A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Why Didn’t You Leave?

How many of you have had this hurtful question posed to you by a well-meaning but ignorant-to-domestic-abuse person:  “Why didn’t you leave?”   Barbara has an excellent article that addresses this question and we want to share it with you today. (The article was first published at Barbara’s solo blog notunderbondage.com)

* * * * * *

Why Didn’t You Leave?

“Why didn’t you leave?” (or “Why did you go back?”) is usually a hurtful question to ask victims of domestic abuse. It seems to blame the victim, rather than the perpetrator.

It presumes that the victim was more wrong for staying than the perpetrator was for entrapping and hurting her.

Often the question is asked out of bewilderment; the questioner is not familiar with the dynamics of abuse and simply cannot understand why any person would remain in an abusive relationship. At times this bewilderment comes across to the victim as exasperation (and therefore as judgement) — in which case the victim feels that the questioner has no genuine desire to understand.

If you have ever felt like asking this question, or if you have even been asked it, here are some answers to “Why didn’t you leave?” Of course, not all these reasons will apply to every victim, but many victims will identify with a large number of them.

Lack of identification of the problem

  • I was unsure about what “abuse” was.
  • I sought help from my doctor but he didn’t identify the problem as domestic violence; he just gave me antidepressants or tranquilizers for my “nerves”.
  • My spouse had convinced me that it was all my fault. I felt like I was going crazy. I didn’t know what was right or wrong any more, and had lost my sense of self.
  • I don’t think my situation is “domestic violence”. I don’t like that term.
  • I thought: “He doesn’t beat me up, so I’m not a victim of domestic violence.”
  • I didn’t want to admit that I had been entrapped into the relationship.
  • For a long time I was too frightened to admit that it was domestic violence. To admit it would mean I had to do something about leaving.
  • I was diagnosed with post-natal depression. Nobody saw that the major problem (the real cause) was abuse.

Illness and lack of energy

  • I was too hurt by everything to be able to work out what to do. I didn’t have the energy.
  • I was too sick from all the stress of the abuse.
  • My kids were sick and I had to put them first.
  • I am too old and weak to leave now.

The children

  • I was trying to protect my children from all the stresses of a separation and divorce.
  • My children were having learning difficulties and I didn’t want to disrupt their schooling.
  • I thought the children needed their father. They loved him.
  • It always seemed like a bad time to leave – someone’s birthday, Christmas, etc.
  • I thought a violent father was better than no father at all.
  • He had threatened to have sex with our daughter if I refused him sex. I thought that by staying under the same roof with him I could protect her. (I found out much later he had been violating her anyway.)
  • I was frightened because he said he would take the children from me.
  • My (adult) children do not want me to break up their inheritance.

I believed in being committed to marriage

  • I was committed to my marriage. I took “till death do us part” very seriously.
  • I had made an inner vow never to break my marriage vows.
  • I am hardworking; I thought, “I can work at this.”

The relationship had some good parts

  • I still loved my husband. Sometimes he was really nice to me.
  • I didn’t want the marriage to end; I just wanted the abuse to stop.
  • I thought, “I’ll never find anyone better.”
  • I thought, “A little love is better than no love at all.”

I had compassion for my spouse

  • I thought the problem was his drinking, or his mental illness; I felt sorry for him because he was “sick”. I didn’t realise the problem was he was an abuser.
  • He needed me to be there so he could manage the rest of his life.
  • He said he would kill himself if I left.
  • I thought if I stayed I could help him get better.
  • I am loyal; I was conscious of the damage it would do to his reputation.
  • My own best qualities (like empathy and caring) were used as weapons against me.
  • I was going to leave; then he became terminally ill and now I feel trapped. I can’t leave him; I would feel too guilty; so I am his full-time carer now.
  • The community I live in is so small that I am frightened of seeking help — the gossip, and my husband hearing about it, is too risky.

 Shame

  • I was ashamed to admit that the man I had married was terrorising me.
  • The realisation that it was domestic violence killed me inside; I was still walking but was only a shell.

Disbelief or bad advice from others

  • When I told people about the abuse, they didn’t believe me.
  • I had concealed my pain and injuries for so long that, when I told people about them, they did not believe me.
  • I was told by the church that I shouldn’t divorce.
  • My minister told me to go back, pray, and submit more.

Lack of support from others

  • I had no support from anyone.
  • When I tried to seek help about the abuse, people treated me like I was a leper or something.
  • The ladies in my Bible study ignored me when I tried to tell them about my problem, so I felt friendless.
  • My family were not helpful; they told me what to do, instead of helping me work it out for myself and supporting me in my decisions.
  • My family got so sick of me leaving and going back to him that in the end they wiped their hands of me.

  • My (immigrant) community told me I was picking up ideas from the “Western” way of life that were not appropriate.

  • As an older woman, I didn’t want to go to an agency that deals with women who are raising children.
  • I thought all the workers at the support agency would be young, so they wouldn’t understand me as an older woman. (I found out later that this was not true.)

Condemnation from others, and myself

  • I thought God would condemn me if I left my marriage.
  • I knew some Christians would condemn me if I left my marriage.
  • I saw how other women were treated when they spoke up about their abusive marriages.
  • I left him, but went back because Christians told me I was a “rebellious wife”.
  • Christians told me, “A good Christian does not have problems.”
  • I didn’t want to live as a single mother.
  • I didn’t want to end up in a huddle with other divorced women, where all we did was complain about our ex-husbands and resent life. (That was the image I had of divorcees.)
  • Being a widow you get support and sympathy; being divorced you get stigmatised.
  • My (adult) children think that I am to blame and that “poor old dad” only drinks because of me and my nerves.
  • My priest said, “All you people in the younger generation think about is me, me, me! You are always abandoning your commitments to other people in order to be yourself or find yourself.”
  • My minister said, “You must not be a Christian because you obviously don’t believe in the power of the Holy Spirit to change a person.”

Fear of how I would cope on my own

  • I was worried I might not cope on my own.
  • The emotional pain I felt when I left seemed worse than the pain I felt when I stayed in the abuse and buried my feelings.

  • I was fearful that the addictions I had prior to the relationship would come back if I left my spouse.
  • I had no money.
  • I didn’t think I could earn enough to support the children on my own.
  • I had no job skills.
  • My husband prevented me from upgrading my education to improve my job prospects.
  • I have no superannuation and would only have a pension, with no house and no other money.
  • I didn’t know there were refuges/ help with finances and housing.
  • I didn’t know that I could get a residence visa by the special provisions for domestic violence victims. I thought this country would deport me because I didn’t have a valid visa.

Terror

  • I could not bear to see him wreck everything in the house (and the house itself), which he had started to do last time I left.
  • I thought my spouse might kill me if I left.

The housing crisis

  • Why should I and the kids leave? It’s our house too, our garden too, the kids are settled at school. It’s him who should leave — he’s the criminal! He’s the one who won’t live like a civilised person.
  • Our property is jointly owned (or in his name) and I think I would loose it.
  • I had nowhere to go.
  • When I phoned the crisis line, all the shelters were full.
  • I didn’t dare go to a refuge because I thought they were all run by New Age radical lesbian feminists who would see my Christianity as part of the problem, rather than part of the solution. (I found out later this was not true.)
  • The refuge had room, but they wouldn’t allow teenage boys.
  • I did leave: I went to the shelter, then to a safe house for a short-term tenancy, then they sent me an eviction notice, and I had just had a miscarriage (from the last beating) and felt at the end of my rope, and it was Christmas time . . . so I went back.

Living in hope: the buy-back

  • I lived in hope that the next day would be better.
  • I did leave, several times, but I went back, because of all the above reasons, and because I was so lonely, poor, homeless, friendless, depressed, and I believed his promises because he was so convincing.
  • The pressure he put on me to reconcile was enormous.

In summary

  • The danger of leaving seemed greater than the danger of staying.
  • It was easier living with abuse than finding a way through the maze of safety.
  • The cost of resisting his demands appeared more damaging than the costs of capitulating to his demands.

* * * * * *

The victim of domestic violence appears to be a full participant, a consenting adult, a collaborator. So it seems, but in any relationship with a violent person, there can be no such thing as full and equal participation. What the battered woman participates in, as best she can, is an effort to regain the relationship she once had and hopes to have again — Didn’t he promise? — the relationship without the violence. Trying to save a marriage, or save her life, or save her children, a battered woman may submit to violence, just as a rape victim may submit to rape for fear of being killed. But submission is not consent.
Anne Jones, Next Time, She’ll be Dead: Battering and How to Stop it, Boston: Beacon Press, 1994, pp. 126-127.

49 Comments

  1. Lea

    Thank you for sharing. I used to wonder this quite a bit, particularly about the violence. I think reading this site has helped me understand more?

  2. Rebecca

    This is an extremely powerful list. It seems to correspond at least somewhat with our list about sexual abuse at BJUGrace, Why Abuse Victims Don’t Tell. http://bjugrace.com/2016/06/30/some-reasons-abuse-victims-dont-tell/

  3. Suzan

    Excellent.

  4. Misti

    “It was my normal” and “When I said certain things were normal, people said ‘Everyone does that sometimes’ and assumed I was exaggerating the frequency and seriousness.”

    There’s also, “Oh, he’s just joking”—where the abuser hides in humor, where people think s/he’s just joking and the victim is overreacting.

    • Renewed Spirit

      bingo on the ‘normal’!

  5. Traddy

    The traditional woman has stayed home and nurtured her children. She may have married prior to any college degree, thus she cannot work for a living wage, can barely take care of herself. As the children get older if she stays to their teen years they [often] become his pawns, and her capacity to love [may be] diminished as they have all turned against her. She becomes isolated in her own home. Her own adult children are now against her: believing his lies and witnessing her just outrage or anger, makes her the one [so the claim goes] who is doing the victimizing. Only she “knows what goes on behind closed doors”.

    To leave becomes a great painful burden as she is all alone with few to understand her plight. […] the husband gravitates to other men and uses them against her, and the children commiserate with other similar abusive families. “Yep, its all the fault of my crazy mother”. She may begin to lose her faith, and then the loss of outside contacts. She becomes too isolated distrusting and fearful of more pain. Her life is a miserable existence, the pain is internalized, the loneliness very great. To return is to feel as if in prison after a short taste of freedom. I have read that it is common for women to leave and return multiple times, in an attempt to survive. He enjoys that others are against her, and the chronic negation makes her feel unloved unwanted …

    • Renewed Spirit

      took the words right out of my mouth!

  6. SystemicAbuseSurvivor

    Hi Barbara. I totally loved this article.

  7. LH

    I can so identify with a number of those reasons why I didn’t leave ‘right away’.

    I was unsure about what “abuse” was. My spouse had convinced me that it was all my fault [and the kids fault]. I felt like I was going crazy. I didn’t know what was right or wrong any more, and had lost my sense of self. I thought: “He doesn’t beat me up, so I’m not a victim of domestic violence.” My own best qualities (like empathy and caring) were used as weapons against me. [Even when I started to realize that what the kids and I were living under was abuse, I still initially thot the marriage could still be saved with help.]

    I was committed to my marriage. I took “till death do us part” very seriously. I am hardworking; I thought, “I can work at this.” [And I did work at for years and years – in “an effort to regain the relationship I once had” – not realizing that first relationship had been a deception on his part, he was committed to power and control, NOT a good marriage.]

    I was trying to protect my children from all the stresses of a separation and divorce. [I had been a homeschooling mom for many years and] I had no job skills.

    I was told by the church that I shouldn’t divorce. My minister told me to go back, pray, and submit more, [and that verbal abuse was not in the Bible]. I thought God and other Christians would condemn me if I left my marriage. I saw how other women were treated when they spoke up about their abusive marriages. [I had been wrongly taught by the church my entire life on what Christian marriage looked like, including that the woman is the relationship expert and it is up to her to save a troubled marriage!]

  8. Un-Tangled

    Lately, a meme keeps appearing on my FB page. Several of my friends are passing it on, and each time there are comments such as “True!” The meme says (TRIGGER ALERT):

    It’s very sad when members of the same family do not talk with each other. The children suffer for the adult ego. Cousins miss the wonderful opportunity to be together, and all due to a bruised adult ego. Stop getting offended. Reunite with your family members. One day, your imaginary conflict will all come to an end…with or without you. Don’t wait until it’s too late.”

    Note that the meme assumed that EVERY time a person has no contact with family members, it is ALWAYS due to ego, being easily offended, and imaginary conflict. There was no mention of even the possibility that a person may not have contact with family because of abuse. I finally responded with:

    “It’s sad when members of the same family do not talk to each other,” but it’s even sadder when that woman you told to give up her “bruised ego,” and “imaginary conflict” to “reunite with family” just died because she listened to you instead of leaving her abusive relative. Stop assuming that every family is good and stop pressuring people to stay with abusers. Maybe “cousins would miss the wonderful opportunity to be together,” but it’s more important that victims are protected from abusive relatives. Abuse is not minor or imaginary and remaining in contact with an abusive relative does more harm to the victims–including the children–than leaving does. Abuse escalates over time and a victim needs to “not wait until it’s too late” to escape.”

    Whenever a victim is assaulted, murdered, etc., people always ask the question: Why didn’t she leave? But typically when a victim tries to set boundaries or leave an abusive situation, the abuse is minimized, trivialized, and she is accused of ego, or over-reacting, not forgiving, and so on. There is pressure everywhere, and–intentionally or ignorantly–people help re-victimize victims.

    It makes me frustrated and angry. Sometimes it seems useless to try to correct these messages because so few are willing to hear.

    • Song of Joy

      So glad that you put the truth out there for people to read…even if only one person gives it some thought, it was worth it.

      • Anonymous

        Song of Joy, your comment brings to mind something I heard from a young woman in an abuse shelter:

        There was a girl walking along the seashore where thousands upon thousands of tiny fish washed ashore after a bad storm and the tide had receded. One- by- one she bent down picking up the fish and tossing them back into the ocean. An elderly man passing by witnessing her doing this said, “Young lady, what are you doing? There are thousands of fish – you can’t possibly make a difference.” Her reply as she proceeded to toss another fish back into the ocean: “Made a difference to that one.”

    • Grace Shepherd

      “Whenever a victim is assaulted, murdered, etc., people always ask the question: Why didn’t she leave? But typically when a victim tries to set boundaries or leave an abusive situation, the abuse is minimized, trivialized, and she is accused of ego, or over-reacting, not forgiving, and so on.” Nailed it Untangled – victims can’t win no matter what we do 😦

    • Scared

      Thank you so much for your statement…I would have easily fell for that trap. Really playing on my hope and dreams of a healthy future together. I’m smarter now thanks to you and this site!

  9. Stronger Now

    Wow, this list just describes things for me to the letter. If not for the help of someone who was able to provide a place for me and my children, I don’t think I would be alive today.

  10. Starlight

    I have had this question posed to me and it makes me feel guilty that I didn’t leave my husband sooner but in truth each person has to go through their own process and leave when the time is right for them. I think for me I stayed longer than I should have but at the same time dreaded him being alone with our child — and [our child being] subjected to his anger and rage all alone. I don’t like that the child has to go alone with him every other week but at least the child is able to verbally express what is happening — like the child is doing now because it really was not feasible to stay with the father.

    I feel like I wanted to take [indescipherable] for the child to be ok. Now that we are separated, I can no longer be a buffer for our child.

    • Hi Starlight, you appear to have written this comment as a direct message to a friend of yours. You had named names and given the sex of your child. So I’ve edited it carefully to make it safe to publish at the blog

      I encourage you to be careful how you submit comments. Maybe you were on FB and thought you were private messaging another FB friend? If you need help with how to avoid doing this kind of thing in the future, email TWBTC and she will try to assist you 🙂
      twbtc.acfj@gmail.com

    • Misti

      I am the child of an abusive parent. Abuse was my normal. I was raised with covertly and overtly hostile aggression, in a hypercritical environment, with outright psychological torture tactics being defined as “loving”. Anybody who paid a compliment was being polite at best, but probably lying or being manipulative, that it was only loving to point out all the flaws, problems, negatives, etc., regardless if those perceived negatives were even correct. Positive reinforcement and encouragement were defined as “unloving” and even “hateful”. (My mother would deny that now, of course.)

      Covert-aggression is my native language. I had to teach myself social skills and communication skills and how the world and people really work, because I sure wasn’t getting it from my mother. (She actually actively sought to sabotage it, but that’s another story.)

      I say that the covert-aggression “is” my native language because it was my first one. I automatically “hear” things as covert-aggressive even when I know they’re not, so I have to either consciously ignore that language or let things translate and then translate them back, all while playing ignorant/dumb as if I haven’t noticed it or “heard” things that way. It can be exhausting.

      But my point here is that your disparate living situations give opportunity for a “safe” space — somewhere you can show the kids what “normal” and “healthy” and “love” actually are. If you were still with their father, there would be no safe space. There would be no external validation that it’s okay to be unhappy with their father. There would be no (or fewer, or less able to be relied on) breaks or vacations from the abuse. Where would they go for refuge?

      I encourage you to focus on that, on showing them healthy patterns, and they’ll have an advantage over many children of abusers. Take advantage of what time and opportunities you have with them to show and teach them what healthy is, so they don’t enter healthy/nontoxic life feeling like a foreigner in a strange land.

      • Charis

        But my point here is that your disparate living situations give opportunity for a “safe” space — somewhere you can show the kids what “normal” and “healthy” and “love” actually are. If you were still with their father, there would be no safe space. There would be no external validation that it’s okay to be unhappy with their father. There would be no (or fewer, or less able to be relied on) breaks or vacations from the abuse. Where would they go for refuge?

        I encourage you to focus on that, on showing them healthy patterns, and they’ll have an advantage over many children of abusers. Take advantage of what time and opportunities you have with them to show and teach them what healthy is….

        First, thank you for being so transparent and vulnerable in sharing your story.
        And..second – Thank You for the encouragement, Misti! 🙂
        I completely agree.

      • MarkQ

        I think we have similar backgrounds. My family wasn’t physically violent in any way, but there were a lot of unwritten rules and backhanded compliments. We as a family were “superior” to others, but as individuals, it was not okay to talk about our gifts or skills, so there was always an undertone that someone performed well only because they got a better opportunity, not because of inherent gifts.

        The most important thing in my family was respecting my father, but he did not seem to respect anyone, and he didn’t have to communicate well. If we misunderstood, that was our problem.

        So, I ended up being somewhat like that – covert-aggressive is a good name. It took time and practice for me to listen when my kids or wife didn’t hear me or didn’t understand, and I still get it wrong. I’ve learned to be more open about my opinions. I’m sure my family thinks I’m a horrible parent – I let my children yell at me and say no instead of promoting the external obedience over the cold calculated hatred my parents seemed to encourage.

  11. LauraGrace

    Wow! What an amazing list of reasons victims don’t leave. I can identify with dozens of those reasons. I finally did get free but STILL, 4 years later, I often tell myself I should have stayed. Why? Because my children must endure time alone with him. I can’t protect them like I want to because of our wicked family court system which says he can have them for extended periods of time despite his obvious emotional abuse and neglect, and despite the severe dysfunction in his home. I berate myself for sacrificing my children so I could be free of him. They will not be free until they are 18. How much damage will be done to them before them? Would they have been safer had I stayed in the marriage to protect them? Only God knows.

    And the truth is; I am not free of him. As long as my children are minors, I am held captive by my abuser because he has all the leverage he needs – our children – and he uses them to control, manipulate, and intimidate me. He loves to wield his power (the court Order, the threat of going back to court, the accusations of parental alienation, etc) to keep me and the children in line.

    Divorce did not end the abuse. I knew it wouldn’t and that’s why I stayed as long as I did. Now, I live for the day my youngest turns 18.

    • LauraGrace, I understand and empathize with that dilemma about the children — what is better for the kids: leaving? or staying?

      If I may encourage you, I think that many of us, myself included, are able to testify that while the kids did suffer during contact times with their abusive parent, they benefitted from the contact time they had with their good parent. With the good parent, they witnessed moral behavior and good modelling of character, and they were helped and supported to develop good character themselves.

      Kids may be very muddled for a long time if the parents are divorce and the kids go back and forth from one household to the other because in one household there is a lying malignant narcsissist in charge; but in the long run, as they grow older, they often figure out who was the good parent and who was the bad parent.

      If they were living with both parents together right through till they grew up, they may not be so easily able to see the good character and good modelling from the good parent, because that good parent was being systematically disassembled by the abuser — driven into a black hole. And in that black hole, the good parent would have less energy and ability to support the children and to assist them to develop good character themselves.

      • LauraGrace

        That makes sense. Thanks for the encouragement Barbara. I needed that. It just gets so tiresome – year after year after year. He’s got so much power over all of us and we all hate it.

        My kids have definitely figured out that he’s a bad parent. My eldest wishes she never had to see him again. She hates him. I understand that, but I am at a loss as to what to say to her. Our well meaning Christian friends admonish me to teach her to forgive, love, and respect him. UGH…. that’s the same crap I was told when I was married to him. No normal person would love, forgive, or respect a man who treats them the way this man treats my child.

        I can’t give details because I live in fear of him, but let’s just say that he treats her like she’s a worthless, nonperson. He treats all of them that way, but she gets the brunt of it for some reason. I just tell her that I understand her feelings and that she doesn’t deserve to be treated that way. But I don’t know to do about her utter contempt for him. Personally, I think she should hate him, but the “Christian” in me just shudders when I hear her say that.

      • Laura, the true Christian’s response to evil is to hate it. So it’s fine and right for your daughter to say she hates her father because of his evildoing and wickedness. I encourage you to affirm and support her in her right to say that. I encourage you to tell her that it’s not a sin to hate evil!

        Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God!
        O men of blood, depart from me!
        They speak against you with malicious intent;
        your enemies take your name in vain.
        Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD?
        And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
        I hate them with complete hatred;
        I count them my enemies.
        (Psalm 139:19-22 ESV)

      • Renewed Spirit

        thanks for that – encouraging.

    • Moving Forward

      I am in the exact same boat you are, except some older children are free of him, being adults, but the younger ones are not. Sadly, he has one totally blinded, and the pain of seeing that is incredible. How hearts that physically hurt as much as ours do don’t just break, I’ll never understand. I appreciate Barb’s answer, but in the midst of the pain, it is hard to keep that in perspective.

  12. Suzanne

    Thank you for this. I have not had good insight into the plight of abused spouses and always wondered why abused wives stayed with or returned to their abuser. This article is very enlightening. And should I ever hear from a friend or other loved one that she is being abused I’ll ask what she needs from me and not try to dictate her actions.

  13. cindy burrell

    Wow! Barb. I cannot think of one more rationale that could be added to this list. You said it all.

  14. Thanks to all commenters here, for your responses to this article. 🙂
    I wrote it so long ago — maybe 2002 or 2003 — and it never got much traction at my notunderbondage.com site.

    • Nyssa The Hobbit

      I’m pretty sure I linked to it somewhere on my blog a few years ago. It looks familiar. 🙂

      • Thanks Nyssa 🙂

      • Nyssa The Hobbit

        I just found the post–and yes, it was this article. I’m glad you reposted it. I’m updating the link. 🙂

    • Scared

      Well I’m so grateful that you reposted it again! I wrote you my story of thanks to you, however I didn’t notice the little check box for replies for text so I pray you respond to me any way I truly want to learn more of all of this so I don’t continue in this abuse.

  15. Here is what prompted me to write this article. A Christian couple in my church reached out to me when I about a year post-separation, and the invited me to tea at their house. They were kind, and interested in me. They were not judgemental. But when I started telling them a bit of my story about the abuse, the wife asked me “Why didn’t you leave?”

    I was so hurt and taken aback by her question. I can’t remember how I answered her, but I don’t think I explained much to her.

    The pain just sat in my gut for months and months. But I knew that of all the people in the church, they were still the nicest and friendliest towards me, and they had daughters about the same age as my daughter, and the girls were becoming good friends, and I valued this couple’s friendship with me enough to overlook that glitch of pain.

    But as I began reading more and more about domestic abuse and gradually my own writing morphed from simple journalising to ‘I think I’m writing a book’…. I started to understand the reasons women don’t leave a lot more clearly. I eventually decided to write this “Why didn’t you leave?” article.

    When it was finished, I gingerly gave it to my friend, this wife from church. She took it home and read it. She came back to me and said how grateful she was that I had given it to her and it helped her understand a whole lot more.

    What a relief. What a reward for all that hard work. What warm thankfulness I felt!

    • Estelle

      Barbara, would it be better to ask ‘What is keeping you?’? Would this question come across as less judgemental and more cognisant of the difficulties of leaving?

      • Yes, I think ‘What is keeping you?’ is a better way of asking the question. Thanks for this suggestion, Estelle! 🙂

    • Renewed Spirit

      The Lord ‘took me out’ through accident injuries – I had to stay with others to recover. But they wanted me to tell about my marriage – I tested the waters by sharing small bits at a time. The woman said she would have left long ago. That encouraged me to say more. Then when I decided I would not go back, but instead seek treatment for my accident injuries, she turned on me and called me a self-righteous wife.
      My accident caused brain injury – which left me in a confused and disoriented state. This gave ample opportunity for the man I married to say I was mental. And collaborated with others to get me out of my home.
      I see God’s Hand in using this time of retraining my brain for very important reasons.
      Thanks to everyone for helping me to ‘see’ the signs.

  16. That list is really great. No-one actually asks that question of me, but I ask it of myself, every single day.

    In reality, the danger of leaving didn’t just *seem* greater than staying, it WAS greater. I always had to balance the serious risks of either leaving or staying, complying or not complying. The thing that tipped that balance towards resisting abuse was finding enough support from others who truly understood what was happening. Like being stuck in quicksand, I could not possibly have got out on my own.

  17. Misti

    Note: I am simplifying things when I call covert-aggression a language. There’s more involved there, but explaining would’ve gotten even more off-topic. 🙂

  18. Anonymous

    Thank you so much for this post. I could identify with so many of the reasons spelt out why a woman does not leave the marriage. For me it was the shame of telling my family and friends that my marriage had failed; my husband always made it seem that the problems of the marriage was due to my faults and my children loved their dad. Even now he is having a relationship with another woman which is still continuing. He does not want to leave her and commit himself to our marriage. I am at times suicidal and depressed. He does not want a divorce.

    I don’t think I can live with him anymore because of trust issues and the way he berated my feminity and womanhood for the breakdown of marriage. But at the same time I feel like I am too old to start life all over again and I am not even sure I will be able to trust anther man but I do not want to live a lonely life for the rest of my years. I know you mean well and are trying to help women get out of abusive marriages but how would you advice women who have to live with the despair and loneliness which follows a divorce. God does not always have a happy ending for divorced women. I read that many of the women on this site have found happiness after leaving their abusive husbands which is very encouraging to read but I am sure many haven’t.

    Distressed

    • This is so true, so often people take for granted there will be a “happy ending” for an abused woman after divorce. She will enjoy her independence, get a great career, have lots of good friends and get married again to a wonderful, caring husband.
      In reality, especially for those of us who are older, there is great loneliness, social rejection, financial hardship and despair. We are not likely to remarry and we are likely to spend the rest of our lives on the outside of the institutional church, never really welcome, always under suspicion, looked down on and judged.
      I’m glad I’m no longer married to an abuser, but life is not easy.
      I don’t have answers, just sympathy. I agree, there are many of us in the same situation.
      I would like to know how to deal with the despair and loneliness too.

      • Hi KayE
        I don’t want to say this will work for others, but my own experience re the loneliness and despair is this. I tried for years to accustomize myself to the loneliness. My efforts helped prevent me from nursing thoughts of bitterness against God, but I never became fully content with the feeling of loneliness. I don’t think that in general, human beings are contructed to be content with loneliness: we are social beings and we thrive when those around us acknowledge us, affirm our good qualities, and show us kindness and respect.

        But since Jeff Crippen and I ‘met’, by him emailing me… which eventually led to me becoming very active on this blog supporting many others… the loneliness has gone. I am so absorbed in this work and it is so fulfilling (knowing that we are helping many others) that I don’t feel lonely at all.

        I hope no one takes this as me being patronising or superior and telling others that they ‘just need to take their minds off themselves and serve other people’. I know that’s one of the mantras of christianese, and don’t want to be saying that.

    • Hi Anonymous,

      I am one year post separation. I am incredibly happy. I am not lonely. I have discovered the person I used to be decades ago when I met my antihusband as a teenager.

      I am not dating and have no desire to be in a romantic relationship. I love who I am and who I am becoming and I do not yearn for someone else to share my life with.
      I am sharing my life with my children and it is full and happy.

      I was way more lonely being married.

      God takes care of me and my children and I am amazed at how content my life is. We still have difficulties, of course, but we are doing really well considering.

      I guess I wanted to give you hope. Life without a man is not necessarily bad or sad.

    • Gothard Survivor

      Anonymous, I understand where you are coming from! My conclusion is that either leaving or staying would both be tough–at least for a while.

      I know the formal counseling answer, “You need to love yourself” and then you won’t have to worry about being lonely. Instead of trying to force yourself to love more, maybe you would consider the reality that you are alone anyway–he has abandoned you emotionally.

      What is tipping the scales toward leaving for me is the fact that I cannot find peace while living with a liar (not someone who tells an occasional fib, but someone whose character is lied in with lies he believes). Anonymous, I wish you peace–shalom.

  19. You covered it all. Thank you, Barbara! I hope this will reach the women who are still on this frightful journey …

  20. Scared

    Thank you so much for your insight and support..I am a abused wife, however the abuse was [my abusive husband] leaving days on end, 5 days at the most, on drinking binges. Recently it turned physical. Just knowing that he can come home drunk and put his hands on me gave me an scare like I never felt before. [Eds. edited identifying detail regarding their child]

    I was confused on what to do because like you said I wanted to stay true to my marriage this was my second one…the first one it was my fault on why it failed, I was determined to make this one work. However he is an unbeliever and I’m a believer, another reason why I stayed because I was once evil but now I can love for real so I gave him the benefit of the doubt. He still says he will never do it again and it was only the alcohol, but by reading your words and getting understanding I’m learning that I can’t fix this no matter how much faith and hope I have in him. I go to a awesome church but I’m not sure if my pastor is aware of my situation because [Eds. edited an identifying situation that could easily identify both the church and this commenter] so I don’t want to bother the church at this time about my very difficult and horrible situation with my husband.

    I thank you so much and I want to read more of all your work.

    • Greetings Scared,

      Welcome to the blog! We like to direct new commenters to our New Users Information page as it gives tips for staying safe when commenting on the blog.

      You will notice that I changed your screen name as a precaution. You gave what appeared to be your real name, and we discourage commenters from giving information that is too identifying as we have abusers and/or their allies that stalk the blog. If you would like to change the screen name to something different, feel free to contact me at twbtc.acfj@gmail.com

      Again Welcome! So glad you found the blog. I encourage you to keep reading and learning about abuse. You can do a search of specific topics by using the “search bar” on the right side or scrolling through our TAGS found on the top menu bar. And don’t be concerned if your comments don’t appear right away after you submit them. We moderate all comments for the safety of our readership and, depending on our moderators’ schedule, sometimes there is a lapse of time between when a commenter submits a comment and we are able to moderate and approve the comment.

    • Sunflower

      Dear Scared, The red flag I see is, “it was only the alcohol”. Any excuse is neglecting to take responsibility. Lundy Bancroft says alcohol is not a reason. He has questioned men who said this and they were always still in control. Only someone who takes FULL responsibility, NO excuses, can be taken seriously.

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