By: Christine Varichak
The word ‘abuse’ was not in my vocabulary for the first five years of my marriage. To clear some air about what happens WHEN women stay in abusive marriages we must first quickly examine WHY women stay in abusive marriages.
1) Nowhere to turn. In most, if not all cases of emotional and physical abuse (including rape), women report they had no support system to get out of the relationship and stay out.
2) They feel trapped financially. As was my case, the home my husband and I shared was (according to Illinois laws) “premarital property”…I was married and shared a home with my husband and two children for seven years, and had NO rights to my own home…literally leaving me and my kids to the street the day I chose to leave with whatever was left in our joint checking account (assuming he didn’t withdraw every last dime online the second I left). With no job, prospects, or college education, most moms have the overwhelming responsibility to care for the kids. And sharing a home with her abuser is never an option, as the abuse will certainly get worse should she draw the line.
3) Guilt & shame. When women are in any type of abusive relationship, there’s NEVER just bruises. Don’t believe that lie. Behind the disguise of makeup and a fake smile, are wounds of emotional guilt and shame. When men beat their wives they never just walk up to them and punch them in the face. They pick and choose women with low self-esteem, body insecurities, and the ideal is a woman with no standard for what she will put up with in a relationship, let alone expectations from her man. The added guilt of sex as the abuse has ensued adds to the stew of guilt. So knowing she has already stayed too long…given her body and soul to this “man” for years or even decades, the guilt has repeatedly drilled her with the age old accusation: “If it was really so bad, you should’ve left already.” Now this woman is being accused by her own mind, not just her partner.
4) Her trust is already seared. I remember not even trusting a single person with my secret because my family knew, his family knew, and they didn’t help. At all. So how was I supposed to trust anyone else? I even called the police one time that my husband trapped me and my son in the house, and they said if he didn’t hit me, they couldn’t arrest him. Press charges, nada. “Just leave” the one officer suggested. I felt faint. Where would I go? How would we survive? Which leads to my next reason:
5) Isolation. The same reason most suisides occur, is that humans; when we feel we’ve exhausted every option, isolate. We stop talking (no one will listen), we stop seeking solutions (there seems no end in sight), and we decide we are the only person who won’t reject us. Which is also a lie, because that shame and guilt from staying in the abusive relationship festers, and as the abuse continues. We are alone with the abuser, who only confirms our guilt and shame, that we are not worthy.
Part 2 Will examine what happens “when a woman stays” and how her family will be affected.