I have heard many people spout opinions of Janay Rice, wife of Ray Rice, after the video of him hitting her in an elevator surfaced recently. “Why would she stay” “He’s just going to do it again.” Fact is, you don’t know what it’s like. Stop making her decisions for her. Here is what it’s really like to be married to an abuser, and why women stay. And why it’s important to let them make their own decisions.
I sat on the stadium bleachers next to my boyfriend of six months on my birthday in the cool early November afternoon sun. I had just finished performing the half time show with the color guard and marching band at our college football game. The week prior to my birthday had been amazing, it all started with me walking to my car after class, I opened the door to find a small stuffed story book bear dressed in a princess costume on the seat, along with a bottle of lotion, a small jewelry box containing a silver necklace with a heart, a circle and a star strung through it, and a note that said:
“To the princess in my life It has been said that a birthday should be a week long affair…
A necklace that symbolizes 3 important parts of life
💜 – The love that I have for you
⭕ – For eternity the time I look forward to being with you
🌟 – For the hope and dreams that you are to me as an answer to my prayers”
Each day after that I had been showered with three gifts and a note, jewelry, clothes, other members of the story book bear collection and even a beautiful crocheted blanket with my name stitched in all my favorite colors. It had been beautiful.
My boyfriend and I were sitting at the game holding hands, and I expected no other gifts from him that day when all of the sudden his best friend walked up to me, kissed me on the cheek, and handed me a huge bouquet of colorful flowers with tickets to Disney on Ice tucked into the leaves and walked away. I was stunned. I had no words; I simply turned to my boyfriend with a goofy grin on my face, kissed him and reveled in the attention of such a spectacle.
My boyfriend knew how to make me feel special, another time, he woke me with a kiss and a red rose and a sweet note tied to the stem, relating the color of the rose to me “The red rose is to compare your beauty to. The rose is a weed compared to your beauty.” He left me in bed and when I opened the door and walked out, there was another rose of a different color with an accompanying note on the floor, I picked it up and read it, and as I walked down the hall, I found another, and then roses on the steps as I walked downstairs, each rose a different color and a note relating that color to me. It was romantic as hell.
I still have those notes in a scrapbook, the notes from my birthday and the notes from the roses, and dozens of other hand written notes my boyfriend, turned husband had given me over the years we had been together.
We used to lay in bed together and tell each other our dreams, the kinds of cars we wanted to drive, the kinds of jobs we wanted to have, how our home would look and the toys we would one day own. We became pregnant and prepared for the birth of our baby together, he would rub my feet and rush to fulfill my crazy pregnancy cravings. He talked to my belly and we looked forward to the day our son would be born. That day came and we were parents. Things were happy.
At least most of the time. That is what the good parts of my marriage to my abuser was like. I sometimes think people think it’s all bad all the time. The truth it’s it’s only bad about 20% of the time, the rest of the time, it’s a normal and happy marriage. This is part of why women stay. It’s not always bad and we as human beings inherently believe in the best of the people we love. Can you see how I could have fallen in love with my ex husband? He was an unapologetic romantic and it felt so good to be treated like that.
Then there’s the fact that all couples argue. Not one couple agrees on everything all the time. Domestic violence relationships often have the same amount of disagreements as regular relationships, DV relationships often turn into to fights with yelling, degradation and even physicality. That’s what makes the relationship abusive.
A women leaves a DV relationship on average 7 times before leaving them for the final time. There are so many reasons a woman stays in a DV relationship and if she is talked into leaving, she is much more likely to go back to him because she didn’t make that decision on her own.
People can change. Sometimes experiencing or going through something horrible is the very thing that inspires us to change. I find it funny we often cheer for bad guys to become good in tv shows or movies like Once Upon a Time or read stories in the bible of men who used to preach against Christ, and then become one of his greatest disciples, like Saul who became Paul and still we often forget to love and forgive our fellow men and belive in them to change. Sometimes the person experiencing the abuse is the one to change and miracles can happen and the power of someone believing I that is stronger than we know.
And maybe, just maybe we are meant to go through the hard times, had I not experienced the abuse I did, I would never have even thought to advocate for domestic violence. I once heard a little story that explains beautifully how experiencing hardships and pain can be a gift and why it is important to forgive the abuser.
After experiencing domestic violence myself, I have spent years studying, learning and teaching. I have found many tools to help me along my way in my healing process. I love Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) and this is an amazing free tapping for me, it works wonders in helping to let go and to heal. I also suggest doing work on yourself to improve your self esteem, write down the good things about yourself, even the things you wish you were or had, read it every day. Remind yourself of how beautiful and amazing you are and believe in yourself and your success.
If you know a woman who is in a domestic violence relationship, I urge you to love her, to support her, to forgive her for not heeding your warnings, to be there for her and to let her decide what is best for her and her children. The answer still may be for them to leave and hopefully one day they will realize that before it is too late, that’s why I work to make domestic violence a conversation in hopes to change it. The answer may also be for them to stay, just remember, it is not for you to judge.