I am a woman who never stays, I leave… I leave at the slightest inconvenience. I do this because in the past I stayed and it was ugly. When you crawl out of the darkness you must ensure that you never go back. However, leaving is very complicated as I’ve learned over the years. 

I’ve always wondered why my mother never left, as a child I never understood how she could put up with the abuse and was always unhappy but stayed. I grew up hating her for this, forcing us to stay. Many years later I realized she stayed because she didn’t have a high school education, she did not have a job, she did not have parents to go back to, she only had 2 young children to feed and abusive marriage. She had no way out and she had nowhere to go. Today I still choke up thinking about how selfish I had been over the years yet she stayed because of me. 

I couldn’t understand why my childhood best friends mother stayed even after he beat her up with witnesses present after she knew the truth about his drug and alcohol abuse. And even after he humiliated her at work when she heard rumors that he had abused one of his daughters. Then one day when she left, he took their two daughters for a drive and drove straight into the Bay. He died but luckily onlookers saved the girls. 

My high school teacher and her husband taught at the same school. Everyone knew he was having an affair with one of his colleagues but she stayed. Not only did she stay in the marriage but she stayed at the school. I was horrified but I learned later that he had gambling debts and her salary ran the household so she took care of the kids while he humiliated her day after day. She stayed I still don’t know why but perhaps like all the others fear might have been a factor. Many years later when her kids were adults I heard that she left. 

My best friend dated a guy for seven years, he cheated and she stayed. He promised her marriage every year and it never happened but she stayed. He became verbally abusive yet she still stayed. Eventually he became physically abusive and used her for money but she stayed. She left the country to work abroad but still stayed having a long-distance relationship with him and it was ultimately him who left. She then told me that she had no self-worth, she had been abandoned by her father at a very young age, and her greatest fear was people leaving. She found comfort in the familiar because the unknown scared her. 

There are many more unique but painful stories to put on paper, but the one thing that they all have in common is staying. 

Why do women stay? 

Why does it take so long to leave or perhaps the question we should be asking is why are men abusive? 

Why is there always a woman who knows another woman who is forced to stay?

Why are we always questioning women but never men? 

Why is the emphasis on women staying or leaving rather than these toxic men and their abusive behavior?

Society needs to stop questioning women, it is time to question men and it is long overdue. We cannot normalize abuse and take it for granted that all women will find themselves in toxic relationships at some point and that the onus is on them to make things right or leave. We need to stop accepting toxic masculinity as a norm of society and only once we have done that can we then take a step forward in the right direction.