"Why didn't you just leave"?
It's a question I've been asked at least 1,000 times and asked myself even more often. Several weeks ago, I shared my story of the crisis that has been my life. Still, over and over, I've been asked by family, friends, and even police officers "why don't you just leave". "There's so many resources out there to help" is usually the line that follows this incredulous question. As if leaving has never crossed your mind.
My answer: "It's not that simple".
Did you know that it takes the average woman seven attempts before she leaves a violent relationship for good?
Four times I have tried to leave. Four times I packed up myself and the kids and tried to leave. Much to my family and friends dismay, I always went back. Why? For a lot of reasons. I could spend hours telling you all of the reasons I've stayed; the dangers that come with leaving; the lack of resources that are really there for women in this situation, how it feels to be a burden for someone else to have to help you. But I'm not going to do that. You see, in my heart, I know that I did what I knew was best for myself and my children at the time.
Instead, I'm going to focus this post on society's viewpoint of domestic violence. When we ask victims of domestic violence "why don't you just leave", I believe that we're once again, placing the blame on the victim. To think that it's as simple as "just leaving" is choosing to remain ignorant in regard to what domestic violence really is. A woman might have 50 or 1,000 reasons why she stays. Until you've walked through what she's walking, experienced the hurt she's felt or dealt with the psychological trauma she's dealt with, no one on the planet can understand her reasoning or the complex dynamics that makes it absolutely impossible to see or think clearly. If a moment does come that we see clearly enough to find a safe time to make an attempt to leave, the resources needed to do so have to be readily available, or it's even harder to stay gone.
The reality for most abuse survivors is that leaving an abusive relationship is often a herculean task that endangers the woman and calls for resources that aren’t readily available. Instead of minimalizing such a complex issue with such a simple "just leave" solution, I believe society should focus on education, awareness, and resources to help prevent abuse in the first place but then to restore, respect, and empower victims of abuse so that "just leaving" isn't such a herculean task.
Until society as a whole makes an effort to not only understand domestic violence and remove the taboos surrounding it for those who've endured it, but to also heal, educate, and restore victims, women will continue to suffer in silence and to me, that's as bad or worse than the original act of violence itself.
Sunday, November 12, 2017
Infertility. High-risk pregnancy. Lengthy NICU stays times four. Your Mother's cancer diagnosis. Multiple moves looking for a support system. Leaving a career you loved. A spouse's struggle with drug and alcohol addiction. Your spouse's job loss. Your Mother's cancer remission. Emotional, physical, and financial abuse. The return of cancer. Your Mother's death. Your spouse's addiction issues spiraling out of control. You spouse attempts suicide multiple times. Your spouse facing criminal charges. Inability to obtain affordable childcare so that you can work. Adultery. These are just some of the many events crammed into the past four years of my life.
A crisis is defined as a time of intense difficulty, trouble, or danger. A crisis of life is a highly volatile or dangerous situation/emergency requiring immediate remedial action. A crisis occurs when a stressful life event overwhelms an individual’s ability to cope effectively in the face of a perceived challenge or threat. Typically, individuals respond with an elevated stress reaction; mental confusion and overload and physical symptoms such as a racing heart and high blood pressure. An individual's ability to think and decision making skills are hampered and focus shifts solely to survival. But how long can someone survive living in crisis mode?
For the past four years, my life has been a crisis. Sure, there have been some happy moments along the way. My children's birth and the many, many, many, many blessings that they've brought into my life has been amazing. Honestly, they are the four reasons I get out of bed every single morning and try to put a smile on my face. Still, earlier this year I started seeing a counselor to help me cope with the amount of stress in my life along with grief from my Mom's death. At our first appointment, she asked me what it was that I was coming for help with. I would imagine that most people seeking counseling are dealing with the aftermath of a specific event or two. After summarizing the amount of stress and crises occurring in my life, all at the same time, she was at a loss of words for a little while. She informed me that I was and had been under more stress for an extended period of time than most people (something I had kind of guessed) for a while. She advised me of the long-term effects of stress when we experience it for a longer than normal amount of time and recommended that I seek out a full physical from a medical doctor, which admittedly, I didn't do (who's got time for all that). Also admittedly, I stopped going to see the counselor too because being overwhelmed with life was hard enough, much less trying to find an hour to myself every two weeks.
When I got married in 2012, almost exactly five years ago, I never in a million years could have pictured my life becoming what it has become or experiencing even half of what I've been through. Just one of any of the events I've been through is enough to cause long-term issues and changes for someone. To experience them all, almost all at the same time, has been devastating. The constant stressors have affected my life in every way: physically, mentally, and emotionally. I am tired. My body hurts. My brain hurts. My eyes don't have tears left in them. I now doubt almost everything anyone tells me and I find myself angry at the world more often than not. My faith has been tested. When I say life has been a roller coaster, it truly has been a roller coaster. I've tried my best to hide it, but I really, really want off this ride, and soon.
For more than four years, I've lived life without a support system. When we found out we were having quadruplets, the first thing I wanted was to be surrounded by the people I love the most and to lean on them for love and support through what I knew was about to be the hardest chapter of my life yet. One thing after another has happened to make this the perfect storm for me and it seems as though Murphy's Law is in full affect. I've relied on the mercy and kindness of strangers far more often that I dreamt I ever would in my life. I've been hurt more by the people I love the most because of my own foolish expectations of them. And now, I've got a house full of kids whom I love dearly, no husband, a tiny long-distance support system, no childcare to work, and thus no income coming in. My life in crisis continues...