I was reading a post on Facebook today that made me angry, as similar posts in their arrogance always do:
“I give up! If she wants to go back to that dipshit, she’s obviously happy being abused”
So simplistic! Of course everyone who stays in Domestic Violence is perfectly happy, that’s why they call it Domestic Violence; it’s code-name for “land of happiness and bliss”. And if you’ve never been in DV yourself, it can be almost impossible to understand why someone would escape just to go back again. And again. And again.
So why DO people go back? Is it an underlying sado-masochistic tendency that enjoys being abused? Some people seem to think so. Let’s explore that, though … if a person is truly sado-masochistic (or whichever term you’d like to apply, “sucker for punishment” perhaps?), then why do they leave in the first place? Leaving is often traumatic in and of itself, so why go through it again and again?
I’ve been in Domestic Violence. My partner had violent mood swings, and would lash out at me over the simplest things; perhaps I hadn’t folded his washing exactly right. Perhaps I bought the wrong size drink. Perhaps I just happened to be standing in the wrong spot.
I justified his behaviour. I explained to people that he was under stress, or that he’d had a hard life, or that he was just having a bad day, he wasn’t normally like that. I explained away the bruises. When my parents revealed that he’d been preventing me from receiving their calls, I explained that he was just protective of me.
It was bullshit of course, but when you’re in that situation, there’s always an explanation.
By the time I finally decided to leave, I was on my own. All my friends had turned away because I obviously liked it, or I wouldn’t have stayed. My family had been distanced by his behaviour. I ended up on the street briefly because I had nowhere else to go.
So I went back.
The next time I left him, I took what little money I had and I went to a caravan park. He begged me to come home, promised me he’d change. So I went home with him. I was convinced that I loved him.
And then I got to a point where I hated him, but then my confidence was so low that I believed I didn’t deserve any better. So I stayed.
It wasn’t until he violently raped me, resulting in a pregnancy that resulted in miscarriage, that I could finally leave. I threatened to call the police if he came around again, because the grief of losing the baby was stronger than any hold he had over me. If that hadn’t happened, I might well still be with him now.
So when I read comments like “well, she obviously likes it or she’d leave”, it re-opens those wounds. Were those years just self-inflicted pain? That’s what comments like that imply.
It’s easy to judge when you haven’t been there. Of course it looks simple enough to leave, when you’re sitting there in your comfortable life, with your store of confidence, and things are going well. Of course it’s easy to see he’s an asshole when you’re on the outside looking in. But when you’re on the inside, it’s not so black and white.
I’m helping a friend right now who is in Domestic Violence. He can’t seem to leave either. Yes, it happens to men as well …
Maybe if we can get people to understand what living in DV is like, they’ll be a bit more supportive of their friends who are in it. Because support is what’s going to help them get out, not more judgement and criticism to reinforce what they’re getting at home.