Why women don’t just leave domestic abuse.

Most of us are are creatures of hope and if we knew in the early days of a relationship that we stood to become a statistic, that our self respect, self confidence and life would be turned upside by domestic abuse we would never stay.

So many of us don’t see the love bombing which goes on. We don’t notice the manipulation involved in the abuser’s desperation to worm their way into our hearts and see the alignment in our lives, our pasts and our beliefs as being beautifully poetic in nature. The synchronicity magical on a Disney like scale.

And before we realise it we are hooked. Often swallowed whole into the belly of the beast, where there is little air, other than that which is provided for us. We go from being sociable ,dressing well and working. All the attributes that they swore blind that they loved about us. To a woman whose red lipstick gathers dust in her handbag and whose voice barely laughs. 

We are told that whores wear that shade of lipstick. That our arse is too big in those jeans and that our jokes are not funny. Just before we go out on a night with the girls he picks an argument and we feel responsible. The make up sex that we feel that we have to engage in makes us late. We miss dinner and ignore our friend’s frantic calls. We realise that keeping the peace is better than their sulking, than their abuse and their shouting.

We don’t feel too scared the first time they shove us into a door frame, although we are shocked at how much we bruise from one ‘little shove’. We nod like the proverbial nodding dog as they tell us that we must bruise easily. That we tripped and that we are clumsy. Agreement is EVERYTHING.

Our soul begs us to listen to our truth, yet our head, desperate and hopeful in equal measure sadly agrees. The new us morphs.

Gone is our laughter. Our smile is more of a grimace. Gone are the clothes which reminded us of nights out with friend’s. Night’s out are a thing of the past. Not worth the rancour and days of sulking by them. Our friend’s stopped coming a while back. He tells us they hate him. That they are sluts, too loud and are a bad influence. They text to check we are OK periodically. We daren’t message back for fear that we are found too be fraternising with the enemy. It happened once. The bruise on our face from the mobile phone which was launched at our head has faded, but the memory hasn’t. 

We learn the rules. The new, ever changing ones and the old ones which do not waver. Don’t retaliate, EVER. Don’t cry, only ever inside your heart and NEVER break your silence, because you believe every inch of them that they will kill you if you try to leave. 

Besides, where would you go? No friend’s, no money and no faith in ourselves to make a decent decision. Our brain is cauliflower. Our thoughts jumbled and we deduce that we must be going mad. We must be a terrible person, a dreadful woman and a crap wife. We must be mad. We must be responsible for making them angry and should try harder to be better.

And so we stay.

Because as they say, better the devil we know than the devil we don’t. Living in a world where we can predict their next move by the look in their eyes, by the tone of their voice and the  way they shut the door is better than not knowing what might just happen next.

And so we stay. Existing, not living. Day to day. Grasping onto any bit of hope that they will change. That their tears of regret are real. That their bad childhood which is to blame for their temper can be cured and always hoping that we can be better and the heady love soaked days of old will return.

We bump into a friend in the shop. We dare not stop to chat for more than a minute. We have to account not only for every penny, but for every minute we are out. They know just how long the walk will take us, how busy the shop will be and will check the receipt to see what time we were served so that they can calculate how long it took us to walk home.

Our friend follows us out and walks beside us. ‘I know’ she says. Our eye’s do not meet.

We say nothing. Biting our tongue hard to stop us telling tales.

‘You can leave’ she says. ‘You can do it. You are not alone’

Again we say nothing and we walk away from her before we are seen. And we begin to imagine just a little bit what it would be like to go for a coffee, to laugh again and to feel something other than terror. We imagine just what it might be like to press the button on the phone and use the 999 button to summon help. To make IT stop, just for a while.

We play with the idea in our head and we wonder who might come if we did call 999. We cannot shake the thought from our head. The disloyalty makes us feel sick. They must know what we are thinking about and so we shut it out as they clamp their hands over our mouth and we succumb to the dizziness of apnoea, begging death to come quickly and make this living hell stop once and for all. 

Please reach out if you are suffering domestic abuse. Use 999 if you are in immediate danger. Reach out to your local service provider or call the National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247.

#DomesticAbuse #SpeakOutStaySafe #YouAreNotAlone #ThriveGlobal #WhyDoesntSheJustLeave

The author is a qualified Independent Domestic Violence Advocate, qualified life coach, survivor and domestic abuse expert who now works to empower and support women to thrive post abuse. She runs a free FB support group for women called Speak Out Sisterhood (SOS) https://www.facebook.com/groups/80564418644105/ and is a an ardent campaigner about domestic abuse and childhood sexual abuse spooking on podcasts and in main stream media.