Earlier this year I wrote a post answering the terrible question that everybody asks, or wants to ask, survivors of long-term domestic violence: why did you stay?
My hope for that post was that it would provide enough information, which was personal to me but could be extrapolated to other abuse dynamics, to deter people from further asking DV survivors that judgmental and offensive question.
Seriously. No matter how well-intentioned you may be, “why did you stay” sounds to a domestic abuse survivor like “it’s your fault.” Not good.
I am writing this post, on the other hand, to encourage you, dear readers, to ask this question more often: “Why did you leave?”
People rarely ask DV survivors why they left. To many, the answer seems obvious. Of course she left; she was being abused. But if the answer to “why did you stay” is as complex as I proved it to be, then the answer to “why did you leave” is not so straightforward either.
“Why did you leave” is a good question to ask, because it encourages DV survivors to vocalize and thus acknowledge their strengths, and it reveals what it is they most care about. If we can, as a society, better understand what matters most to people in abusive partnerships, and what drives them to leave, then we will be better equipped to help more victims leave sooner, and stay away.
So here it is. The story of why, after four years of unimaginable abuse, I finally decided to leave.