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Monday, December 6, 2010

Women Stay

Women stay.  Not all women, of course, there are some who break away, who take off despite the risks, who take the first step in liberating themselves from a violent situation and bettering their lives.  But the fact remains that too many (even one is too many, but we're talking thousands, millions, of women) stay in abusive relationships.

Many see no alternative, or the alternative they do see seems even worse than where they are.  Those who have children are in an even more precarious position.  They fear for their children's wellbeing, both while they remain in their relationship and even moreso should they choose to leave.

When you are a parent, your decisions directly affect your children.  For me, that means dealing with excess whining as we board a plane home for the Christmas holiday.  For others, it means being painted into a corner with no way out.

How will a woman with no car, no income, no friends or family, and no shelter be able to provide for her children out on her own?  How will that woman be able to survive in hiding, should her partner choose to look for her, find her, bring her back?  Will her children bear part of 'her punishment' for leaving?  How will she be able to feed them, clothe them, care for them if she's on the run?

It's easy to type this from my warm living room on my laptop as my babies sleep.  When I'm done with this piece, I'll start dinner in the crock pot.  I'll set up our Christmas tree.

Easier still would be for me to simply write: make the call.  Call a shelter, an ambulance, the police, your mother.  Call someone.  Act.  Get out.  This message, while best intended, is completely lacking in empathy.  Women in violent situations cannot just make a call.  Something that seems innocuous - simple - to someone like me, can be a matter of life or death to a woman surrounded by such volatility.

For all I know, that woman's phone is tapped or her computer is keylogged.  Even reading this post could set off a chain reaction of abuse.  And that's assuming she even has access to a phone or a computer.  One doesn't need to be locked in the basement to be held prisoner.

Remember that.  If you are in a violent situation, and you think that it's not bad enough to attempt to get out, if you worry that the consequences of your attempt will make life worse for you and your kids, remember: one doesn't need to be locked in the basement to be held prisoner.

Abuse is rarely as concrete as basement walls.  It permeates.  If you are being abused, it sullies every pocket of every safe space you think you might have in your mind.  Do you think you are good?  Do you think you are good enough?  Do you think he is right?  Do you think you deserve better?  These are the important questions.

More important still:  Do you think your children deserve better?  Because they are worth that shot in the dark.  You are worth that shot in the dark.

And maybe it's not so dark after all.  Of course, that is my entitlement speaking.  It is that dark.  But it is still worth it.  This essay is worthless.  It is rhetoric, it is lip service.  Pretty words on a page do not dial phones.

What we need to do in the face of violence against women is act, not speak.  Speaking is useful only in its capacity to bring about action.  The readers here don't have to donate money, they don't have to hold signs in rallies to promote awareness, they don't have to change their Facebook pictures.  They simply have to think.  If each of us thinks hard enough, I bet we'll each come up with at least one person we know, personally, who is suffering some kind of abuse. We cannot sit idly by and callously tell them to call the people.  We must show them that it can be done.  We must personally illuminate the path for them.  Not for all of them - that is daunting, that is impossible.  For that one person we know.  For her kids.  We must act, not speak.  We must be there for her.  We must help her emerge from the trap of her own esteem and thinking.

One hand outstretched in the darkness is worth a million words on this computer screen.  Call your friend.  Stop by for a visit.  Help her.  She needs you.

(This post is in participation with the One Wee Voice Violence Against Women Campaign.  Please visit Life - Inspired by the Wee Man for more information and links on this issue.)


  1. As an abused child and an abused wife, thank you for writing this. I know how lucky I was to be able to get out of both situations.

  2. Offer friendship and kindness, but don't be surprised if they are refused. It's not like it is in the movies or on TV. It's not going to magically get better because someone comes in and makes a speech or talks about self esteem or brings over cookies once a week. Part of the control of an abuser is cutting on relationships. So if you reach out and the person rejects you, try not to be angry, try not to give up. And if they tell you they really can't see you, it's possible that they can't without risking violence. Let them know you will help them, and then really be there if they need you, but don't push too hard. You might make things worse.

  3. Very touching post. It's so true that leaving is easier said than done. Heartbreaking. Thanks for taking part in one wee voice.

  4. "Pretty words on a page do not dial phones" That's such a true statement.

    "The readers here don't have to donate money, they don't have to hold signs in rallies to promote awareness, they don't have to change their Facebook pictures. They simply have to think" what a wonderful statement and one that I hope touches enough people to make the move towards what you have written. I'm going to quote this and share it.

  5. One of the best things my mother ever did for me, was to tell me that "If your father ever hit me, it would be the last he would ever see of me, or of you and your sister." I was so shocked that she would just up and leave my dad like that, but she said "There is no question about it. I'd be gone, and he knows it."

    Now, my dad is awesome, and there were never any threats in the house. Still, she made the point very clear to me that it was OK TO LEAVE, and that hitting was NEVER acceptable under any circumstances.

    While my mom's advice didn't prevent me from getting into an abusive relationship, it did help me get out.

    Teach your children. Repeat it often. G-d forbid they ever find themselves in that place, your words may come back to save their lives, like it did mine.



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