Why Didn’t I Leave?

Why Didn’t I Leave?

Five months after I married my abuser, I was pregnant with my first child. Less than two years later, I was the mother of two. I was thrilled to be a mom. My kids were my world. They deserved to be loved and nurtured and I deserved their giggles and hugs. I was positive I’d raise confident, compassionate, loving people and we’d spend our lives connected by the inseparable mother-child bond I fantasized about.

I also clung to another fantasy. I believed my abuser would be as devoted to our kids as I was and that we’d shower them with affection together and be the family I’d always imagined. I was young and naive and I thought having children would bring us closer and that he’d finally be happy.

But my abuser’s temper didn’t change at all after we became parents. He seemed to grow more paranoid and stressed out after our kids were born and his violent outbursts frightened them. He also started to develop a pattern of putting them in harm’s way.

I’ll never forget standing over a boiling pot of soup with a 2-year-old clinging to my legs and an infant in my arms when my abuser went into a rage. My babies were screaming as he pushed me closer to the hot stove and yelled profanities at me. I remember carefully leading him out of the kitchen, babies in arms, as he raged at me.

Another time, he picked the kids up from daycare and got into a road rage fight on the way home. It was a dark, rainy night when another guy cut him off and they both pulled to the side of a busy road to confront each other. My 3-year-old daughter was terrified and managed to escape the confines of her car seat and get herself out of the car. She toddled precariously on the dark, wet road crying “don’t hurt my daddy!” as the confrontation escalated. Thankfully, the other guy saw her and quickly retreated to his car.

These are just a couple of examples of my abuser’s negligence and lack of responsibility when it came to his children’s safety and security. Instead of teaching my children about patience and kindness, he demonstrated increasing anger and hatefulness. They learned early on that their dad was a ticking time bomb, always ready to explode.

At this point, I’d been trapped in the relationship for years. I couldn’t just pack up and leave. My abuser had always threatened to off himself and maybe me if I left him. Maybe I was afraid that if I did try to leave he would hurt all of us. But this was my normal and I didn’t realize that I was being abused. I did think that if I placated him I could at least keep my children safe inside my home. Maybe I was blind, maybe I accepted the abuse or maybe I just felt trapped in a situation I thought I’d created for myself.

Whatever the reason, it was my job to protect my kids regardless of how their father treated me. It was my job to shield them from his temper and shield them I did. Almost every day, I carried on with my daily routine of walking on eggshells, counting the seconds until I could take a shower where I’d have the freedom to cry when no one was looking.

I remember struggling to appear happy at family events while I was fighting back tears because my abuser had terrorized me earlier in the day or sometimes even in the car on the way to a family gathering. I remember making excuses for him when he snapped at me in front of my family, sat outside sulking in the car during a party or dragged me out the door because he wanted to go home.

I’ve been asked, “Why didn’t you leave?”. I’ve been told, “If any man did that to me, I’d tell him to fuck off.” If I had done that, I’d probably be dead (and perhaps my children too).

Why don’t we leave? Here are a few reasons:
Fear: When a victim attempts to leave or threatens to leave, the abuser feels he is losing control and the violence escalates. Most domestic violence-related homicides occur after the victim leaves, attempts to leave or even threatens to leave. Victims live in fear of what will happen if they try to leave their abuser.

Isolation: Many victims, like me, are isolated from friends and family, so we feel like we have no one to turn to for help. Abuse is a process and if it’s done well, victims are left feeling alone and without options.

Emotional and Economic Dependence: We are afraid to be on our own because we have become dependent emotionally on our abusers who’ve convinced us that we are fucked without them. We have low self-esteem that’s been cultivated by our abusers over the years. And economically, especially if we have children, we feel like we can’t survive without our abusers. The fear of being homeless and unable to provide for our kids is frightening.

Guilt: Abusers have a knack for making us feel responsible for their happiness. This was a huge issue for me even after my abuser set my house on fire. He was severely burned and sought pity from me and my family. He expected me to return to him and care for him as if he hadn’t torched my home and killed my dog. And I struggled with guilty feelings for months.

These are some of the reasons why we stay (or even return). My biggest regret is that my children were raised in a household where they were taught that respect for their mother was nonexistent. They learned from the example set by their father that my happiness and well-being don’t matter. They’ve also learned that their violent dad is the victim and I am the monster.

But my biggest joy is that they are still alive.

Comments are closed.