Imagine if you will a woman who was abused as a child. A woman whose sense of purpose and identity is nonexistent as an 18-year-old adolescent. A woman who is unwed, pregnant, and 70 miles away from home, living in an economy apartment with the man who promised her everything when she was 17. Imagine if you will a situation where she works three jobs to support his drinking because he said she was special. He was not the only one who told her that; her father used to tell her that when she was five, right before bed each night when he molested her. A woman whose mother was so insanely narcissistic that holding a conversation with her was impossible, unless it revolved around how she looked, what she bought for herself, or how her day was going. A woman whose friends encompassed both men and women who always wanted nothing but sex from her. Imagine a woman being beaten, raped, verbally abused, and emotionally battered every night for 5 years. A woman who tried to tell other people, but no one would listen to her. There is no support network, no friends who will help her unless she has sex with them, no parents to love her and tell her it is not her fault. She is alone, scared, pregnant, penniless, beaten, hurt, confused, and the world around her is making her indifferent to pain. She lives on eggshells every day of her life because the man who was supposed to love her is hurting her. After years, she finally and barely gets out with her life and the life of her child. Now imagine someone asking her, "Why did you stay?"

This scenario is not as uncommon as I would like to think. I have known many women who come from exact or extremely similar backgrounds. Unfortunately, the ignorant, tend to ask the woman why she stayed or, even worse, blame her for the continued abuse. Having to live with the violence is horrible, but the slap in the face by those who were supposed to love you and be there for you when they ask "Why did you stay?" is excruciating. I lived a very similar scenario in which I moved out of my house at 17 and moved in with the vilest, despicable, wretched, and evil person I have ever met in my life. This man was (and still is) an alcoholic whose mother enables him to the max. He would beat, cuss, yell, sexually abuse, lie, steal, and use drugs. This man constantly called me names, insulted my weight, the fact that I was "just a woman", insulted my intelligence, and once attempted to "sell" me to a friend of his at a party for a 12-pack of Miller High Life. Naturally, his friend did not get too far as he climbed on top of me while I was sleeping in my own bedroom.

Why did I stay? Simply put – I did not know I had any other place to go and I did not know how life should be. The first one is simple: not knowing that I had options, such as a shelter or a community to reach out to, was ignorance on my part and this can be fixed with current and future generations through awareness. However, the second one of not knowing how life should be comes from upbringing. Parents should teach their children that being beaten is wrong. Parents should let their children know how powerful, beautiful, courageous, and strong their children are. I was a rebellious child and instead of nurturing that rebellion, my parents fought me tooth and nail in order to get me to do what they wanted me to do. Power struggles between parents and teenagers are certainly not new, but how parents can handle those struggles will dictate how the child behaves or what the child will allow in their lives as adults. Choosing the battle is of extreme importance when parenting and will allow a child to naturally explore limits, find a truth inside, and to start on the long and winding path toward being a critical thinker.

There was an underlying reason, aside from not knowing where to go and not understanding life at that age, and that was fear. I was very afraid to leave the person I was with because he was extremely violent and would tell me he would kill me and my daughter if I ever did leave. This is bullying and there have been great strides in bullying awareness, but mainly in terms of adolescents in school. I feel that bullying as an adult needs more attention for people who are still in the horrible situation of living with someone who is abusive. This is also an important area for parents and how the parents need to look for signs of bullying on both levels: Is their child the one being bullied or the bully?

Raising a child without abuse and with the knowledge of how not to put up with abuse is very important, but what about the parents who have failed in raising a child not to be abusive to others? One such case is the person I was with wherein his mother enabled his actions through purchasing him anything he wanted (currently he lives in a house owned by her, drives a vehicle she purchased, and she pays his bills). This mother had also even purchased alcohol for her son who was an alcoholic! I reached out to her once because I had no one else to talk to about the situation. I called her after a particularly rough beating and asked her if she would talk to her son about not hitting women. Her response was, "Laura, you need to get your shit together! There is nothing wrong with [her son's name omitted]." She blamed me for being hit and was completely in denial about her son being an abusive alcoholic. She would see me with bruises and ignored it. Since then she has seen her son arrested for beating woman after woman, yet she still helps him (especially with bail money). His last girlfriend killed herself without any history of mental illness. I understand what she went through because suicide was a daily thought for me just living with his abuse.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence: "Domestic violence is the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another. It includes physical violence, sexual violence, psychological violence, and emotional abuse." Domestic violence needs to stop immediately. There should be harsher punishments for men who like to abuse their spouses and / or children. There needs to be a paradigm shift in the social stigma of domestic abuse. The stigma needs to be placed not on the women who are abused, but the men who are abusing women. Perhaps instead of asking what is wrong with a woman who stays, society needs to start asking: What the hell is wrong with a man who would abuse a woman?


Laura Helvey

Laura Helvey

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