Editor’s Note: This cross-post is written by Steph of Grounded Parents. To read the full post and to leave comments, click through the link at the end.
As the country reels after another stunning high profile story of domestic violence hits the media, I am moved to tears reading the brave stories of #whyistayed and #whyileft. Everyone should take a moment and go read them. Thousands of people have shared their reasons for staying and leaving abusive relationships, and more are added every day. I hope that this campaign leads to greater understanding of the complexities of living in and leaving an abusive relationship. It’s not as simple as “just leaving.” I hope greater understanding breeds more support, resources and better systems for survivors.
I can’t put into 144 characters my reasons for staying in and leaving an abusive marriage. Like many survivors, this is extremely hard for me to write about. I fear judgement. I fear discrimination. But mostly, I still fear him.
While I am glad that people are telling their stories and raising awareness about the complexity of this question, I am sad. Sad that this is the question to which people want answers. That we live in a society that cares more about answering the question – “Why didn’t she leave?” than it does about even asking the question – “Why did he abuse her?”
This needs to change. This is victim blaming. This is rape culture. This reinforces violence. This is wrong.
It seems that people are always looking for a way to blame the victim. To Monday morning quarterback (or running back) the situation and claim that we know what we would do if we were in her shoes. Believe me, before I found myself in an abusive relationship, I did it, too. I think most people don’t want to believe that domestic violence exists, so they try to find way to explain it away, to rationalize it, to dehumanize victims or make it something about her or her poor decisions. Because, if there is something flawed about her or her choices, than it’s not something that could happen to me.
A county prosecutor specializing in domestic and sexual assault told me that he generally doesn’t want to go to trial, because juries will find any reason to disbelieve. Even when faced with incontrovertible evidence. Even when the victim is trustworthy, honest and did all of the “right” things during and following her attack. This means that many abusers are not held accountable. This means that they may get off with a lesser charge, a small fine, an ironic slap on the wrist. Because our culture can’t come to terms with the real problem and find solutions. Fuck.