For someone who lives on the outside world, away from any form of abuse, it is hard to comprehend why a victim would stay in a violent relationship. For those on the outside looking in, they may see a victim as someone who must enjoy pain and suffering, without thinking that there could be a million more reasons why a victim would stay. Little does an outsider know that a victim may worry about having no place to go due to isolation from family and friends. Little does an outsider know that a victim may have been left with no control over their own finances or their own means of transportation. Sometimes a batterer keeps a victim from working, going to school, or doing anything that would give them any opportunity to get ahead, to escape. Victims that have children may constantly worry that their abuser will try anything to keep their kids away from them. These are only a handful of examples that may keep a victim in a situation that seems to have no positive outcome...leave or stay.
In my own experience, I struggled with the thought of leaving my home. Throughout my life, I had always been on the go. At the age of 20, I had already moved across the country four times, and I had finally found a place that I felt comfortable and happy. Although my job was not exactly what one might consider a "dream job," I was established and I had fantastic medical insurance; something I needed in order to control my diabetes. And yes...even though I knew my chances were slim, I had really hoped that one day my abuser would change. I remember doing everything I could to stand by his side, to believe in him, even to encourage him to see me differently. Unfortunately, the more I tried, the more he looked right through me, instead of looking at the person I was, standing there with open arms, ready to love and support him.
While outsiders are looking in, wondering what might possess a victim to stay, they may often think that the victim lacks strength. It should be easy to just leave, right? Wrong. The truth of the matter is that both victims and survivors of abuse are probably some of the strongest people around. Victims of abuse deal with countless attacks; attacks on their character, attacks that are physical, attacks that are sexual, attacks on friends and family members that the batterer dislikes, attacks about everything and nothing all at the same time. They silently let their batterer attack them in order to protect their personal belongings, their finances, their families, their jobs, and their shelter. On the other hand, those who have decided to leave their batterers also show the same strength. Although victims stay to protect their own, survivors often leave with the fear of the unknown; the fear of what they leave behind, and the fear of what their abuser may try to take away. I write this tonight to let outsiders know that there may not always be an easy answer. And for victims and survivors of abuse, no matter where you are in your journey, you ARE strong. You have the strength and the patience to somehow keep going even when there seem to be no options. You do not have to search for strength....you already have it.