I stayed because he was my best friend.
I stayed because I didn’t have money of my own.
I stayed because he was good to me, most days.
I stayed because I wasn’t ready to leave.
Every now and then I’m reminded of the reasons why I stayed. At times, I lay in bed and think of where I was just five years ago.
At a university event this past spring, a student hugged me and said, “my friend stayed and it hurt me. All I wanted was for her to leave.”
Intimate partner violence hurts. It hurts the victim and it hurts loved ones.
There is still so much confusion about “staying”. After #WhyIStayed went viral, subsequent (and necessary) hashtags arose, such as #WhyILeft and #HowIHelped. So many voices were heard that day, and it was beautiful.
But society is not opposed to victims "leaving" or communities "helping". It is “staying” that is the scandal.
It is staying that society at large condemns. It is staying that breeds victim blaming. It is staying that we struggle to comprehend. We rejoice when survivors leave. We celebrate when communities help. We demoralize victims who stay.
So, I think we must reexamine our reactions to the power of individual choice. I stayed because I knew what was best for me. I stayed because I wanted to make it out alive.
On this one year anniversary of #WhyIStayed, let's recenter our thoughts on those who have made this impossible choice, and learn how to support them right where they are.
And after we recenter, let’s begin to ask victims of intimate partner violence the question that only they can answer: what do you need?
(used with permission, all contact info intentionally omitted)