Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Why Do They Stay?

Our guest blogger this week is Kerry Oliver, Hope House Board Member.

It’s the BIG DAY in your life and you are marrying the man of your dreams! Your family is all there, you’ve spent more money on the wedding and reception than you planned, but it’s all going to be worth it. You have a few things that are in the back of your mind that are not quite what you expected from the man of your dreams, but you are thinking that will change after you are married.

As the months and years go by, the control of what you are allowed to wear, where you are allowed to go, who you are allowed to talk to, when you can see your family… first it felt like he really cared and really loved you.  But as the look in his eyes became more foreboding and his grip on your arm started to leave bruises, you are thinking this is not quite what you expected from the man of your dreams.

After he hits you for the first time, his tears come, he apologizes, says he didn’t know what came over him and his kindness makes your life together feel better than ever. You feel you have turned the corner into the arms of the man of your dreams.

He hits you again. This time there’s no tears and no apology. He says it’s your fault. Hmmmm? Did you do something different? Is there some rule or boundary you have violated? You know marriage is about give and take, and sharing responsibilities….ok, maybe it was my fault. You say you are sorry, but you are thinking this is not quite what you expected from the man of your dreams.

The fear that keeps you awake at night, praying that you have done nothing wrong that will set him off, is with you constantly. Your job is at risk, you have no friends left to talk with about what you are going through, and your family knows something is wrong but not quite sure what it is because you are distant and embarrassed. You told everyone that this is the man of your dreams.

When you finally realize that the life you are living is not a life at all and that the hitting and abuse is not your fault, you make plans to leave. They are very secret plans, because if he finds out, you may never leave… alive. You stash cash, stash clothes, set up a separate mailing address, and find a new job so he cannot harass you at your employer. You don’t tell your family for fear they won’t understand. You will be alone. You will no longer be with the man of your dreams.

After reading this story or any other similar story, or upon hearing an abuse victim recant her story, you may be asking yourself “why did she stay?” Well, did you stay or leave after your first fight with your spouse? Did your spouse ever throw anything at you? Did your marriage ever go through a tough time when you could have left, but chose to stay and see it through?

It’s hard to admit you made a poor choice in the first place and all the harder to admit you made repeated poor choices, as I did, just to save a marriage. That was a long time ago. My long relationship with Hope House is not as a victim, but as a contributor and Board Member. My plight is to ensure that my children, friends and all the people I can touch understand domestic violence and the small ways it can start and escalate. No one should be a victim, especially to someone they believe they love.

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