever put a hand on me, I’d be out of there before they could ever do it again.
- If it was really that bad, why didn’t you just leave?
- Why on earth did you stay?
- Why didn’t you tell anyone?
- If you left and went back, you deserved what you got.
It’s hurtful criticism like this that keeps me from speaking much about my past. Yes, there are reasons why battered women stay. There are also reasons why we don’t/can’t leave.
Many people are astounded to hear victims say they didn’t even know they were being abused, but the truth remains even when others can’t understand it. Non-victims think it’s simple: if someone hits you, it’s abuse. To the victim, it isn’t black and white. I had been so beaten down, stripped of everything and everyone I loved, then slowly convinced by my ex-husband that I earned the bad treatment by my actions. I believed it. I constantly heard him say things like, “If you hadn’t been making all that noise, I wouldn’t have ______,” (fill in the blank with whatever abusive action you want) and I bought it hook, line, and sinker.
There are many reasons why I stayed, but one of the main rationales was that since I believed everything bad was my fault, I also believed if I could do better, things would be better. My abuser told me often that our marriage was waiting on me — it would be a good marriage when I chose to be a good wife. So I worked hard to earn the title of ‘Good Wife’, but like all abusers, he kept changing the rules. When I was close to obtaining a behavior he wanted, he would suddenly change the expectations and I was left floundering, trying to figure out what I’d done wrong, and what I needed to do right. It’s an insane way to live.
I understand that it is difficult to fathom domestic violence when you haven’t experienced it. I understand that it’s easy to think how you’d do it differently. The reality is, though, that those people being critical weren’t there. They don’t understand what a victim is experiencing, thinking, or feeling.
As a former victim of domestic violence, I implore you to set aside the why-didn’t-you’s and the I-would-have’s and just be there for the ones who are suffering. Feed them with positive affirmations, tenderness, and understanding and leave the recriminations by the wayside. I can guarantee you the victim that you know has heard enough accusations to last a lifetime.