I won’t speak for all women.
But I can speak from my personal experience. From the ages of twenty-two to twenty-five years old, I was in an abusive relationship. This is the average age range for females to experience intimate partner violence.
Think of who you were at this age. I was strong-willed, opinionated, and a know-it-all. I was also susceptible to other people’s views and ideas, learning self-confidence, and figuring out my life.
Here’s what happened: I fell in love with a hippy man twenty-two years older than me. His life in Hawaii seemed idyllic. He was charming and generous and attentive and fun. There were subtle signs along the way, that some would call red flags. I thought he was either having a bad day or it was a one-off situation.
People have bad days. People make regrettable mistakes. People act foolish or careless sometimes. Red flags are harder to notice when there are subtle moments that make you feel uncomfortable.
But once I became pregnant with my daughter, the subtleties changed. His control of me became more pronounced. I chalked it up to him being protective. Of me. Of the baby. After I gave birth to my daughter, that’s when it was apparent that he was the boss. That he would make all of the decisions for our life. And if I didn’t like it, I could leave.
But my baby would stay with him.
That was the ultimate control trip. He used the love I had for my daughter against me. This is a very common tactic of abusers.
When I could see what was happening, I still had doubts that what I saw was real. Because that’s what psychological abuse does to your brain. You doubt.
Then came the shame and embarrassment. I was an intelligent person. How could I have let this happen? I’d told my friends and family that my life was bliss, that my relationship was golden, and that I was happy. And sometimes that was true. I worried that my friends and family would think I was a liar.
There were financial issues to deal with. He’d put all of my money in his bank account. I would be losing my home. How would I even get out of there? Where would we live? How would I survive as a single parent?
Then there was the societal expectations. When you commit to a relationship, and especially when you have a baby, you must work hard on fixing the problems in your relationship. You must never break up your family. It is bad for the child.
I felt like an utter loser. A failure as a parent. That I was the cause of this problem, even though somewhere else in my brain, I knew that I wasn’t.
That is why I stayed. I stayed until I realized that keeping our family together would have a greater negative affect on my child and myself, than leaving would.
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