The title of this post should anger the vast majority of humanity; instead, it has become one of the most common questions I was asked when in a violent relationship. At the time I excused his behavior, “Oh, he doesn’t mean it!” “But he’s a great father!” “Because I’m afraid of what he is capable of when I can’t read his moods. At least as long as I stay I know for certain what he is thinking and I know when the attacks are most likely to happen.”
Yes, these are lame excuses, but the last one is as close to the truth as I could bring myself so long ago. His threats were not only toward me, but toward someone else that I truly and deeply cared about; for that reason, I stayed, I stayed because of fear.
My point to this post is not to answer the age old question, but to ask a different question, a more deserving question: “Why does he do that?” (Feel free to transpose he and she, I use these terms loosely as it seems to be the most commonly reported.)
By asking, “Why does she stay?” We are ultimately blaming the person enduring this tragic lifestyle, exactly what the accused abuser does every single day. The very idea that his low self-esteem, mid-life crisis, ownership, superiority (or however you choose to define it) could be even fathomed as her fault is truly preposterous.
The entire relationship of violence is built on him brainwashing her to believe what he wants her to think. And most of that brainwashing is consistent of him blaming her. When we ask why she doesn’t leave we are helping him to feed into her own self-doubt.
For a long time after I left I remembered times that I “instigated” situations, I said, “Well, when things got really tense I would push him over the edge, so that I could get the beating over with.” Now, 14 years after the violence has ended I will gladly call bullshit on that thought process. The fact is that I am human, just like you, and I make mistakes, just like you. I burn dinner, I slip cusses, I cough, I laugh, and I get happy. No where in there is there a single reason to beat the crap out of me. Even if there were, suppose I did something illegal? That’s what police are for, not self-important assholes.
So, why are we still … after all of this time, blaming women for being abused? Why aren’t we asking him, “Why do you do that???”