Why don’t women in abusive relationships and marriages just leave? Why is it so hard for a woman to pack her things and leave a man who causes her so much torment? A man who batters her senseless? Verbally insults her? A man who has no respect for her? Why does she stay?
These are some of the questions that many of us ask when we learn about a friend, relative or colleague in an abusive relationship. I am currently running a series of articles of women sharing –in their own words –their own domestic violence experiences which offer insights and answers to some of these questions that we ask. I started off by sharing Valerie’s experience, who talks about how she endured years of abuse by a husband who would become sexually aroused after beating her up. Read that story here: “Why an Educated, Intelligent Woman Like me Stayed in an Abusive Marriage”
Today, I share the story of Linah, who similarly endured years of abuse by a man she loved.
“When I met my ex, he seemed like a nice and polite man, until I moved in with him a few months later. That was when I began to see the other side of him. I vividly remember the first day he got violent with me. We were in the house and disagreed on something. Next thing I knew, he was all over me, beating me up. In one sentence, he said I had made him angry and in the next sentence, he said he loved me. Then he apologized, saying how sorry he was for beating me.
After that first episode, the beatings became frequent. He would beat me for any reason that entered his head. I particularly remember whenever we had guests at our house, I would always start crying when it was time for them to leave. This is because I knew what would follow next. Just as soon as they were gone, he would start asking me why I had put on ‘that dress’, ‘that blouse’ or ‘that trouser’, while accusing me of flirting with the guests. Then the kicks and blows would come fast, followed by the words: ‘I love you’, ‘I’m jealous’, and ‘You make me angry, that is why I do this’.”
The interesting thing is that everyone who met him thought he was such a gentleman! There was no way you would ever pick him out as an abuser. He was always smiling, calm, gentle and helpful, leaving himself impressionable on anyone who met him.
At that time, I was working two jobs, one of which required me to be on duty at night. He would come to my workplace and park his car in a corner and spy on me –checking if anyone would come see me there. At times he would call me to go outside just so that I could tell him goodnight. He said he did all that because he loved me. Sometimes I concluded it was my fault when he said I made him angry because I really thought his love for me was genuine.
By the way, he would also take my paycheck at the end of the month and monitor my bank account, keeping track of all the transactions I made. My boss knew what was happening. Sometimes when I would walk into the office, she would tell me she was aware that I was being abused, but that she couldn’t do anything until I myself reached out for help. But I denied everything. I couldn’t admit to anyone that I was a victim of domestic violence. It was too embarrassing.
But it wasn’t only my boss who suspected it. Some friends tried to talk to me out of that relationship, but I was already deeply traumatized by years of verbal, physical, emotional, financial and sexual violence. I endured the abuse for three agonizing years because I had gradually come to believe that I was not good enough and the more I got in deep, the harder it became to think otherwise.
I got my freedom one night when we went out to a club. When a long-time friend said hello to me, my boyfriend got so worked up! He pulled me outside and began beating me. He even tried to choke me! It was so bad that fellow revelers called the police -who arrived just in time to catch him in the act. By that time my face was bruised, bleeding and swollen.
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