Why Does She Stay?

whydoesshestayA year ago this week I lost a friend. Her name is Michele Davis. Her story is heart-wrenching and sadly not all that uncommon, give or take a few details. I want to tell her story from my perspective, because her story weaves into my own.

I had just started settling into my new home. MY home. 400 miles away. A safe place, away from the chaos and violence that existed in my recent marriage. I was only a few weeks out from deciding to leave him. This was FRESH. I was starting to get my bearings and slowly and was in the phase of healing from domestic violence where I was beginning to become aware and acknowledge all the different areas of abuse and how severe they really were.

A bit of background, in 2013 I started what has come to be a very active and large Facebook group for women. Because of this, from time to time we will get people posting things that may be of questionable legitimacy and someone in the group may message some or all of the admins to bring it to our attention. I had been party to a group chat among the admins and a concerned member of this sort where someone had posted a link to a Go Fund Me campaign that seemed overly sensational. The gist was: “Mother of 8 was Tragically Killed, Let’s raise $50K to Help.”  So I click on the link and quickly browse through to see if there are any red flags about it, and move on to read the rest of the messages. Then a news article that was posted as well in the chat that seems to give the whole thing more credibility. I’m just examining this more in the overall, not really looking at the details. It started out “John Davis is about as sad as a husband can be after calling 911…” and that didn’t mean anything specific to me.

As I read, the horrific details unfolded. They had gotten into an argument because he had slapped the son for talking back and playing video games, and she had confronted him about it. It got heated and he and grabbed a kitchen knife and chased her through he house, stabbing her to death in front of one of their eight children. It was just awful. So sad. I felt for this family and then the thought just popped into my head “wow, that could have been me. I bet I wasn’t as far away from this kind of thing happening as I wanted to think I was.”

It wasn’t until I got toward the end of one of the paragraphs where it said her name “Michele Davis” spelled with just one “l” that my eyes started to dart around frantically on the article to see where this was at. Phoenix. Oh my goodness, my friend Michele was in the Phoenix area, could this be the same one?? Her picture wasn’t on anything, just some guy that looked horrible. I remembered her husband’s name was John. And she told me that he was abusive but never opened up about how much. I couldn’t believe it! My heart sank!

MicheleDavis2This was the woman I had met up with at the pool over and over again the previous summer. She would bring all of her eight children and we would talk. I knew she wasn’t in a good situation but I had no idea how bad. I would confide in her about the emotional abuse that I sustained in my first marriage and talk about how thankful I was that I had married a good man this time. I was so committed to the reality that I had “figured it all out” and that I was blessed to be married to a good guy.

I can see so clearly now how my fake perfection was not doing her, or myself, any favors. If I had been honest with myself enough to be honest with her, perhaps my vulnerability would have helped her to feel safe enough to open up to someone about how bad the abuse was. But the thing is, her husband, this man who became a murderer, was not a “regular abuser” — he had gotten violent with her on a few occasions previously, it came out, but this was not the kind of man who came home and regularly beat his wife.

He likely had no idea he was capable of taking another life until just after he had done it.

MicheleDavisWe had talked about how she wanted to leave him but she was getting things ready and set. She wanted to be smart about it. She was working towards being a nurse so she could support herself and her babies. Together they had eight children and if she left some of them were not biologically hers and she would not be able to take them with her.  But now she is gone.

We all have darkness inside of us. We all are capable of horrible things. And some situations are far more dangerous than you realize.

I felt like someone had stabbed me in the back. It affected me DEEPLY. I  just collapsed on the floor right there while in the middle of that article and sobbed and sobbed. I could feel her pain. It was nearly too much, with having had the thought of seeing myself in this situation, ahead and separate from the fact that this had happened to someone that I knew and cared for.

I couldn’t get out of bed for a couple of days. It was as though something in me woke up. Realized just how bad these situations can be. It lit a fire in me to speak up and speak out for women. That so many of us stay in these harmful situations because we are shaming ourselves so deeply and thoroughly. No one has to even do it to us, we take care of it ourselves. So when our abusers, or family members or friends any anything to even imply that we deserve it, or are not good enough for anything more, or that women in general that get themselves into these situations are somehow flawed, we stay and we stay and we stay. And one of the number one things that people ask when they hear about domestic violence is “why does she stay?”

Based on my own experiences as well as research and that of others I will tell you:

  • She stays because she doesn’t think she has any other options.
  • She stays because she doesn’t believe she is worthy of being treated with basic decency.
  • She stays because she feels like he needs her.
  • She stays because she loves him.
  • She stays because she doesn’t have the money to go anywhere or do anything.
  • She stays because she doesn’t have the education or the skill set to support herself.
  • She stays because she has children with him.
  • She stays because she is more scared to leave then she is to stay.
  • She stays because he has threatened her life or the child(ren)’s if she leaves.
  • She stays for the kids because she believes it is better for them in the long run.
  • She stays because some of the children in the home may not be hers and she can’t take them with her.
  • She stays because she’s trying to get her life set up enough to leave and it’s just not time yet.
  • She stays because sometimes the devil you do know is more appealing than the devil you don’t.
  • She stays because she’s afraid of being proven wrong.
  • She stays because she’s afraid of being proven right.
  • She stays because she has little to no fight left in her.
  • She stays because she’s tried to leave so many times and keeps coming back.
  • She stays because she can’t face reality.
  • She stays because she has HOPE.

 

There are endless reasons why she stays and some are very logical and some are far from it. But one thing that I do know is that if we take SHAME out of the equation, many of these reasons melt away and the ones that are left are finally able to be worked out. Less than 10% of abusers will ever change, which means that 90%+ of the time, he won’t. And if he’s going to, he can do it from another home. He does not get the privilege of living with a woman or his children that he’s assaulted while proving that he can be trustworthy again. If he really means it, he can do that down the street, on the other side of the city or even in another state. I’m a strong advocate for marriage, and believe divorce should be a very minimal, last-ditch solution, that really is no solution at all. But if anyone in that home is physically unsafe, it’s like living in a burning building.

Get out, get help, get safe, and then repair the damage, alone or together.

How do you feel about this post? Do you agree? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

And please consider donating to Michele’s campaign for her children HERE. No doubt they could still use our financial support. 

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One Response to “Why Does She Stay?

  • Oh, Naomi, I ache for you and for Michele’s children. I have had no personal experience with abuse and it’s easy for me to forget that many women fear daily interactions with those they love. Thanks for the reminder. Hugs!

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