By Tracee Sioux
I know this column will reach a battered woman, because according to the US Justice Department, 30 percent of women are beaten by a significant other at one time or another.
This is an issue very close to my heart as I was a battered girlfriend for two years, between 14 and 16-years-old, so I actually know why these women stay. I also know how much courage it took to leave.
In college, when a boyfriend started getting abusive I left quickly. But then he stalked me for months and finally the police were going to put him away for two years. I begged them not to. I knew the last thing I needed was for that man to plot my murder for two years. The court required him to leave the state immediately and not allow him to return for two years to avoid prison.
The key, of both yesterday’s Oprah and my personal experience, was said very clearly by the battered woman’s son who witnessed everything.
DO NOT STAY!
Many women stay because of their children. I can understand the thinking behind this. You don’t want your children to come from a broken home. You don’t want to put them through a divorce. You don’t want the stigma.
You are so confused that you think he will change. That if you do enough things right, he will stop his abusive behavior. You believe him when he says “You make me hit you, if you had cleaned the house like you were supposed to then I wouldn’t have to hit you.”
You believe him because you want to believe you can somehow make him stop by being exactly what he wants you to be. You believe him because this is logic you use on your kids and you are telling the truth, “If you cleaned your room yesterday you wouldn’t be grounded.” You want him to be telling the truth, but he’s not.
You believe, in your heart, that you deserve abuse because you are a terrible person. You are a whore, a slut, a horrible mother, a bad cook, a terrible housekeeper, stupid, idiotic, moronic. Whatever names he chooses to call you. The worst my ex-boyfriend would call me was “used-meat.” After all, who wants a girl who’s not a virgin anymore? You have been listening to his berating of your self for so long that you believe every word of it is true. That’s why you stay. You stay because you think no one else would want you and you’re not strong enough to stand on your own. This is emotional terrorism and every word he says is untrue.
To get out you need to repeat to yourself all the good and wonderful and true qualities about you over and over and over until you believe them enough to go. You need to quietly work your self-worth up through praise of self until you no longer believe his lies about you.
Your daughter, when she hears his opinion of you over and over and sees him hit you, comes to believe these things, not only about you, but about her own self. If you are a terrible slut, then she is a terrible slut. If you deserve to be hit, then she does as well. It doesn’t matter if she is three or 14, the result will be that she will find someone who hits her or emotionally terrorizes her and she will call it love.
You can not raise an empowered girl if you are staying in an abusive relationship. It is an unequivocal impossibility.
Battered women, I know it’s hard to feel that you are worth leaving him for. But, it’s not as hard to feel that your children are worth leaving for. And they are.
The last bit of advice is not to leave without a plan. I left without a plan twice. Frankly, it was scary. Both times the man stalked me, attacked me in public, stole my mail, called my job so many times I got fired, harassed my friends, broke into my house, etc.
You are strong enough to make it on your own.
You are good enough to find someone else.
You are smart enough to find your way out of this.
You are a wonderful person who deserves to be free of abuse.