Why We Stayed

I was going to write about something else today. Something funny or witty, full of bad puns and a truly hideous amount of pop culture references. I remember thinking about it while I was showering this morning.

It all fell out of my head when I sat down to Twitter and Facebook with my coffee.

My feeds were full of people loudly talking about domestic violence. Hash-tagged with #WhyIStayed, folks were describing the thoughts and reasons that they stayed in abusive relationships.

Post after tweet, humans were revealing their innermost feelings of helplessness and worthlessness. They were speaking a language of fear and oppression, one with which I am unfortunately completely intimate.

One of the people talking was my beautiful best friend.

Of course, I had known the relationship she used to be in was damaging. She and I had spoken about it so many times. Over iced tea and margs, pizza and queso, discussion after discussion. The conversations were uncomfortable, to say the least. It felt like she wasn’t listening, that she didn’t hear me. I knew whereof I spoke, after all. I had experience and she should really listen to me and follow my advice. However, she assured me that she knew what she was doing. She had a plan and it was working. I wanted to believe her. I wanted her to know what she was talking about. I wanted her to not be in a place that was slowly killing her spirit.

I just wanted for it to not be happening.

Years later, I know the truth: she did hear me. But, the noise from her abusive partner and the emotional damage he had done to her was far louder. She stayed in the relationship until the moment her tremendous mind gave her an ultimatum.

Leave. Or find us room at the nearest mental hospital. We. Cannot. Do This. ANYMORE.


We’re just going through a rough patch. We are in couples’ counseling and working on it.


He was so badly abused in his early years, and he is working on himself. He is getting better, I see progress all the time.


I can fix him.


I can never, ever apologize enough to my dearest friend for not being more proactive. I should have followed up and been more …I don’t know, something. Less head-in-the-sand. Less willing to take the comfortable and safe route.

I blame some of my inability to decisively act on my past. There is a shattering of self that comes with chronic abuse. The more of it that happens, the more fragile the psyche can become.1

Just one more ounce of pressure...that is all it will take.
Just one more ounce of pressure…that is all it will take.

SOURCE: http://www.autoglassontheweb.com/526888/2012/08/25/expand-your-auto-glass-knowledge-with-the-help-of-these-great-links.html

You feel a need to retreat from any confrontation because it might lead to something even worse. Arguing is bad. Trusting people is dangerous. Always check your six and a Crazy Ivan isn’t so crazy when it works.

It is a habit that is hard to break and hard to imagine if you have never been traumatized.2 And it can get progressively worse if you aren’t on top of it with therapy and mindfulness. To this day, I can be startled by someone I can see walking towards me if they say “Boo!” Say it, mind you. Not scream it. Not jump at me with it. Not leap out from hiding. Nope. All they have to do is just say it in a slightly louder tone. Approaching me from the side can also badly startle me.3

It doesn’t help that the media has portrayed abuse in the past as justified or trivial or something to be made fun of.

Jackasses. Circled in red for your convenience.


I have no answers except to say that I am listening. I have the tea ready and a pizza on the way, if you’re hungry. Let’s talk. I promise to do better this time.







1– Of course, there are exceptions to this. Some folks come through traumatic experiences with an aggressively zealous mindset. They will never be victims again, and will kick the ass of any who try to make them such. Kudos to them, I say.

2– The laundry list of abuse.

3– Unfortunately, one of my startle reactions is anger. Which fuels the anxiety, which makes me angrier. It is a vicious cycle that I have worked really hard to try to learn how to defuse.

3 thoughts on “Why We Stayed

  1. You know, on the one hand, I heartily commend the self-narration – even if only 140 characters at a time or ever – of anyone’s experience of abuse. We’re really good, as a society, at silencing people who are hurting. We excel, as a society, at looking the other way (often while having a good long laugh at the hilarity/discomfort of it all). But we’re also really, really good at sticking people with ‘victim’ labels and exceptionally shitty at ever allowing those labels to be removed. We stay (I stayed) because we are afraid. We stay (I stayed) because no relationship exists in a vacuum and the one who beats us may also be what we believe is our only tie to mothers, cousins, and friends, and sometimes that belief is valid. We stay (I stayed) because exposing yourself as a victim is also presenting yourself as a potential future abuser, or as a current or potential bad parent, or as a potential future prostitute, porn actress, drug addict, mental health case, and failure-with-a-capital-F. We stay (I stayed) because our friends, acquaintances, social media networks, strangers and media programs are quick to tell us how wrong we are, how weak we are, how stupid we are, about love and life choices and human relationships – and our society mocks stupid people like none other. So, while it is fantastic to have a friend who says “he’s killing you, get out” and “this is wrong, get out” and “i love you, you can’t fix this, i need you to be safe, get out”; that friend and her warmth and her loving voice and her fear for us is hardly ever enough for us to find the strength to walk away. Because that friend is only one of several million people who, if/when they know, will look on us with pity, will goggle at the scandal, will retell (their version of) our stories as cautionary tales, will politely decline resume submissions and withdraw-for-other-reasons employment opportunities, or will hurt in their hearts because they couldn’t save us sooner. The shame of being labeled Victim too often looks so much harder to bear than the breaks, the bruises, the concussions, and the pain. I read that, in the #whywestayed tweets until I couldn’t see to read, anymore. ‘Experts’ like to write psychological treatises about how abused women suffer from variations of Stockholm syndrome, and therefore situate the blame squarely in their (our) battered bodies, in their (our) battered psyches, deferring accountability for the silence, the pity and the enabling of our horror away from the society that supports it. We stayed because, as a society, we have failed to give these women (ourselves) welcoming and reasonable escape routes. No one friend can change that until millions and millions more of us change the way we see.
    (Sorry for the long response. Thanks for this.)

    1. I have good days, bad days.
      Mostly I just have days, if that makes sense. I don’t want to label myself. I certainly don’t want to be labelled.

      I would like it if I could get through a day where the sound of the hot water heater knocking doesn’t initially panic me at first. :/

      1. I hear you. It’s the scent of melting butter, for me. Isn’t that crazy? We’re big fans of the real food movement at my house, but we have margarine in the fridge – not butter – because the smell of melting butter makes it so I can’t breathe. Even though I’ve been safe for 22 years this March. I have to believe it won’t always be like this, for any of us.

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