Last week, domestic violence was a hot topic among celebs like singer Justine Skye on The Breakfast Club, Robin Givens on Wendy, and Jada Pinkett-Smith and her mother Adrienne Banfield-Jones on the latest episode of Red Table Talk. Domestic violence, both physical and emotional, is an experience that few will be able to fully empathize with until they find themselves in similar situations. In the episode, after her mother gave her own account of abuse, Jada admitted:
"I can only imagine what it is like to love somebody fiercely and then have them punch you and have them hit you. I haven't experienced it but, just me.. I can feel you."
Victims of such abuse are often written off as irresponsible, weak, or stupid. Justine, Robin, and Adrienne 's experiences prove that domestic violence takes place in the lives of women who are smart, beautiful, full of potential, and often have a support system begging them to get themselves out of harm's way.
Being on the receiving end of domestic abuse is often a pattern passed down from mother to daughter. Most of the perpetrators of such abuse are not complete monsters, they are sometimes charming with redeemable qualities and have a painful origin story full of violence and abuse themselves. Adrienne offered her response to the age-old question asked to victims of domestic violence: Why did you/do you stay?
"I think women stay because they think that they're in love. That's what it was for me. I thought that it was love. But I also think that women are afraid, and for whatever reason, they feel like they can't make it on their own without the person, not having any place to go. It's scary, and you just don't think that you can do better."
Not until you find yourself crying for the man you love to stop hitting you or to let go of you will you fully understand that most women stay because they believe that his violence is an illness that their love and sacrifice can heal. Often, these violent outbursts are tolerated with the pretense that things will go back to happier times if only the victim can manage not to make the abuser angry again, having women take the responsibility of an issue that was a lifetime in the making. Even in this day and age, possessiveness, jealousy, and controlling behaviors are still being regarded as ways that a man shows his love and devotion. Adrienne explained:
"I was young, but I don't know where I got the concept in my head that to hit you was a sign of love, so if he is hitting you, that means he loves you because if he didn't love you he wouldn't bother. So that means he loves you."
The longer that women stay in these volatile situations, their self-value diminishes, then the abuse is normalized. In those times, though the decision to leave is solely the victim's to make, the support of their loved ones count the most. These types of relationships are very isolating and the more victims think that they have nowhere else to turn, the less likely they are to escape.
Recently, singer Justine Skye recounted her experience of an abusive relationship with an unnamed entertainer, and the challenges that she faced in leaving:
"There is a difference between really loving someone and caring about them and just being controlling, and I wasn't able to tell the difference. Or I just didn't want to believe it and it got out of hand because I just didn't want to believe this person that claimed that he loved me so much could hurt me...seeing the reaction from a lot of people in my life that I thought that was my friends, because of who it was, they decided to just turn the blind eye and it just really opened my eyes."
Being in a relationship with a person that you love who also causes you harm can be one of the most confusing and shame-inducing situations in your life, but with the right support, it does not have to be.
Your abuser is not some lunatic who grabbed you off the street and started to attack you, he is often your lover, your husband or the father of your children with some very great qualities. With that being said, your life is worth much more than how well you can hide your scars and pretend that all is okay, and each time you take him back, you are putting your life in danger.
You have everything that you need inside of you to survive and thrive in this life because you are whole as an individual. It is not your job to risk your life in order to mend his brokenness, let him heal that on his own.
You will find success stories few and far between of women who were able to change the dynamic of their abusive relationships. There are resources out there for you to help you make the changes necessary in your life, whenever you have decided that you have had enough. Choose to love yourself more than you love him.
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