"She only married him because of the money." "I'd take an uppercut to the jaw to get part of 25 mill." "She said she's sorry, so why should he be punished." "If she can move past it why can't we." "B*tch didn't care he hit her, she married him!" I found all these statements on Twitter yesterday. All different people, all with the same view, it was Janay Rice's fault that Ray Rice attacked her.
Would you tell me it's my fault?
Would you tell my mother it's hers?
That we both deserved to be slapped around, that we both deserved to be broken and beaten? Or is it different because our partners were not multimillionaire athletes? Then you wonder why women stay?
It's because we're told it's not really abuse, that it's normal to fight, that he'll change, that God will heal him. We're so convinced that we're not allowed to be hurt by it because "he didn't mean it." or "it was a mistake." Or even worse, that because he didn't actually hit you, that it's not abuse.
A mistake is burning a pizza. A mistake is mixing up there, their, they're. Violently assaulting your life partner is a decision. Breaking down a person's self-esteem to the point that she is dependent on you for everything is a decision. But victims are so convinced that we are in the wrong that we stay. We stay because it's what we know, because it's not easy to turn and say everything is wrong and we need help.
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I stayed because it's all I knew. I assumed abuse was normal. My dad abused my mom, my boyfriend abused me. My friends' boyfriends hit them. It was small-town culture at its finest. (It's strange to look at my Facebook feed to see most every "like" on the domestic violence statistics I've posted has come from someone from my small town – all girls who have been through it themselves.)
But it wasn't normal. And it wasn't right.
I know that now because I left. I found strength in numbers, in people who had been through the same. I left because I knew I wanted children and they deserved to have a life where this wasn't the norm. I left because I did deserve better.
So today on Twitter I scrolled through my timeline wondering why all these people were so quick to victim shame and I realized it's because they don't understand domestic violence. They don't understand that one out of every four women will be subjected to some type of abuse. That in most cases the victims are so convinced it's their fault that they take the blame, even when clearly it's not their fault, and most times don't even report it. In fact it takes a victim an average of 35 hits to report abuse. 35 hits – think about that.
That's why I'm standing up today, to say that it can happen to anyone. Domestic violence knows no age, race, gender, social economic standing, nothing. It can happen to anyone and it doesn't just end when you leave. The physical and mental scars will follow you the rest of your life. Yes, I stayed because I didn't know better. But I left because I deserved better.
Charity Morton is a server/bartender who lives in Anderson Township with her husband and two children. Follow her on Twitter at @ThisisCharity