Why did I leave? Why didn’t I try harder to make my marriage work? Why didn’t I leave sooner? Why didn’t I stay gone the first time? Why didn’t I file a police report? Why didn’t I get a restraining order? Why didn’t I go back again?
There are many why’s. I’ve heard them all in my journey out of domestic violence.
I’m guessing some of those “why’s” might surprise you. It’s often asked “Why did she stay?” or “Why didn’t she leave sooner?” or even “Why did she go back?”
The other “why’s” — “Why didn’t you try harder?”, “Why did you leave?”, “Why didn’t you give him another chance?” Those I didn’t expect. I didn’t expect to be disbelieved when I revealed the abuse in our home. I didn’t expect our pastor to show up in my new home and tell me I should give him a second (third, fourth, fifth?) chance. I didn’t expect people to believe him when he said I made it up, that I “over-reacted”… often in the same sentence — which is it? Did I make it up or did I over-react? And… if I over-reacted what was I reacting to? No one asked that question…
I couldn’t fix abuse.
I can’t fix abuse.
I couldn’t fix my marriage all by myself.
I could change all I wanted. I could read every marital support/advice book written. I could put all that advice into practice. Until there were two of us wanting to salvage, rebuild or engage in the marriage, it wouldn’t work.
I couldn’t do it alone.
Nothing I did changed his choices, his actions.
What did it take for me to finally walk away?
It took God’s word to my heart. It took God saying “This is not My plan for you. This is not My plan for your children. I do not desire you to be hurt any longer. I came to bear your suffering. I came so you could walk free. It’s time to flee, just as the children of Israel fled Egypt.”
And, still, I stayed longer.
I stayed when he started hitting our 5 year old child in the back of the head, as “discipline”. I told him if it continued, I would leave. I told him it as abusive.
I stayed while it got worse. I stayed when he accelerated to hitting our child almost daily.
I stayed when one Christmas Eve I was verbally attacked after leaving him home alone with the children for a few hours. I had the gall to ask him to unload the purchases from the car because I was still hurting from a car accident a month earlier. He punched the wall, angry at me for asking, yelling because our 3 & 5 year old children didn’t know how to clean the house.
I stayed Christmas morning when he threw our child at the couch in a violent fit because our 5 year old was excited about opening presents and couldn’t sit still.
I stayed when he yelled at me the entire trip to and from Christmas dinner with my family.
I stayed when he accused me of trying to make money with an at-home company for the sole purpose of being able to leave him.
I stayed when I spent the first night since our marriage on the floor of the children’s room because I was afraid to go to bed with him.
I stayed until the day after Christmas when he punched our child in the leg at church.
That. Right there. Did you catch it? He punched our child. In church. No one saw it happen. Pews make great protective walls. It was the end of a long series of events that had been progressively worsening over the past couple of months. It was the final straw.
I asked a friend to come home with us and told him to leave while she was there. He took hours to gather his thing together, all the while accusing me of having another man on the side, and leave, but he left. On the way out, he told the children to be good to their “new daddy” and said good-bye like they’d never see him again.
Should I have waited until it was worse? Should I have waited until our child had permanent hearing damage? Bruises? Was I premature? That’s what I hear when people ask why I didn’t give him another chance. I hear them saying it couldn’t have really been abuse because there were no visible injuries, no bruises, no broken bones. I hear them saying “it wasn’t that bad”. Should I have waited until he was hitting me or one of the children worse, instead of the wall or the car?
What line needs to be crossed before it’s acceptable to leave? At what point do others get to decide when enough is enough? When do we start supporting people in their decisions, trusting that they have made the right one for their situation?
Please, share with me the line that had to be crossed before you could/would leave. Let’s start a conversation.