Why didn’t you just leave?
Why did you stay so long?
Still down the line, these questions are enough to make me feel truly, truly rubbish. They make me feel as down and low and useless as I did when I was living in abusive relationship.
After I first left these questions were constant. People seemed to have no clue what a huge, enormous thing I’d done by leaving at all. They just wanted to know why it took so long. There I was, being honest with people for the first time in so long. Being truthful about what I’d lived through but people seemed to think they were being kind by tilting their heads and giving a sympathetic look whilst asking those stupid bloody questions.
So here we are. This is why I didn’t ‘just leave’. Domestic abuse is such a complex thing. I can only tell my story. There are way too many women who have similar stories, but I can only tell mine. For example I know many perpetrators wouldn’t leave marks where they could be seen. My partner at the time didn’t follow this. I think he got a bit of a kick out of me lying about how I’d gotten the black eye or the split lip.
The abuse didn’t start with beating and abuse. It began with whining at me to not go out with my friends because he’d miss me too much and anyway why would I want to not spend my free time with him. Then it was how my sister caused so many problems between us how he blamed her for any problems we had. So I began to see her in secret…
Then it was why did I need to go out shopping etc.. Was I seeing someone else??
Then we had 3 children under 3, I was doing all the night feeds etc but wasn’t allowed to nap in the day. Leaving me unable to think straight.
You see it was a gradual process. I went from being a happy, cheerful teenager to being an exhausted woman with 3 children, no friends, no family support, no reason to ever leave the house. Called fat, ugly and stupid on a relentless daily loop.
This all happened over many years. I ended up not wearing make up, not having my hair down so as not to be accused of trying to look nice for someone else. Even his own brother. Over the years I was worn down, chipped away at and had no energy at all. This had become my normal. That’s why I didn’t leave.
I’d learnt over the years that I was stupid, fat and ugly. No one else would ever want to be with me. I’d learnt that no one would believe me about the abuse. That I’d be thought of as crazy and my children would be taken away if I left. That’s why I didn’t leave.
I had no independent thoughts, only the ones I’d been allowed to have by him. After my personality had been erased over weeks, months and years. That’s why I didn’t leave.
I left as soon as I was able physically, mentally, financially.
Don’t tell me if wasn’t soon enough.
Don’t tell me had I told you you’d have helped.
Don’t tell me I should have just left.
Don’t tell me surely I should have just gotten my children out of there.
I know you think you’re being understanding and kind but you’re being ignorant to the complexities of abuse. I don’t blame you. I would have probably been the same once.
Maybe though just tell me well done for being here, free and alive. So many women fleeing abuse don’t get that luxury, it’s a very dangerous time.
Tell me you’ll be there for me now and listen without judgement.
Please just don’t ask why it took me so long.