On Why She Stays

I am grateful to see that in the wake of the NFL player, Ray Rice’s abuse of his wife Janay Palmer, domestic violence is being discussed openly and heatedly.  On Twitter, women have begun a movement to share their stories on all social media fronts called “#whyistayed” and reportedly, the calls to domestic violence hotlines have doubled and in some areas even tripled. I won’t begin to touch the implications of steroids, sports, NFL politics (really ALL major league sports) and why this incident was not  handled properly from the beginning.  That has been done very well already.  At best, this incident will incite real change and all sports will take this example and handle it before they are made an example of.

What I want to discuss, because I haven’t seen it done much, is the cycle of abuse.  Because it is a cycle 100% of the time.  From the outside, it’s really tough to understand why a woman stays in an abusive relationship.  But the truth is, the physical abuse is the tip of the iceberg and only one part of what’s really happening.

I learned about the battering cycle many years ago and I still feel that this diagram by Lenore Walker is an excellent starting point.

800px-Cycle_of_Abuse

The diagram outlines 4 phases.  First, there is tension.  Regular life stuff usually.  Then, the incident.  Often unprovoked, an inappropriate reaction to something mundane.  This can be verbal abuse or physical abuse.  And then what happens?  You want to really know why she stays?  Because after things go badly, it’s usually great again.  This is called “Reconciliation” and in other literature it is coined “The Honeymoon Phase”.  This is the good stuff and we remember why we love him.  And we want to hold on to that part.  We want to stay here.  We want to believe that people change, that he didn’t mean it.  That it won’t happen again.  We are optimistic.  In the calm phase after the Honeymoon Phase we might forget all about it.  And deep down, we are ashamed.  Because then it happens again.

Sometimes we stop telling everyone in our lives about the bad stuff.  We don’t want to hear what they have to say . We don’t want to hear from our close friends and family that this isn’t the first time. We don’t want to remember that.  We focus on the good and the kids and moving forward.  We are strong.

Just yesterday, a friend called me in distress.  She and her guy had had another fight.  She was in the incident phase.  Her situation isn’t physical, it’s verbal. They argue and he says mean and hateful things to her.  Then they make up.  Then it’s fine for awhile.  Then it happens again.  Her self-esteem is low.  Maybe it was before this relationship, I don’t know.  I do know that it takes a hell of a lot of strength to break out of this cycle.  How do you find that strength when you have been broken?

Some women say that it’s almost easier when there is physical violence against them because everyone can say that’s wrong.  We can all agree, it isn’t OK for a man to hit a woman.  You would think that was a no-brainer but check this out:

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “More than one-third of women in the United States (35.6 percent, or approximately 42.4 million) have experienced rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner at some point in their lifetime,” and nearly one in three women have experienced physical violence by an intimate partner. To put some of this in percentage terms, 30.3 percent of women in the United States have been “slapped, pushed, or shoved by an intimate partner” in their lifetime.”

Now, let’s bring it to a global level. ” As the United Nations makes clear, “Violence against women is a universal phenomenon.”According to the U.N., “Up to seven in 10 women around the world experience physical and/or sexual violence at some point in their lifetime,” and “603 million women live in countries where domestic violence is not yet considered a crime.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/15/opinion/charles-blow-ray-rice-and-his-rage.html?module=Search&mabReward=relbias%3As

Did you get that?  It’s not even considered a crime world wide to abuse a woman.  My blog “On Beyonce’s Feminism”  began to address this issue of the necessity of ongoing dialogue on the status of women worldwide.  There are economic and religious reasons why women stay (and that seems to be more what people are focused on) but I still believe that it boils down to the same deeper psychological phenomenon and breaking that, truly, is the starting point.

For many years, my Mom was the Director for La Casa De Las Madres which is an agency in San Francisco for domestic violence.  They house and help women trying to get away in an anonymous place, a safe house.  They take in the women and their children and they help them start a new life.  They give food, clothing, shelter, career coaching.  It’s an incredible agency and she still works there in a different capacity now.  Looking back, I remember how hard that work was for her.  How heartbreaking the stories were but especially heartbreaking was every time a woman went back.

How do help each other?  How do we build self-esteem?  How do we assure our Sisters, our Mothers, our Daughters and our friends that they deserve better?  How can we help them when they don’t believe it?

Advertisements

On Princess School

Growing up, I didn’t have too many great role models of marriage.  It has taken me a whole lot longer than most to develop standards and values that I would be proud to pass on to my Daughter for how to be treated.  I have come to jokingly and lovingly call this “Princess School”.  I know when I meet a Princess School Graduate in my chair or in my social circle because life is pretty good for them.  Things are TAKEN CARE OF.  And lest you think I am talking about not carrying my own bags, that isn’t it.  Nor is this discussion about money, material items or being a Diva. It’s really about self-esteem and self-respect.

When I was becoming a Feminist in my late teens, I confused “Having it all” with “Having to do it all”.  I was going to have a career, kids and a relationship.  The man I chose would not have to provide for me.  I could do it myself.  Maybe HE could stay at home with the kids.  I could do it all because I wanted to.  I judged women critically who declared their Boyfriend “treats me like a Queen”.  I had some stuff a bit backwards.

I was 26 when I met Daniel and 28 when we got married.  We met playing in nightclubs in NYC.  We created music together. We fought a lot.  We were in love.  We had our son when I was almost 30 and daughter at 31 and divorced soon after. He was and will always be a great love of my life and you could never have talked me out of marrying him.  But put it this way, I bought my own wedding ring.

When I was in my 20s, I decided that LOVE was all that mattered.  I thought that if I loved YOU, that was the most important factor for us to have a relationship.  Princesses don’t think this way.  At all.  Princesses are rational and decide that yes, love matters but how you treat THEM matters as much, if not more.  How you are treated-not just how you feel about the other person. This is the difference.

We decided to get married on a Thursday night.  We got our marriage license on Friday.  We got married at City Hall in NYC on Monday at 2. We invited the few friends who we thought could make it.  I spent the weekend preparing.  One of my best friends made the cake. My other close childhood friend made my bouquet.

Image

*disco ball shoes featured are mine

I knew Daniel didn’t have the money for a ring so I went ahead and bought one for myself.  Then I took the subway to the Upper East Side to a wedding boutique to look at tiaras.  The very elegant sales ladies were horrified when they asked me what my dress looked like and I pulled it out of my BACKBACK.

Image

I had this dress for years.  I figured it was white and strapless and why not wear it? Their tiaras were way out of my budget so I left and got one elsewhere and laughed a little at the thought of how they were probably talking about me.  Clearly, they were used to dealing with Princesses.  On a timeline.  Not a short sale.

I loved my husband. I loved our little wedding.  Our children were born of love.  I wouldn’t change any of that.  I led with passion and my heart, always.  But looking back, it wouldn’t have hurt for me to have more needs, more self-respect and ask for a little more in life earlier on. The two don’t have to be at odds.  This I didn’t understand.

There is so much to say about how we think of ourselves and how these thoughts generate the actions that create our lives.  It could be said that our lives are manifestations of how we feel about ourselves.  Where I still have work to do is as a late-comer to Princess School.  Maybe I will never become one?  I’m probably too old so I should be enrolling in Queen School.  But this much I know-I’d like to stop creating hardship for myself.  I’d like to think there are new ways of thinking that are easier than the ones I have.  I’d like to stop suffering because I think I have to, because it’s second nature.  There surely is something to be said for buying one’s own ring.  And there is surely something to be said for not having to.

Image