• Dara Kountz

Why Did I Stay? An Abuse Victim Answers

What’s the first thing people ask abuse victims? Why didn’t you leave?  Why did you let him/her do it? Why didn’t you see the signs? 

You know what, why aren’t we asking – How could he/she do it?  Why didn’t they get themselves some therapy the first time they threw something/hit somebody? Why didn’t the abuser send the victim to safety? 

Those are better questions. 

Still, society needs answers to those first questions. 

Why did I stay?  It’s not simple. 

I was afraid if I left he would commit suicide because he had told me that over and over and over.  “I can’t live without you” and I didn’t want his death on my conscience.  Too bad I didn’t realize sooner that he was lying about that same as he lied about everything else.

I still loved him.  When everything was perfectly the way he wanted it, he was perfect too.  He was sweet, charming, loving, romantic…as long as he was happy and comfortable then everyone around him was happy.  So, if I could just do everything right then life would be good.  I wanted the man I fell in love with to be happy.  Too bad I don’t realize, the man I loved had never existed.  That man was a convenient mask to lure me in and keep me trapped.  A little carrot to go with the stick to keep me trained and obedient. 

I was afraid to lose the few people still in my life.  Pretty much all our friends were his friends who kept saying how wonderful I was for him, how good we were together.  I just knew they’d hate me if I left, leaving me alone and more isolated than I already was.

I was afraid of losing the people in my life who really loved me.  He had worn down my self esteem so badly that I hated myself.  I hated myself so much that I intentionally hurt myself.  I couldn’t stand this failure I had become.  This failure that couldn’t keep a husband happy.  This failure that was desperately trying to make sure no one knew how bad it was.  I honestly thought I was hiding what was going on better than I was.  I was so sure that if I admitted how bad it was, if I let them see how much I needed out then they would see what a failure I was and they would hate me.  After all, I hated me so much how could anyone else fail to hate me if they knew the real me. 

I was too tired.  I was exhausted and stressed from keeping up appearances and keeping him happy that I couldn’t think straight.  I was suffering from depression that sapped my energy.  I was already so overworked keeping up with my job and keeping him happy and taking care of the house that the thought of taking on one more thing – even something like trying to leave – made me want to cry.  Which I frequently did in the shower and bath. I used to tell people that I wished I’d get hit by a car so I could have a vacation in the hospital.  It wasn’t the joke people thought it was.  Being laid up in a hospital where I couldn’t be expected to do anything but heal sounded like Heaven. 

I had promised to stay.  I had made my marriage vows with every intention of keeping them.  I had promised repeatedly to stay with him until he died, especially after he ended up having a chronic illness. I thought, if I broke my promise, how could anyone trust me?  I didn’t think about how marriage is a contract and he broke that contract by hurting me and cheating on me.  The vows included loving and cherishing me.  Hurting me until I was driven to open up wounds on my neck with my nails was not loving or cherishing me.  Cheating on me broke that contract.  And making me promise not to leave him until he died because he couldn’t live without me was forcing me to make promises under duress which are not binding. 

I had no money.  His spending kept us in constant debt.  How would I actually get away from him when I barely had money for groceries?

Any one of these things made it hard to leave or even make a plan to leave and all of these were going on at the same time for me.  

So, why did I stay? I didn’t have the energy, money or mental health to leave.  Because I was a sweet person who was trying to keep everyone happy. Because I didn’t ask the best question – why did he make me have to leave? Why did he keep hurting me and using me up? 

Why did he create a situation that even made ‘why did you stay so long’ a question to be asked? 

So, if you want to question someone in an abusive situation, question the person that created the situation rather than the victim. 

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