That's how many times, on average, it takes a victim of intimate partner violence to leave the abuser. Seven.
Seven incidents of humiliation. Seven incidents of confusion. Seven incidents of thinking, I can't believe this happened to me. Seven incidents of self-blaming and self-loathing. Seven incidents of thinking, But maybe it'll get better if only I could love harder/be more supportive/be less demanding.
Some victims leave long before. Some leave long after.
All are scarred for many, many years following the experience.
I know this personally.
I know because not only have I studied the statistics, but also because I was a victim of domestic violence. And at the hands of Aiden's other parent. I've written about this before. More than once. I know because I stayed far longer than I would have ever imagined. I know because I left after way too many incidents.
The very last incident took place in my apartment. That's when he strangled me until I passed out... three times in one night. He was mad at me for getting mad at him for taking money from me without my permission. (In the real world, we call that stealing.)
The time before that took place in my bedroom. That's when he snatched my cellphone away from me while I was in the middle of a conversation and attempted to throw it. He was mad at me for not giving him the attention he wanted.
The time before that took place in my living room. That's when he strangled me until I passed out... twice in one night. He was mad at me for getting mad at him for arguing with two random guys during our date night at a bar. After I woke up, he took my keys and cellphone so that I wouldn't call anyone or try to leave my apartment. (In the real world, we call that holding someone hostage.)
The time before that took place by the foyer in my apartment. He dragged me across the floor. I still have the scar on my shoulder from the rug burn because of it.
The time before that took place in a hotel room while we were out of town celebrating my birthday. He threw me up against the wall and then body slammed me unto the bed. He was mad at me because I wouldn't give him
The time before that took place in the bedroom. He handcuffed me to Aiden's crib because he was jealous after I received a phone call from a male friend. (He used to be a security guard so the handcuffs were from his job. And yes, Aiden was in the crib at the time.)
Ten years later, I found myself in a similar situation. Only difference is that this time I was the victim. And this time I was the one staying.
Thing is, "she could easily leave" is such a heavy, loaded statement. It's not that easy to leave. It's not that easy to walk away. It's not that easy to break those strongholds. It's not that easy to break the chains, to break free, to face the truth.
Denial and oblivion... sometimes it really is bliss.
Truth is, I don't know why I stayed with my ex for so long. Maybe I got caught up whenever we had our honeymoon phases. (They pretty much happened after every violent episode and they confused the hell out of me. But they also gave me hope that things will get better.) Maybe I was afraid to embrace the "single mom" status. (Y'all know all the statistics, thoughts, and assumptions attached to that label.) Maybe I was in denial. (Denial and avoidance are my defense mechanisms of choice.) Maybe I was afraid of being alone. Maybe I believed that this time would be different. Maybe I thought that my love, my unconditional love, would be enough to motivate change in him.
There was no change.
After a while, I came to terms with the fact that some folks are just broken beyond repair and there's nothing you could do or say that would help to "fix" them or help them deal with their mess. And some folks just don't have the capacity to empathize or feel compassion towards others. Control and power, that's all abusers want. And those honeymoon phases or those "I'm a changed person" speeches are just more ways to manipulate the situation, and exercise control and power over victims.
Call me heartless and judge as you many, but it is what it is. *Kanye shrug*
Once I was honest with myself about what was happening -- really happening -- I could no longer deny that I was living in a cycle of domestic violence. And I could no longer deny that my life -- and Aiden's life -- was in danger.
I realized that my abuser did need help, and some type of change did need to happen in his life. But I also realized that that's work he needed to do on his own. Without Aiden and me around or along for the ride.
So I bowed out. Gracefully.
*Dusts dirt off of shoulders* (That was a Jay-Z reference.)
Looking back at that tumultuous time in my life, I know that God must've thought that I had a purpose in life because I can't even begin to fathom how I survived. But I'm so thankful for God's grace and faithfulness and protection. It's the only thing that helped me to survive and live to tell what nightmares are made of.
I'm here. To share my story.
I hope that it brings healing and comfort and strength to some. And understanding and compassion and clarity to others.
So the next time you're thinking of asking the question, "Why is she staying?," remember the number seven, and then think again.