Includes essay, "Why She Stays?" by Carin Makuz, matildamagtree.com
Domestic violence is a challenging and disturbing subject. October is celebrated as Domestic Violence Awareness Month, evolving from the first Day of Unity in 1981. The day grew to a week and then to a month in 1987. With the belief and understanding that only awareness can bring about change, advocates plan events and activities during the month designed to encourage conversation and probe public consciousness about domestic violence. In Marquette and Alger counties, the Women’s Center leads in these efforts.
This year, recent highly publicized nationwide events have placed the focus squarely on the unfortunate reality of domestic violence, its existence and prevalence. For example, most are unaware (according to FBI statistics) between 2001 and 2012, 11,766 women were killed by their husbands or boyfriends in the United States. To put that in perspective, it is more than all Americans killed in terrorist attacks in the U.S., the U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan, and all U.S. troops killed in Iraq during the same time, combined.
Because the question others often ask is “Why did she stay?” which turns the attention and blame on the victim, one of our challenges is the need for a mind sift to offender accountability. Might that be stimulated by the current nationwide debate? Can education and conversation help society change focus and stop blaming victims (who really are survivors, rather than victims) and realize the problem lies with perpetrators? Emphasis should be on survivor safety and support, whether women, children, men or pets (survivors often are reluctant to leave for fear their beloved pets will be killed or harmed).
While the Upper Peninsula isn’t isolated from the problem, fortunately, the Women’s Center and its shelter, Harbor House provide emergency and crisis intervention services in Marquette and Alger counties. This year, 5,900 crisis calls were answered, 4,735 shelter nights provided and 1,915 survivors served. The center is crucial to providing safe shelter and information for those living in violent situations. Harbor House is the only shelter for women and their children in Marquette and Alger counties.
“We’re so passionate about the work we do. At the core of every service we provide is safety for survivors and their children. Our services are all about helping survivors develop safety plans and we’re always advocating for offender accountability,” said Phyllis Loonsfoot, Women’s Center and Harbor House director. “Survivors need to know they have options, rights and support services available to them.
“One of the most commonly asked questions for staff members at the Women’s Center and Harbor House is ‘Why do they stay?’ The answer to that question is difficult and complicated. Survivors stay for a variety of reasons,” Loonsfoot said, “including the power and control the offender has over them, both emotional and financial.”
Carin Mukaz joined that conversation with a blog posted on her website, matildamagtree.com. Makaz is a published writer of short fiction. Her work has been included in journals and magazines in Canada and the U.K. She is a contributor to CBC and BBC. About the blog post, she said, “My intention was to make a contribution to the current conversation in the hopes of broadening it, extending it, even slightly.”
Our gratitude goes to Makuz, who has given permission to Marquette Monthly to include her very thoughtful and thought-provoking essay in its entirety.
“Why she stays?” by Carin Makuz
“So why did she marry him, move in, have kids? Why??? When the feel of his fist was still fresh on her face.
It’s always the first question but it’s worse when there’s money involved, the implication being she stays for that, for the lifestyle. Right. The lifestyle…
And the answers… they’re all over social media right now, but they’re not new. The sad truth is they’ll still be valid long after we stop listening.
She stays because she’s afraid, isolated, shamed. Because it’s her home. Because she’s given away her power, been told she’s stupid and worthless one too many times. Because she’s been told her whole life she’s stupid and worthless. Because she believes she’s stupid and worthless. Because there are kids and pets and threats… to harm them or take them away.
Because there are threats. Always threats.
Because she is deflated, broken, and because he threatens suicide if she leaves. Always threats. Because to leave is failure; because she came from a broken home and doesn’t want her kids to come from the same. Because she will be seen as pathetic for having stayed so long so it’s better to stay even longer and not let anyone know. Because people blame the victim. Because people blame the victim… Because people blame.
She stays because she’s fought this fight ten thousand times and hasn’t got the strength it takes to fight back anymore much less start a new life, no matter how right and good and sensible she knows that would be.
She stays because she doesn’t even know she’s being abused. It started small. It was only emotional. He has a temper but he loves me, the kids, he always says he’s sorry. Because this time is the last time. Because this black eye is the last black eye, he said so. He promised. He cried, he begged. He seemed so small… he needs her, he said. And she needs to be needed. What else does she have?
She stays because he is her family. Because of For Better or Worse. Because even though she looks fine and manages to function, she is so messed up emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically, she can’t even see straight. She stays because it’s easier at this stage to hope… so she hopes he will be in a good mood today and when he isn’t… it’s too late again.
She stays because she doesn’t want to be seen as weak, or overly dramatic. No bones broken, just a little scuffle. He’s got a temper. I mentioned that, right, the temper?
She stays because the most dangerous thing she can do is leave. It’s bad enough under normal circumstances but if the guy has money, that danger is multiplied. He can have her watched, followed, hurt or worse. And he almost always does.
And where is she supposed to go? Family? Friends? He’ll find her. A hotel isn’t safe. So you tell me… where does she go?? In this weakened state. Where?
That she leaves at all is extraordinary. It takes monumental courage.
And the women that manage it should be applauded and protected. They aren’t just ‘leaving’, they’re fighting for their lives. I see them at the women’s shelter where I volunteer. They land on the doorstep not because it’s an easy fix but because, for a short time at least, they’ll be safe. The windows are bullet proof; there are cameras at the door, you have to be buzzed in. The police are on speed dial.
Sadly there are never enough beds, never enough shelters. The problem of abuse is only getting worse. Sometimes women are sent out of town, wherever a place can be found. Imagine leaving your home with nothing, your abuser’s voice still ringing in your head, screaming that if you leave he’ll kill you or someone or something you love, and it will be your fault he says. If you leave, he won’t be accountable for what he does. It will be your fault.
The shelters are a place to breathe and think and get some help with what to do next. They’re a place that reminds women they aren’t alone, that their problem isn’t unique to them.
Why does she stay?
Because until she finds the strength to do anything else, it’s all she can do.
And even if she finally musters the courage to leave, she may very well go back at some point. For all the same reasons.
She wants things to be better. She really does. That’s part of the problem.
Factor in a situation where names and faces, celebrity and corporations and big, big money are involved, and you can be sure there are those that will do their best to convince her staying is to her advantage, in order that those others save face. And money.
Her face for theirs.
Why does she stay?
Here’s a better question: why does he stay? If he hates her so much that he has to destroy her, why in God’s name does HE stay?”
Originally published at matildamagtree.com/2014/09/11/why-she-stays/