The Big Question.
The question everybody wants to ask survivors of long-term domestic violence. The question nobody should ever ask a survivor of domestic violence: Why did you stay?
Look, I get it. If you’ve never experienced relationship violence, it doesn’t seem to make sense that a person would stay in an abusive relationship. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, however, more than 75% of women between the ages of 18 and 49 are abused by the same partner more than once. That means that the majority of women who have been assaulted by their lover, return to their lover. So it can’t just be that we are all pathetic, liars, or masochistic. There has to be something more.
Which has actually been recognized among the psychological community for years. Yet despite the abundance of information now available to the public about this subject, the question still gets asked. All the time. And it shouldn’t be. It is a really hurtful question to ask a survivor of domestic violence. Even when your intentions are based out of genuine concern and curiosity, and even when you are a beloved confidant, “why did you stay?” sounds to us like “it’s your fault that you were abused.” We already have to battle the shame that comes with feeling like our abuse was our fault. We don’t need anybody reinforcing it, however unintentionally.
So I am going to now answer The Big Question: Why Did You Stay?
I am not a psychological expert. I don’t claim to have professional expertise about the complex emotional and psychological factors with which all DV victims contend. If what you’re seeking is an expert opinion, I recommend visiting one of the sites I linked in the paragraph above, or reading one of the resources I link in the Amazon banner at the end of this post.
What I can offer is first-hand, honest testimony and an answer the question as it applies to my life. Why did I stay? Which seems to be what a lot of people want to hear judging by how often this question is asked of me.
If you have ever felt compelled to ask me or another survivor the question “Why did you stay,” please, continue reading. And then, when you’re finished, don’t ever ask a survivor this question again.