Last week, a conversation filled the newsfeed of my Facebook page that I haven’t been able to get out of my head since. It was between several women I went to high school with. These women all still live in the same area in New Jersey where we grew up, in a very upper-middle class neighborhood. The topic of this conversation? Domestic violence. They were discussing why women don’t leave when they find themselves in this situation. Their answers angered me, and have haunted me ever since.
“They don’t want to downsize.”
“They are afraid to start over with less, or they aren’t willing to do whatever it takes to get out.”
“I believe there is always a way out, but it just may not be as glamorous as people would like. So they trade in their happiness for wealth or financial security.”
In a rare display of restraint, I didn’t add my opinion to the conversation. Honestly, I am intimindated by these onetime friends and classmates. They went to college, got degrees, married men with degrees, and live lives much like the one I once lived. My story is much different, but on this topic, I have a lot to add.
The man I married is a blue collar man. He is also an abusive alcoholic. I wasnt prepared for living with very little money. I was even less prepared for dealing with drunken outbursts and violence. I learned over the years to hide bruises and feelings, learned how to flash a smile and say “I’m great, thanks” with conviction. I learned to cover up, defend, and above all to protect my abuser.
I have wanted to leave for as long as I can remember. Be assured, I was never once afraid that life on my own would be “less glamorous” There has never been anything glamorous about life with my husband. No electricity, not enough food, and the constant threat of eviction were my reality.
So why stay? So many reasons. Most abusers isolate their partners. I have never been permitted to have friends. I live 2 states away from my nearest realitive. I have done everything I can think of to save money, only to have it discovered and stolen. I have called the police, and they have done nothing. Shelters close their doors at 10 pm, and I work at night. Less glamorous? I would welcome it.
I suppose you could say I stayed for the sake of my children. Not because I think they benefit from living in a home where their mother is abused, but because I refuse to force my children into homelessness. I stay, simply because any shelter is better than no shelter for them. If it were just me, I would choose homelessness.
I know the “why women stay” question has been asked for years, on talk shows and in magazines, and yes, even on Facebook. I really believe, however, if we change the question to “how can we as a society help women leave” we could make this world safer, if not glamorous.