“Why did you stay?”
It can be difficult for those who have never experienced domestic abuse to understand why a person doesn’t just cut and run, but there are myriad facets to manipulative, controlling relationships.
And the misunderstanding a question such as the above reveals often contributes to feelings of shame in many survivors, many of whom may feel forced to stay quiet about their experiences for years after the event.
In an effort to combat this, one woman has provided an insight into her own abusive relationship in the hopes of encouraging understanding around the issue – and to tell other survivors they have no need to feel ashamed.
Sharing screenshots of text message conversations with her (now ex-) husband, an Imgur user known only as ‘KrissyKross’ explains how her husband appeared to be a “kind, loving man” until she lost a significant amount of weight: “Suddenly I was cheating, I lost weight to get men, I couldn't buy clothes that fit me after the 80 pounds lost because it showed off my body.”
The messages reveal an extremely jealous partner exhibiting obsessive behaviour and attempting to control her every move; one shot is just a string of messages received while she was at work with no access to her phone.
One exchange reveals that he would ask her to phone him at midnight every night she was staying at her mother’s house, while in another, he asks her to prove that’s where she is with a picture.
She explains the below conversation took place after a co-worker helped her with her car: “I knew when he clocked off because it was when I was clocking on. Fella helped me change my tire one time and I was suddenly banging him (apparently).”
Yet another describes how he would “set traps” for her so he could tell she hadn’t been in her own bed (after sleeping at a female friend’s house) while in another disturbing exchange, he asks her about a bruise he’d left on her arm and whether her mother had seen it.
She explains underneath the shot: “I visit my mother [once] every couple years. I had a huge bruise on my arm from where my husband had bit me, leaving visible teeth marks. The bruise was so bad it hung around for almost a month. Long enough for a visit to my mothers and to still be photographed by NCIS [Naval Criminal Investigative Service] when I finally turned him several weeks later.”
She later details other assaults, including his reaction to her wanting to go out with female friends for her 23rd birthday, culminating in a violent attack, and says that when she tried to talk to his parents about the issue, “they told me it was normal in a young marriage and I should reassure him.”
As well as detailing the horrific violence she suffered at his hands, her post also highlights that domestic abuse is also often emotional; how the drip-drip effect of day-to-day emotional manipulation – jealousy, obsessiveness, constant contact, limiting interaction with friends – can completely skew someone’s perception of what’s acceptable, loving behaviour and what isn’t.
KrissyKross told huffingtonpost.com that she was prompted to share the texts because it was the third anniversary of her ex-husband’s sentencing, and she wanted to help people understand why she and many other survivors find it hard to leave abusive relationships.
“Even on my post, a small handful of people were asking, ‘Well, why would you stay then?’
“I made very little money, I was financially dependent and I just really wanted my marriage to work. I didn’t want to give up on it. But it’s hard for people on the outside to really understand that, I suppose.”
She managed to leave her husband three years ago and, in the post, says she feels like she’s in a good place now.
“I'm actually doing great. I have my own place, a decent job, my pets are doing very well,” she writes. “This isn't really a sob story; I'm really proud of what I've done on my own. I just wanted to share for possibly some closure since I never really got that. Strangers on the internet are better than keeping it inside for so long […] I save these text messages to remind myself how far I've come, not to cry over.”
Speaking to huffingtonpost.com, she added that as she had never had therapy and had not spoken much to her family about it after the fact, she would urge anyone in a similar position to find a sympathetic ear.
“I think that women (and men) who manage to escape these situations should find someone they can talk to. Don’t be ashamed.”
Women’s Aid defines domestic abuse as an incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening, degrading and violent behaviour, including sexual violence, in the majority of cases by a partner or ex-partner, but also by a family member or carer.
Domestic abuse can include, but is not limited to, the following:
- Coercive control (a pattern of intimidation, degradation, isolation and control with the use or threat of physical or sexual violence)
- Psychological and/or emotional abuse
- Physical abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Financial abuse
- Online or digital abuse
The Freephone 24 Hour National Domestic Violence Helpline, run in sponsored_longform between Women's Aid and Refuge, is a national service for women experiencing domestic violence, their family, friends, colleagues and others calling on their behalf. Call 0808 2000 247 or visit nationaldomesticviolencehelpline.org.uk.
Images: imgur.com / krissykross