The Janay and Ray Rice controversy sparked an outpouring of support for victims of domestic violence and has motivated many survivors to tell their stories about why they stayed. It also has many people who are unfamiliar with domestic violence wondering why anyone would stay in an abusive relationship. As a survivor of domestic violence I will say I am not entirely sure why I stayed.
Several years ago, I was almost murdered by a boyfriend and afterwards, I stayed. It was not a violent relationship initially. After the first six months, he increasingly shouted and yelled at me, but he never put his hands on me until the night he almost took my life.
Family members ridiculed me and called me stupid for staying. I thought it was cruel to call me stupid. Intelligence and emotional intelligence are two vastly different things. I cannot tell you why I stayed. I cannot pinpoint an exact reason or come up with a clear answer to that question, but after looking back on my life and some of the things I’ve lived through and witnessed, I understand what may have contributed to my tolerance and acceptance of abusive treatment and behavior.
As a young teenager, I survived rape by two “friends” who were never prosecuted or held accountable for this crime. The only person I told about it, a boyfriend, invalidated me and called me a slut.
Going even farther back in time, as a young child I was exposed to some seriously questionable behavior within my family. Crazy relatives. Abusive ones. I remember arriving at my relatives house on Christmas Day and seeing my aunt’s face bandaged because her husband punched her. I recall on more than one occasion taking a ride with my mother to a pawn shop to pick up my aunt’s wedding ring (that her husband pawned again for God-knows-what-reason). I had a grandmother who took beatings from her son, hid it for years and gave him her life savings to keep him out of harm’s way and from getting in trouble. Furthermore if anyone confronted her about this or tried to call the cops on him, she would turn on them and make them sorry for trying to help her. I saw her lie to law enforcement on more than one occasion to protect him from being held accountable for his crimes against her. It is no wonder I never ran away at the first or even second sign of abuse in unhealthy relationships after living through all of this and more.
Clearly the recurring theme here is the normalization and acceptance of abusive behavior and the long term effect it had on me because I witnessed it as a child. Then later in life as a victim, blamed again and again for being raped probably contributed to my tolerance of these dangerous situations and caused me to blame myself for what was happening.
It is understandable why a person who has never experienced domestic violence firsthand is confused as to why someone would stay. They are trying to reason with and make sense of this behavior, but it is not reasonable and it does not make sense. Even after living through it, I don’t pretend to have the answers. I can only share with you my personal experience and reasoning processes during those times. There were a lot of feelings of confusion, helplessness and also a lot of irrational justification.
To help people understand why women and men stay in abusive relationships and to show support for others in these situations, my book I Know Why They Call a Shell a Shell: Tales of Love Lost at Sea will be available as a FREE download via Amazon from September 12th to September 16th. The book is a creative non-fiction story about the empty existence that is life inside an abusive relationship told firsthand by me. By sharing my story, I hope to reiterate to those who are currently in an abusive relationship that they are not alone and to give insight to those who may not understand why someone would stay a snapshot into the mind of a domestic abuse victim.
FREE copies of my Ebook I Know Why They Call a Shell a Shell: Tales of Love Lost at Sea are available until September 16th so please get your FREE download available here.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for the National Domestic Violence Hotline.