I read a story the other day that inspired me to think about how I might continue to help other survivors of domestic violence. This has been on my mind lately, as I’m developing a speech that I hope to share with women’s groups where I live, and have been debating sharing my memoir with a literary agent — or possibly seeing if I could shape one of the chapters into an essay for separate publication.
While all of that is fine, I really want to do more. The story I read is about a survivor in Nevada who opened a secondhand store with things that domestic violence survivors need. But it’s not only that: she plans to offer training programs in retail management, so women can learn essential job skills that they might not have.
Her main audience is women who don’t speak English and have limited education, and therefore it’s very challenging for them to leave domestic violence situations.
I would like to point out, though, that a woman’s education level has little to do with making the decision to leave an abusive husband. Someone might think that a more educated women would leave faster — that she would recognize what happened immediately.
Most people consider me to be intelligent, and I’m certainly educated. When I married my ex-husband, I had a bachelor’s degree from a very highly respected university. I had grown up in middle-class, and at one point upper-middle-class, neighborhoods. I’d never experienced violence of any kind growing up.
And yet it took me nearly 7 years to leave. Through the therapy process, I’ve come to understand that the timing has nothing to do with one’s education or intelligence or anything like that.
Here’s a quote from the article: “Nevada’s rate of women killed by men ranked No. 1 in the nation, according to a report issued in 2012 by the Violence Policy Center. The report used homicide data from 2010.”
When I give my speech, whenever that may be, this will be my message: The question people always ask is, “Why didn’t she just leave, especially after the first time? Why did she wait so long?”
Many factors go into that answer, including not being sure what’s really going on, loving him and wanting to see if he might change, and so forth.
But my main response is always this: “She had to make the best judgment she could about whether her husband was going to kill her if she left him.”
It took me 7 years to get to that point. And the fact that I’m still here, 22 years after I left him that day, proves that my timing was perfect.