Day 26: Why domestic violence victims don’t leave.

Why do women stay in an abusive relationship?

Leslie Morgan Steiner is a wife and mother of three who was educated at Harvard and has worked for Fortune 500 companies for most of her career.  Not your typical domestic abuse victim? Here she outlines the abuse she suffered at the hands of her first husband and describes how she found herself married to a man who frequently put a loaded gun to her head.

Leslie was 22 and working in her dream job in New York when she met Conor, a Wall Street banker. He was sweet, funny and smart. He also created the illusion that she was the dominant party in the relationship; idolising her, wanting to know everything she was doing and believing in her. This is stage 1 of the cycle; Gaining the victim’s trust.

Step 2 is to isolate the victim. As Leslie said, he came home one Friday and announced he’d given up his job as ‘she was enough for him.’ He wanted to move to the country, away from the history of his abusive family and start their life. Leslie wasn’t keen to leave her job, but she thought this was what soulmates did, so they moved to New England.

Step 3 is where the abuser introduces the threat of violence. Shortly after they moved to New England, Conor bought three guns, ‘for protection’. He first physically attacked her five days before the wedding, blaming it on the wedding stress. He abused her twice on their honeymoon and then once or twice weekly for two years.

She wasn’t alone. In the U.S., one third of women experience domestic violence or stalking. 15 million are abused daily. Why did she stay? Leslie’s answer is she didn’t know he was abusing her. Instead, she thought of herself as a strong woman in love with a deeply troubled man.

The most painful reason why women don’t stay is Step 4. Step 4 of the cycle is murder. 70% of domestic violence related murders happen when the woman has left. There are other severe repercussions; loss of financial support, stalking, loss of children.

After suffering a final sadistic beating Leslie left her husband. She told everybody; the police, family, friends, strangers. She wrote a book called ‘Crazy Love’ and has heard hundreds of abuse stories since.

The first person I mentioned this talk to, midway through a normal Saturday morning, told me she was abused by her first husband. A friend recently made a brave short film to highlight the problem. I assume I don’t know anybody who’s been affected, yet had I not mentioned this talk, I would never have had the conversation I had today. I’m sure there are many more such things that need to be said in the world; so get talking!

A short film by the talented Vanessa Dang highlighting this disturbing topic