Why didn't I leave? Let me think of all the reasons I didn't leave.
I didn't leave because I had nowhere to go. We had moved away and I had no contact with friends. He had made sure of that. I had to find somewhere else to live but he made it clear to me that no one would rent to a single mum on low income. He told me he would stand and laugh at me whilst I lay homeless in the gutter. I believed him, I could see the anger in his eyes, I knew he meant it. He told me not to come running back begging if I tried.
I didn't leave because I didn't have money. I was financially tied to him. I didn't earn enough to keep savings and he monitored my bank account. Every penny was accounted for. I had to pay for monthly food shopping and any excess money had to go in a joint account. I don't know how much he was saving but I know it was enough for a good lawyer if he needed one. The very thought intimidated me.
…but that's just the practical reasons.
I didn't leave because who else would have me? Look how much love and devotion I gave him and somehow, I got everything wrong. I thought it was my fault. He told me I’m needy, I’m stupid, I’m useless. He told me I'm pathetic enough times.
I didn’t leave because he would get so angry. I spent my whole life trying to keep him calm, the very thought of upsetting him made anxiety swell in my chest. If I were to leave, the explosive rage that would follow made me think its best to just stay and avoid it. It’s safest for me that way.
I didn't leave because I still loved him. I know that’s another one to explain. How can you love him if he treats you so badly? But it’s because I saw glimmers of the him that I love, and it confused me. I couldn't work out if he was abusive as much as I thought he was or if it was just me? Maybe, if I held on long enough the person I love would reappear.
I didn't leave because of my children. I was scared of the damage it would cause them to break up the family. I felt responsible. I felt like I got them into this mess, I don't want to mess up their lives anymore. But I'm scared to make the wrong choice and I don’t trust my judgement any longer...
...and I'm scared of losing them. If he decided to teach me a lesson and turn them against me, I know he wouldn’t stop until he succeeds.
I didn’t leave because of the shame. The shame was almost unbearable. The shame of who I am, how much of a failure I felt. The shame of having been treated this way by the person I love. The shame of letting it happen. I blamed myself.
I didn’t leave because its all I had known for so long. I couldn’t make sense of it anymore. I couldn’t gain clarity in my mind whether I am just being too sensitive and its just part of the normal ups and downs of relationships. I couldn’t see that things could be different.
I didn't leave because I wasn't strong enough. I couldn't bare to fully admit what was happening. If I left it would be like opening the flood gates, and I felt so fragile, I thought it’s more than I could cope with.
I didn't leave because I knew he would destroy me. I didn't know what he would do exactly, but I knew he would stop at nothing until he felt like he had won. And this terrified me.
It’s a simple question, ‘Why didn’t you leave’, but the reasons are so complex to see. We believe the lies and manipulation of abuse, and that ties us to the relationship. It keeps us from breaking free. Once we leave those manipulations carry on playing in the mind, which runs the risk of us returning to the abuser.
Don’t ask, ‘Why didn’t you leave?’ Whether they left, or were discarded, say, ‘I’m here for you.’ Let their voice be heard, without judgement but instead with empathy. Let them feel the warmth of compassion once again.