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Why Does She Stay?

by Pam Butler

I could be your sister, your daughter, your mother.  I could be you.  I am a victim of domestic violence.

Battered women are the product of the crime of domestic violence—not the cause.  Until the only man I ever loved enough to marry beat me, I was a person, a woman.  As a result of his crimes against me, I am now a battered woman.  My behavior is simply reacting to what he did to me.  My being a battered woman is about him, not me.

I fell in love with a man who charmed and impressed and romanced me.  I loved him more than any man I had ever dated, and I married him.  However, I did not know who he was.  Batterers know that if they present their true selves no one would ever talk to them, so they don’t.  They act, they con, they deceive—we fall in love.  Then, when we start seeing who they really are, we don’t believe it.  We want to believe anything but the truth.  And the truth is that these men trick and woo us and then commit crimes of violence upon us.

We are confused and shocked by what we have seen and experienced.  They tell us they don’t know what happened, they lost control, they were drunk, we made them do it.  We want to believe anything other than that they meant to do this terrible thing to us.  It is not in our capacity to understand that their acts of violence are deliberate, but they are.  As long as we believe that we have the power to get the man with whom we fell in love back, as long as we believe that this is caused by something we can fix, as long as we believe anything but the truth, we will stay.

We know he does not have to be this way, he acted entirely different when we met and fell in love.  We know we can get him back.  I remember pleading with my new husband:  “You are not the man I married; you are his evil twin.  What have you done with him?” and later in anger, “How dare you show me how wonderful you can be and then not be that way.”

When we start to give up hope, the man we fell in love with comes back.  We are constantly off balance because he keeps changing from the man we fell in love with to monster boy.  When do we leave?  When things are wonderful and the man we fell in love with is loving us?  NO, life is too wonderful and everything is fixed and right with the world.  When we are battered?  No, we don’t have the strength or desire to live, much less fight. So, we give up.  We thought things were good and half the time things were bad; but now that I had left, things are just bad.  Every woman there said that they felt this way now or had before.

I was married for nine months.  I knew my ex-husband for nine months before that.  He was convicted of either felonies, two with great bodily injury enhancements. Two of these felonies are for threatening to kill me and worse if I ever told or if he ever spent a day in jail.  He was sentenced to 12 years in prison.  He will serve six years and eight months.  He gets out in six months.  I am terrified and have spent the past six years preparing for this.

Why does she stay?  Because if she leaves, the chances increase that he may kill her.  And if she wins in court, all she does is buy some time.  I left, I won.  Do you envy me?

Pam Butler is a domestic violence victim’s advocate in Santa Clara County, California.  This article was first published in the San Francisco Chronicle on September 26, 1997.

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