I’ve always been feisty with people who are abusing/bullying my best friends. In middle school, I stood up against a kid who was teasing my friend. In college, I stood up for my friend Sharon as a girl on a local BBS started ripping on her.
Several years ago, my loyalty flared up again as I witnessed my best friend being abused by his wife. So I began running a webpage about abuse and advocating online to spread awareness about abuse, including the fact that men do get abused by wives, not just the other way around.
(I know this to be true because my ex-friend Richard is an abused spouse, as is my once-friend Chris; both claim to suffer/have suffered from verbal, physical and emotional violence from their wives.)
The question “Why didn’t you leave?” often offends victims of domestic abuse. It seems to blame the victim, rather than the perpetrator. It presumes that the victim was more wrong for staying than the perpetrator was for entrapping and hurting her.
Often the question is asked out of bewilderment; the questioner is not familiar with the dynamics of abuse and simply cannot understand why any person would remain in an abusive relationship.
At times this bewilderment comes across to the victim as exasperation (and therefore as judgement) — in which case the victim feels that the questioner has no genuine desire to understand.
If you have ever felt like asking this question, or if you have even been asked it, here are some answers to “Why didn’t you leave?” Of course, not all these reasons will apply to every victim, but many victims will identify with a large number of them. —Why Didnt You Leave?
A movie based on a true-life story of a woman abusing her husband:
Men Don’t Tell
On March 14, 1993, CBS aired “Men Don’t Tell”, a TV movie about domestic violence starring Peter Strauss and Judith Light. The twist: Strauss’s character, construction executive Ed MacAffrey, was abused by his wife Laura, played by Light.
Based on a true story, it dramatizes the story of a loving husband, who is terrorized by the violent behavior of his wife. He had long endured the physical and emotional abuse heaped upon him by his neurotic wife.
Cheryl Bozarth, executive director of the Domestic Abuse Women’s Network, said there are numerous reasons why domestic-violence victims won’t leave their abusers. Controlling behavior and abuse can creep into a relationship and victims often have economic issues that may make it difficult or impossible to leave, she said.
Additionally, leaving may not solve the problem, she said.
“It’s not always the best answer,” Bozarth said. “The fatality review [written by the Washington State Coalition on Domestic Violence] indicates that as soon as someone leaves, that is often when they are killed.”
Bozrath said victims ideally need access to resources, knowledge about their options and a good safety plan before they attempt to leave their abuser. —Wife tormented for 8 years before calling 911, prosecutors say (Geoffrie C. Glass)
This post on Shrink4Men–while I don’t agree with everything in it–is a good example of how dangerous it is for a man to use violence to stop an abusive wife. Not only does he risk hurting or even killing her, but it becomes a tangible piece of evidence which the wife can now use against him–whether in the relationship, or in court.
No, a man being abused cannot risk abusing back, not even to grab her wrists and stop her, because he could leave bruises which she’ll show the cops. The risks of staying in the relationship are far too great, because at some point he could snap–or she could fight him so violently that he sees only violence as the way to protect himself.
And then it’s all over, as he finds himself in jail. And society and the courts do not look kindly on wife-beaters, not even when he was slapped or punched around by her first. The only way to prevent this is to get out before anything else happens. As is written in the post:
When a man reaches the point of hitting or the point of wanting to hit his partner, he basically has 2 choices:
- Go back into the trance and either end up in jail or pray for an early death.
- Wake the heck up and stay up.
If he chooses # 2, he then gets 3 more options:
- Exit the relationship, get some help and choose a partner who wants an equal and not a chihuahua/Ken doll she can dress up and boss around next time. (It may take some personal work to be able to sort the grain from the chaff).
- Stay in the relationship and stop being a doormat, which may very well cause his partner to exit the relationship.
- Acknowledge the reality of your partner and make your peace with being a doormat.
But leaving has its own dangers, from economic and familial (losing custody of children) to physical violence. Shrink4Men has a post here which describes and links to other posts describing how to safely leave an abuser, such as this.
Here, she describes WTF moments which we all have when dealing with people with Cluster B personality disorders (borderline, narcissistic, sociopathic, histrionic):
It is my belief that men and women in abusive relationships often have the WTF moment when they see behind an abusive partner’s mask for the first time. The WTF moment can be just as defining as an a-ha moment, in that it can be a critical point in an abusive relationship.
The WTF moment is when the non-abusive partner, typically after weeks, months and sometimes years of love bombing, hoop jumping, guilt, manipulation, obligation, fear, self-doubt and blaming and shaming tactics, has a moment of clarity. It’s when you finally realize, “Wait a minute. Something’s wrong here, but it isn’t me.”
Having the WTF moment should be enough to help most people realize they’re in a relationship with an abusive, unstable and possibly sociopathic individual and that you need to end it. However, if you have codependency issues, rescuer tendencies, and other attachment issues, the WTF moment is only the first step of your journey to freedom and emotional health.