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An anonymous commenter posted on an old thread entitled Romance Authors Can Be Victims Of Domestic Violence Too, yesterday, and I thought it was worth re-posting in its entirety.

“This starts pretty abruptly but its 5 am and I haven’t the energy to re-write the thing, so let me just preface by saying, as to the question of why women try, stay, and put up with abuse, even to the point of defending their abusers, this is my take on some possible (in my opinion) heavy contributing factors.

It’s long and rambled slightly, and for that I apologize. I just feel like talking about it, mostly because I feel stuff like this is frequently overlooked in favor of more pat (and also true) answers like “brainwashing.” Its not that I’m right necessarily, just that I don’t think I’m entirely wrong, and that I have this weird idea that if mindsets like these were not just more understood, but respected (not dismissed as “delusional,” “reactionary,” or other thoroughly unflattering verbs) we might get farther in saving women.

Again, I could be wrong, this is just my experience.

People here are talking on and on about abusers as monsters, and I agree; I frequently call my abuser the Stepmonster. But they forget one important thing as to why women may stay–many abusive men are also pathetic.

I watched my stepfather turn to a raging monster. I endured sexual abuse at his hands. I hate that man with every fiber of my being, and laugh at people who tells me hate will destroy me. Hate is the only logical response I can see to such crimes, and it was my childish anger and hate that allowed to me to rise above the misery of my life and recreate myself as more than just a victim. It was only when I allowed myself to hate the real culprit rather than turning that anger inward that I could paste myself back together at all. I think its underrated as a survival emotion.

But, at the same time, I watched my stepfather go through his mood swings. He had childish tantrums, but he also had crying jags. He was easily hurt. And, as often as his fists and nasty name-calling mouth begat violence, he could, in the next moment, behave like a whipped puppy dog in need of petting.

And none of those moments were faked.

His father made him look like a veritable saint. The man beat the whole family silly, drank ceaselessly, and on at least three occasions tried (and once nearly succeeded) to murder his own son. That injured little boy still lived inside the big, bad, abusive, ex-military Stepmonster, and he still, in his own way, cried for his mommy.

And later, when I stumbled into and out of an abusive relationship of my very own (because I am just brilliant that way), my chosen darling was prone to mood swings, depressions, and was also easily wounded. The son of an alcoholic dad, he also had his war wounds, and also was just looking for someone to obsess over, someone who would love him and never hurt or leave him. A baby boy, crying for his mommy.

It may not be that way in every abusive relationship, but I know both in the one I endured as a kid and the one I was in later, it was those moments of thawing that made it all seem okay. Daddy was a real person, flawed, vulnerable, sad. Beau was just troubled and wounded, and the proper application of love could serve him, save him, heal him.

Its a twisted way of thinking, and sometimes you even realize that WHILE its going on, but I think it also speaks to the human in us on the deepest level. We are once again small children faced with a wounded bird, and it doesn’t matter that it just viciously pecked at our hands, it needs help and that’s all that matters. I think the desire to heal, to pull together tribe, community, is almost a compulsory instinct (especially among women), and I think the softer side of abusers plays on that instinct.

So maybe we don’t know why we stay, but we do. Hoping, trying, loathing, wanting to run away, afraid to try. It all gets tangled up until sorting it out takes a bloody miracle.

I also recall, when I was young, a time when I tried to look forward into my own future. This was a time when I was having major memory loss about the past. Yesterday, sometimes for two or three days, vanished.

If you asked me on Wednesday what had happened on Tuesday, I couldn’t have told you. If you asked me the same question a week later, I could. My short term memory was shot, a condition I suspect kept me breathing and moving forward. This was the period of my life my mom thought I was suicidal–apparently I was exhibiting symptoms. I was eight or nine at the time.

I just recall that one moment of looking forward, from that timeless place I was in, a child without a past, and it was terrible. The days went on endlessly, every day bleaker than the last, like looking down a long train tunnel with no escape back into light. Behind me was only an endless void, a darkness of memory where I, as a person, did not exist. The whole world seemed to close in around me, and the despair and horror (yes, horror, there is no other word for it) pressed down on me, started to crush my will.

It was only for a few seconds, standing by the kitchen sink, the day outside sunny, me just momentarily lost in thought as I looked out the kitchen window, but it was enough. I shut down that line of thought quick, because I felt I couldn’t bear it. To think ahead was to die, or want to die, and to look back was worse. The only way to survive was not to think, only to act. One foot before another, breathe in, breathe out, stay in the “Now.” And I did, every day.

Even after I was out, on my own, free, it took years to stop living in that “Now” of thought, and to this day I have memory problems. I can recall things clearly that happened when I was three, four, five–the pre-Stepmonster years. After that there’s so little I might as well have amnesia.

If I had to guess, this would be another part of the reason women stay. When you only have the “Now,” there is no consequence for tomorrow, no recollection (willing or otherwise) of yesterday. There is only today’s pain, today’s torment, and your only overriding goal is to make it to nightfall, to the next morning, as undamaged as possible. How can one plan an escape when one can’t even imagine tomorrow as a possibility? How can one see how bad things are when one can’t bear to look back towards yesterday?

People call these woman stupid, chide them for their behavior when staying, even get mystified by it, but the reality is so much more organic than rational thought. Its base, knee-jerk survival mechanisms that help you survive it, walk you through it one day, one breath at a time. But at the same time, those very organic mechanisms become your own traitor, preventing your escape.

How do you explain that to an outsider?

How can I explain that I will never stop loving the beau who hit me, even while I never want to see him again? How do I explain how much I pity my stepfather, even, sometimes, want to give him a measure of peace, but at the same time I can never stop hating him? How do I explain that one moment in time and how it affected me profoundly for years, how it stopped me from taking any action at all, especially since running away, telling a teacher, or whatever seems such a simple solution–even I see it as simple, these days.

How does anyone explain the things the body does in survival mode, when they often barely understand it themselves? And unless someone else has been through it themselves, how does it not turn into another menopause or PMS or biological clock–functions to be mocked because they are ill understood and seem not to fit in a rational, science-based culture? Never mind they are science based themselves, its like masturbation, its uncomfortable think about, too emotional, to private and personal, and therefore something must be WRONG with it.

Abuse is horrific, but people on the outside oversimplify it, bring it down to a moralistic, rational idea of what’s right and what’s wrong, and it should be that simple. It really should. But like everything in life, if wishes were horses, you know?”

Interesting, right?


  • I don’t know who she is but that is one of the most brilliant, powerful statements ever written about abuse. She said s eloquently what many of us have never had the words to express.


  • Lorraine
    February 23
    12:11 am

    Wow…just wow. Reminds one never to judge unless you’ve walked in another’s shoes.


  • Dear Anon,

    That is the most raw and striking, brave and honest post I’ve read on the internet in a very long time.

    Though I can still never completely understand what you and other victims have lived through, I thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings.


  • Sobering. And sad. 🙁


  • Dear Anon,

    Thank you.

    If I knew who you were, I would thank you with more words than you could ever care to hear. I’d explain why this post means so much to me. Please understand, you’ve given voice to someone who no longer has a voice to use. She’s gone. But it means more than you could ever know to read this.

    So again,
    Thank you.


  • So grateful that anon shared her thoughts in this brilliant post.

    I remember a victim of despicable abuse, in a case that made headlines here years ago, trying to describe why she stayed in the relationship so long. She said something like, “It was like living in a white-out. I couldn’t see.” Now, I think I get what she meant.


  • HeatherK
    February 23
    11:42 am

    I must confess. Normally, when a post is this long, I don’t read them. I get distracted easily and though I try to read them, it just never works out. When I read this, I was definitely distracted by TV, husband, and the million other little things that pull my focus away from things and yet I read this, each and every word, which says far more about it than anything else I could ever think up to say about it. You’ve given me insight into something I could never understand before.


  • Teresa B.
    February 23
    5:59 pm

    One moment I am reading something from my daughter on facebook, sitting here in pajama’s on a lazy morning, contemplating the day ahead, and the next moment, in an instant, I am thrown back to my life as a child – and forward at the same time as a woman, wife, mother – just by reading a profoundly simple, and deeply moving explanation of my life. I can see why my mother stayed. I can see why I hated and then loved my father, and my stepfather, and my brother. I can see why I chose the husband I chose, and then chose to stay, and hate, and stay, and then became strong enough to leave. And, I can see why I forgave the fathers, but still hate the husband. Yes, hate the husband, even though I did not realize that until I read this story – my story – in this post. Hate is a powerful survival tool; and forgiveness is an incredibly powerful healing tool. So, sitting here in pajama’s on a lazy morning, contemplating the day ahead, I am in tears and deeply touched in a hidden, secret place, with deep aching in my chest. Aching for the little girl I was. Aching for my mother. Aching for the wife and woman I became. And, profoundly moved by my story, written by a beautiful woman I have never met, yet who seems to know the inner part of me I never shared with anyone. Thank you. You understand what I could never express.


  • That should be published somewhere that more people can read it. There was more real insight into the “whys” of people staying in an abusive relationship than I’ve ever read before. I’ve been one of those outsiders, trying to understand, secretly thinking “but it’s so simple, just get away, get help, get stronger”. Now I feel like I finally, truly understand the “put one foot in front of the other and simply make it through each moment” mind set of all people in abusive situations whatever they might be.

    Thanks for sharing.


  • e_bookpushers
    February 23
    8:07 pm

    Thank you for writing what you did. Like others I wish more people could read what you have said and take a step towards understand the complexity and perhaps some of the “why”. I am very glad you have decided to reclaim yourself and your life!


  • One of the most difficult things about living with a domestic terrorist, which is how I view abusers, is the pain inflicted by outsiders through their lack of understanding. Worse yet when that lack of understanding is tinctured with condescension and judgmentalism.

    There are abundant, tangled, and highly personalized reasons why the just-walk-away-from-it “solution” is simplistic and insensitive in the extreme. Every woman’s situation is different, governed by a unique set of particulars. They range from self-esteem issues to economic and employment status to religious beliefs to the presence of children or beloved pets in the household to concern over the safety of friends and relatives to the accessibility of truly safe havens…and, yes, to love, however skewed away from its ideal state it’s become.

    That courageous and eloquent post told it like it is. I consider myself fortunate that it was easy for me not to love the monster once he emerged. My contempt for him at least secured my psycho-emotional freedom. But the physical freedom was much longer in coming.

    My heart still breaks for every woman and man mired in such relationships. I wish I could pull them all out of the quicksand.


  • This is so powerful in its stark simple truth. Thank you for your explanation. Your courage is amazing.

    Abuse touches so many lives, not only directly, but through the ripple effect.

    @ Bonnie Dee: “That should be published somewhere that more people can read it.”

    I agree. Over at Violence Unsilenced http://violenceunsilenced.com/, survivors, and the loved ones of those who didn’t, share their experiences in a hope to spread truth and help others find the courage to leave.

    Thank you so much, Anonymous, for sharing yours here.


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