Monday, January 30, 2012

Why Does She Stay?


She was drinking margaritas with her girlfriends at her going-away party the night before she was scheduled to move to a new city.  Her boyfriend of several years wanted to leave and go to another party; she didn’t want to go.

He insisted they leave anyway, and in the car going down the street, he lit a cigarette.  Angry that he would do this in the car with her in it, she grabbed it from his hand and threw it out the window.  He threw the car into park, and his fist connected with the left side of her jaw with lightening speed.

In slow motion, she heard rather than felt her neck crack as her skull hit the window. 

He grabbed her hair and pinched her arm roughly.  He reached over and squeezed her throat, choking her.  She managed to croak out, “You loved me once!” and he let go, disgust on his face.  She got out of the car in the middle of the street, crying and overwhelmingly ashamed, and walked a mile back to her friend’s house as he peeled away in his black SUV.  The following morning, she asked him to give her another chance, and he told her to forget that night ever happened.  She agreed; relieved that she still had him.  He agreed to join her in a couple of months in the new city.

She drove eight hours with a slightly stiff neck, but the next day, her muscles fully tightened and she could barely move.  Driving herself carefully to an urgent care facility, she checked in and found herself face to face with a young doctor. 

“How did you sustain the injury?” he asked her.  She thought fast.

“Uh – I was at a SuperBowl party and playing on the floor with some kids, and one of them jumped on my neck.”  

He glanced again at the fading finger marks around her throat, and the green and black bruises on her arm.  He was silent for a moment, and then wrote her a prescription for a painkiller and muscle relaxers.  “You have a severe sprain,” he told me.  “You’re lucky you didn’t break it.” 

IT STARTS HERE

Years before, the first time he called her a worthless piece of s&%* in an alcohol-infused rage along with a string of other expletives in rapid succession; she felt like she had been punched.  I’m not worthless.  Wait.  Am I?  she started to question her worth under the surface of her outward confidence.   The struggle of should-I-leave-or-should-I-go waged a war in her head all night long, until he woke the next morning, sober once again.  He rushed to apologize, holding her in his arms while she cried, the cycle beginning.

The first time he kicked her, she was walking down the stairs to their apartment, and she was astonished not by the fact that he kicked her, but that he told her it was all her fault.  She “pushed his buttons” and made him do it.  She started taking all the blame for his rages, walking on eggshells every time she was around him.  She looked forward to business trips, because she could breathe normally again, as if a boa constrictor had just released her from its grip.

Over the course of several years, she had learned to see herself in his eyes at his worst moments:  unattractive, unlovable, and she believed him when he told her that he was the best she would ever find.  That no one else would love her.  Keeping him in her life became her everything – and giving up her confidence and respect in herself was a choice she didn’t make consciously.  She had to keep him at all costs.

WHY DOES SHE STAY WITH HIM?

How do educated women fall in love with abusers?  It appears to be such a mystery when you discover that a beautiful, intelligent woman has lived with or married an abusive man.  Part of the answer may be that it happens very gradually.  It begins with a sarcastic putdown, and is followed up quickly by an apology.  It may escalate to a kick or a slap, with more apologies and promises that it will never happen again.  By the time she realizes that she is in a bad relationship, she has invested so much of herself and her self-esteem has been chipped away so drastically, she cannot get out easily.

You may know someone who has been abused, and you can't understand why she doesn't leave.  She's afraid no one else will love her.  She has kids and doesn't know how to provide for them on her own.  He may have threatened to kill her.  She may be so ashamed that no one knows the extent of the abuse, and she suffers in silence.  He may be someone powerful or well-liked in the community, and she is afraid no one would believe her.

Teach your children about healthy relationships, and you owe it to them to get help if you are in a destructive relationship yourself.  Learn the signs of abuse.  

HEALING

The woman in this story was me, 13 years ago.  I was lucky; he left me.  In fact, I married him after the car incident, and while he never hit me again, he continued the verbal abuse as I saw chiropractors, massage therapists, and orthopedists to try to ease the pain in my neck and back for several years.  Six months after he left, he came back to my door, asking for me to give him another chance. I had started dating Will at that point; I had rediscovered what it was like to be cherished, and I didn't want to give it up.

It was many years before I told some of my closest friends, and when I finally told my mom, just a couple of years ago, she cried.  Now that I have the love of my life and a beautiful son, and my life is incredibly fulfilling and happy, with a man whom I trust completely, I think it's important to share this story to show you that someone can come through this and survive... and thrive.  Maybe it will help someone you know.  Maybe it will help you.

Don't settle for less that you deserve.  Pay attention to the red flags.  And don't let your children make these mistakes by helping them learn more about domestic abuse.  It's hard to stop the cycle.  If you know someone who needs help, including yourself, get out.  Tell a friend.  Get your life back.  YOU DESERVE LOVE.

Much love to you, my friends.

32 comments:

  1. This is heartbreaking. So glad you were able to break the cycle -- so many women don't.

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  2. Kristin, this is such an important message to share, and it takes a brave woman to do it. I'm so glad you've found happiness now. You deserve it! Xox

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  3. Thank you, my friends. It has been a long journey to healing - Will has been my angel in so many ways and has a lot of patience. I am so blessed. xoxo

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  4. Thank you for sharing such an intimate part of your past. To know that such a happy, vibrant, confident person could have been a victim of abuse shows: a. That it can happen to anyone b. You can move on and find peace

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  5. i am shocked, nauseated, and incredibly sad reading what you went through, but i love your happy ending. thank you for sharing.

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  6. Jenn and Lori, thank you so much. Finding that happy ending and appreciating what I have now are the gifts I have been given in return!

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  7. I get so angry at the abusers in these stories. I am even more angry that it happened to you, one of the nicest people. You are brave for sharing. There are times I would love to write about my life in middle and high school with my bio mom, but I know that doing so right now could hurt or embarrass other people in my family. I do share my story privately when I can. God has been good to you. Many women live that way their whole lives and it is so sad. I am so happy you didn't have kids to worry about and that God gave you a second chance with Will.

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  8. Sharren, I imagine your story would be well-written, as smart and communicative as you are. I have held onto this post for many years before I had the opportunity to share it widely; I think it is sometimes just helpful to know when someone like you has been through something similar. Thank you so much for reading and taking the time to comment.

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  9. wow. Kristin I had no idea. I really enjoy reading your blog, you are an excellent writer. So glad you were able to move past this terrible situation.

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  10. So sorry you had to experience such a trying time in your life. With your story, you have given voice to an issue that often gets left unsaid.

    You should be so proud for having the strength to break the cycle and knowing your true worth.

    You deserve all the happiness you have! Thank you for sharing.

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  11. This is beautiful Kristin. You might consider sharing it on violence Unsilenced. You could reach such a large audience and help so many.
    So much love to you. Thank you for sharing and allowing yourself to be so vulnerable.

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  12. Thank you for sharing this.

    I admit, I was once someone who wondered how anyone could possibly fall into such a relationship. Now I grasp it is the emotional abuse that occurs prior to the physical that makes this possible.

    It is such an important story to tell.

    I am so very, very glad you have a happy ending.

    A very close friend still deals with esteem issues, but the abuser was her father, not a partner. His verbal abuse left lasting marks in her entire life, and she is only recently dealing with them.

    Thank you again for sharing such a personal story.

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  13. Oh, Kristin. I hate that this was ever a story to tell. I'll admit that I suspected something along those lines - the way you and Kristi had spoken in passing about how things were before Will - but I didn't realize it had gone on for so long. I've long wondered why women stay with their abusers, but now I realize what can happen when your self esteem is taken away for so many years. Bless you and Will!

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  14. Anne and Taryn, thank you so much. I am realizing I need a better app for comments so I can reply to each person individually! Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment.

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  15. Kim, I had never heard of Violence Unsilenced, but I just checked it out. There are so many women out there struggling to rebuild their lives after much more horrific abuse. I am so incredibly lucky he left.

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  16. Kelly, you are an amazing blogger and I have read your posts on depression and your support of good friends who have been through that hell. Thank you for reading.

    Lindsay, my ex once nearly hit Kristi - it was the straw that broke the camel's back between him and Kristi's husband. He never really spoke to him again after that, and they were great friends. Oh, so many reasons to be thankful today!

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  17. As a guy with a wife and kids I love and protect, this makes my blood boil. Any man who does this ought to be brought to justice - potentially by another man's fist, and then by a long prison sentence. Way to go for being strong and getting out.

    Fred@OPC

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  18. Fred, thank you for your passion and for being one of the good ones. I have a husband like you now, and I am so thankful for him. He would not dream of laying a hand on me of calling me anything but "babe" or "gorgeous" or "sweetheart".

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  19. I wished my mom would have left my abusive dad a long time ago (married 50 years). Dad passed away last year and my mom is slowly coming back to life, a life that she should have had decades ago. Thank you for sharing your story. I hope anyone that is hurting can find the courage just as you did to change their life.

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  20. I have to believe it's never too late, Terri. Hugs to both of you for the time you have lost.

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  21. This had my stomach in knots. I've been that person who stupidly made a comment about how a woman can stay with someone who abuses her - in front of someone that I didn't know had been abused. I'm so glad that you not only came out of it, but learned from it and found your true love and happiness. Thanks for sharing your story.

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  22. Thank you for sharing your story. You have touched more people than you know.

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  23. I'm so sorry that this happened, and I am glad you are speaking out adspreading awareness. This is ...it makes my stomach turn its so heartbreaking.

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    1. Thank you so much, Rhonda! I appreciate your reading it and sharing it.

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  24. I cried as I read this. I hate it for you and for any woman who has gone through this. I have never been hit, but I have been verbally/emotionally abused to the point I thought about killing myself because I felt so worthless... and yet, I stayed with that man for years. I am so glad you were able to get beyond... as did I. And found a man who answered the Romantic in you. Hugs hon. Glad I found your blog.

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    1. Kat, my apologies for the (very) late response on this - I wasn't notified that you commented! Thank you so much for reading and for sharing your experiences too. I'm so sorry that you went through it too, and I'm relieved that we're both out. Hugs back to you.

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  25. This is so heartbreaking. And powerful.

    I was in a relationship, years ago, that while it didn't escalate into physical abuse, there was plenty of mental. And yes, it started gradually and it wore me down and made me think he was right. Made me think I deserved it.

    I'm so glad you got out of this relationship. xo

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  26. That sounded like my marriage to a T. Im so thankful I finally got out of that. But you're right, I easily thought of myself as he described me. I always made it my fault, and I never told a soul. Its far more complicated than anyone can ever imagine.

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  27. This is achingly powerful- and I am SO glad you are sharing it here, with hopes to help many who are suffering under such horrific circumstances of abuse. You are an inspiration, and I for one thank GOD he left you- you my new friend, got the sweet liberation you needed. I only wish more women had that chance.

    You and every other woman who endures such tragic conditions in a relationship- Is a soul worthy of so much more than such destruction of her self. The abusers have a sick way of peeling off the person and integrity that each woman is... layer by layer- to leave her hollow and ripe for the abuser's appetite to destroy and control everything in and around her.

    The anonymous comment is quite ignorant and easily noted as foolish. Ironic - yes. Indignant- yes. And most of all -tragic. I would remove such words from this message. It feels way too haunting of the type of abuser many women fall victim to.

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  28. Abuse is a horribly difficult cycle to break. I'm so glad that you were able to find someone to cherish you and help you remember what you were worth before he came back.

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  29. This is such a powerful post. Thank you for sharing your story.

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  30. Kristin, Thank you for sharing this. I wanted to talk to you more about this in San Antonio. Maybe someday soon we can connect again. I have a story and an essay to share with you. So glad you found your way out of this and had a happy ending.

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