“Why did you stay?” An insight into abuse
“Why did you stay?” An insight into abuse
Domestic violence hits the papers once again with a particular ABC News report on Leesa Jacobs stating that she had been dating her partner for 18 months when he poured petrol over her chest and used his lighter to set her alight.
This is one horrific case in just under half a million Australian women who in a one-year period will report experiencing physical or sexual violence or sexual assault. This statistic is horrifying, and yet we are almost numb to the fact. The story of Leesa Jacobs is one, like most media stories, that will soon be forgotten by the public, but not of course by Leesa and her children.
We all know that reported cases of abuse are really just the tip of the iceberg, because many women live with the daily experience of abuse (as do men) and stay silent. What a true horror story it would be if every man and woman reported the abuse that they have experienced from their partners or spouse… and I am not talking just about physical abuse, but psychological as well.
It is well known that the media won’t write about these cases until there is something particularly shocking about a domestic violence incident to report. It shows us that there is a level of abuse that we have become so familiar with that it does not stir nor grab our attention.
Why is this so? Does it show that we have been predisposed to so much violence that it no longer makes us uncomfortable? Have we given up on finding a resolution? Or do we just not want to know?
The case of Leesa Jacobs inspired me to look further into Domestic Violence to try to understand ‘why women stay’ – a question I have heard many ask. It was this open and honest interview with Meg (name changed) from the Northern Rivers area that highlighted the intricate web that is abuse.
"Meg, can you talk a little about the abuse you’ve experienced in your life?"
"I grew up with violence in the home as a young girl, was physically and sexually assaulted, and raped as a teenager. So I know abuse well.
"My marriage was not necessarily abusive physically, but the psychological abuse was almost more sinister than any of the physical acts of violence. That’s because psychological abuse messed with my mind and kept me in a state of confusion and doubt. It was difficult to make decisions because I cleverly overrode whatever I was feeling, often with self-blame, and in that I really didn’t deal with anything.
"The subtle and daily abuse from another’s words and behaviour felt like it unravelled me from the inside, and yet there were no bruises, no dramatic stories to tell, nothing to prove that I was being abused. I just looked oversensitive and unstable. This is what makes psychological abuse so sinister. This is the story that must be told, but it isn’t dramatic enough to rouse people out of their comfortable lives or for the authorities to consider with any seriousness … particularly when compared to the physical acts of violence that are happening worldwide.
"Most of the media stories now relating to domestic violence are quite extreme, with many women either killed or harmed in a way that is grotesque. There are too many stories of domestic violence to report, so the media goes for the ones that have a shock element. Psychological abuse just doesn’t cut it – particularly when you have the lovely home, the gorgeous children, a nice car to drive, and a partner who can switch on the charm in a moment. Even I, in the intensity of the abuse, remember saying “other people are abused so much more than me, why can’t I just tolerate this?
"The thing about abuse is that whilst others may have been abusive, it is the abuse we do to ourselves – with the things we tell ourselves and the personal put-downs – that keeps the abuse going."
"I became my own vicious abuser by aligning to an energy that is abusive and engaging with these thoughts. When I started to realise that the self-critiquing, the words that I would say to myself, were not true at all, it became much easier to choose a more self-loving way. This was the beginning of the most significant change because I pulled out of my investment in those thoughts, and anything not self-loving really grabbed my attention."
"How did childhood abuse affect your relationships as an adult?"
"Although never a conscious choice, I often ended up in relationships where there was a lot of control, which was just the same as my childhood.
"There was always that lovely feeling in my relationships in the beginning, when we were both putting our best selves forward, but as we became comfortable with each other the belittling would start; small comments that eroded my confidence and sense of worth. The problem was that I began to take on and believe the words that were said instead of holding true to me, and in this I became so very confused and lost.
"Even though in most cases it was me who would eventually end the relationship, I was always devastated because I tried so hard to please. I so desperately wanted to be in a loving relationship, but I just couldn’t make it happen. Something was amiss.
"My marriage started out like this too, and I was so charmed by all of the gifts and dinners. When we married and moved in together things really changed and the psychological abuse slowly grew in intensity. I just couldn’t do anything ‘right’; in the way I looked, dressed, cooked, walked, worked, budgeted, kept house, my family and friends … all was on the table for criticism and I was walking on eggshells.
"My desperation for the marriage to work placed me in a position where I felt I had to tolerate the abusive behaviour, as I didn’t want to look like a failure by walking away. In this I trapped myself, because at any time I could have put an end to the abuse by leaving.
"Instead of bringing love to myself, I tried to be what my husband wanted me to be, and eventually this took its toll with the deterioration of my physical and mental health."
"It was only when the abuse peaked and the children ran to me crying “Mummy Mummy” I realised that it was time to leave, because it wasn’t just about me anymore."
"The big question – why did you stay?"
"Yes, this is the question that most people ask because it is a bit perplexing why women stay in these abusive relationships.
"It is difficult in an abusive relationship, with all the mental abuse, to get an understanding of what is true and to read clearly what is going on, and typically I would fall for the words despite feeling something else – an energy that hurt. I would override the hurt with sympathy, hope, need or excuses or go straight to self-blame.
"We feel everything that hurts, but sometimes it’s too confronting to acknowledge and so we try to dismiss and bury it instead of stopping in our tracks and calling it for what it is. The trouble is when we don’t call that which does not feel loving or true, we allow it in – it’s like we accept it as OK. I would always prefer to bury the issues rather than deal with the arguments, anger and berating, but this only put off the inevitable.
"The reason that I didn’t leave the marriage though was because I had ended a number of previous relationships, and I felt embarrassed about this."
"So when my marriage looked like it was falling into disarray, I was afraid everyone would judge me as being hopeless. I went to counselling to try to fix myself and to learn what I needed to be doing in a desperate attempt to fix the marriage and make it better. Anything so not to have to leave.
"Quite often after a bad patch there would be a glimmer of hope that things were improving and so I stayed, hoping that this was a sign that we would become more loving. The moments of gentleness that I craved from my husband never lasted long as the tension and frustration from his inner world built to such a point where we would fight, after which there would be the typical honeymoon moment fuelled with regret about the abusive episode. And here the cycle would begin once again.
"It was hard to accept that there was no love in my marriage, as I deeply wanted to be loved by my husband. What I came to realise though, is that the love I was seeking needed to come from within me."
"My husband could never have expressed the love that I was longing for him to show me, because he was choosing not to give it to himself. This was no different to me, so we just clashed with our disregard and our self-loathing.
"When I left the marriage I was judged by some people as I once feared, who told me outright that I didn’t try very hard. There were comments also that it was terrible for the children to now live in a broken home. I knew without doubt that separating from my husband was the most loving thing I could do because my children and I deserved a home where there was love, harmony and safety. When I eventually made the decision, I never doubted it for a minute, no matter what comment was made."
"When you look in the mirror how do you feel about yourself?"
"When I look in the mirror I see a gorgeous woman: I have squishy bits, a few lines on my face from aging and odd characteristics such as one breast bigger than the other, but these oddities are part of me. I have a perfect body, because it’s perfectly me. And what’s more THIS body houses my Soul, so I am going to care for and nurture this body like a precious gem.
"It wasn’t always like this. Back in those days I found it really difficult to look in the mirror because of the horrendous thoughts I would have about not being worthy or beautiful. This was reflected in how I dressed and the lack of regard I had for myself. I would focus on one part of my body and criticize myself for not being attractive. My own words hurt more than I realised and they came from an emptiness of love for myself.
"Life was such a mess, although it looked OK on the outside. I knew it wasn’t a life of Love but I didn’t know how to get out of the cycle. Part of me said that this was just the way life was to be but there was another part of me, the wise part, that knew deep down that I had settled for less than what I knew to be true, even if I hadn’t lived it yet.
"It’s so hard to imagine now that that person was me."
"As I talk to you today Meg, you seem so strong and steady, such a contrast to the way you describe yourself in your past. Can you talk about that?"
"I have come to know that if a woman does not feel worthy of love, then she won’t seek it. Instead she will settle for a splash of attention or try to be satisfied with a pleasant comment once in a while, in amongst all the offloading and disregarding behaviour.
"When my marriage ended I was in such self-abuse and quite suicidal. I hadn’t taken drugs or consumed alcohol for years, but the self-criticism was extreme and I was really scared to live in the world and be around people because I had lost trust in them. I associated ‘people’ with ‘cruelty’ and this was one of the hardest things to heal."
"I didn’t make the changes to be where I am today alone. When you get as messy as I was at the end of my marriage, you need other people to help you reconnect to yourself and to support you to make different choices which are healthier than those of the past. Sometimes you need another to challenge your false beliefs because they are the big drivers in the abusive relationship game.
"The amazing support I found came from Serge Benhayon, Universal Medicine and the many associated Esoteric Practitioners. I felt like I had waited my whole life to come to the Teachings of the Ageless Wisdom, and I instantly resonated with the work. Every part of my body ignited and became alive. And the healing sessions continually brought me back to feel my true self. In these sessions I was able to feel the true essence of Love, so that when I returned to live in the world, I could feel clearly all that was not of this quality.
"I started with self-care and indeed struggled with this in the early period because of the momentum of disregard I had chosen for so long. Each day I allowed myself to become more aware of the unloving things I would do and say to myself, and acknowledged the abrasiveness in that. From here I could then make the choice to nurture and bring love to myself.
"When I had developed a solid foundation of love for me, it was easy then to trust people again and recommit to life in a loving way. I returned to full-time work, and my relationships started to become richer.
"I have such beautiful relationships nowadays and these have a quality and depth that I didn’t have before. I am not hiding from the world, I’m out living in the world and connecting with people all of the time.
"Sometimes when an issue comes up in a relationship, I explore what it is offering and I don’t hide from discussing it. On the odd occasion when I am blamed or accused or abused by another, I feel what is really going on and this means that I don’t just go straight to my old self-abusive patterns. It might still hurt, but it only hurts if I don’t read what is really going on."
"If you could give advice to other women, what would you say?"
"Love and care for yourself deeply. It may sound like a cliché, and we give lip service to it, but loving yourself and allowing yourself to go deeper with being vulnerable, fragile, delicate, tender and gentle in how you are with you, allows you to feel your essence, and then there comes a time when there is no way you can tolerate abusive behaviour.
"We are not here on earth to stay under the control of another nor confuse Love with Abuse, we are here to make loving choices and evolve to be the amazing and powerful women that we really are."
"Would you have another relationship?"
"I purposely made a choice to stay single for many years after the marriage so that I could get to know me. As a result I have come to really appreciate myself, and what I bring to the world. I know how lovely I am; I am fun and playful, quirky, loving, engaging, intelligent and sweet.
"Getting to this point was crucial, and I am open to start dating again. Being open to a new relationship now feels like a natural step forward.
"I’ve been on a couple of dates, but whether it is a friendship or boyfriend, I won’t sell out on myself like I did in the past. Now that I have found me again, I’m not giving that up for anything – and no man or woman should. We have to ask more from each other, and love another enough to let them make the steps to evolve in their own time. If they can’t, well maybe we let them go rather than stay and hold ourselves back, waiting on the relationship to change.
"Letting go can be a loving step for both involved, and it doesn’t have to be revengeful or hurtful. I got stuck in a false belief that you have to make relationships last forever and in that I would settle for less than ordinary.
"I find that when I meet men now, despite all that has happened in my life, I still feel the loveliness of their essence as I have always done. Men are so very beautiful when they allow their natural tenderness, but we have to look at the whole picture. Just seeing the loveliness and ignoring abusive behaviour does not help anyone.
"Men, just like women, are gorgeous when in their essence, but irresponsible and sometimes cruel when not.
"Just because I’ve been in abusive relationships doesn’t mean a life of condemning men, for in my own lovelessness I have abused as well … but it is about remembering that as human beings we are not abusive in our true nature."
Published with the permission of Meg (name changed).