When people talk about domestic violence, too often the question gets asked, “why didn’t she leave him”. It was a question I once asked myself. See I was once a police officer, who responded to too many domestic related incidents. I’ve seen, women stabbed, beat up, scared and raped by the hands of men who claimed they loved them. Men they built families with, married and loved. I couldn’t understand how smart, educated, put together women could stay with men who hurt them. I thought these women were crazy, lacking self-love or were just plain stupid…. until I became that woman.

I met my abuser on Myspace, unlike the million other guys who praised my looks or professed their love he asked about who I was as a person, he wanted to learn me. He was charming, handsome and different then I was used to. We met in person and it was like a fairytale, he went out of his way to treat me like a princess. I was smitten by him. As we dated he continued to love bomb me, I felt like I was his one true love. When he asked me to marry him only 7 months later, I didn’t question why because we were in love.

We were married June 2, 2010, two days later I knew I made a mistake he wasn’t as charming anymore. I told him this and said I will get the marriage annulled he got on his knees and begged me to forgive him he was just stressed at work. I did, I mean it’s not like he hit me, he just yelled at me a bit. So I stayed.

October 2010, I’m preparing to leave my only home and fly to a foreign country to be with my abuser. We get into a fight on the phone, I raise my voice after he insults me, he told me if I was in front of him he would have chocked the shit out of me. I was shocked, he had never threatened me with violence before. I know I shouldn’t leave, but I already gave in notice for my job and my apartment. I start making excuses maybe he is still stressed. I forgive him without prompting because he hasn’t actually hit me. So I stayed,

November 2010, less than two after I arrived in this foreign land to live with my abuser as his wife he grabs me by my throat and slams me against a wall during an argument. I cry and he hugs me and says he is sorry, its work it has him stressed. He will never do that again he promises. I believe him, I forgive him I stay, I mean it’s not like he blacked my eye. So I stayed.

January 2011, we find out we are pregnant. The excitement only lasts the week as the next week he almost kills me as he strangles me, telling me how he should snap my neck. I feel my body giving out, it hurts as no oxygen is getting in, I can’t fight back because of the hold he has me in. I think I’m going to die, I’ll never meet my baby. I came to this foreign land to die. He lets me go in time, before I could lose consciousness. I was scared I almost left, but he cried he apologized. He is just really stressed at work and I’m not helping questioning him about his whereabouts. I forgive him, I stay, I mean it’s not like he actually killed me and I can be kind of a nag. So I stayed,

This cycle of abusive behavior went on until I finally left my abuser in 2012. At the time I still truly didn’t believe I was a victim, that my husband was ‘really’ an abuser. He wasn’t like that all the time, he was charming, loving and tender. But he was also controlling, selfish, violent, a cheater and mean. I loved him; I gave up a promising career to be his wife. I’m smart and I had my life together, I couldn’t turn around and prove the nah sayers right. I couldn’t prove my father right, that this man was using me, would hit me and I shouldn’t marry him. So I stayed.

I stayed because I had convinced myself it wasn’t as bad as it seemed. I stayed because I loved him. I stayed because I didn’t want to be a single mother of two children. I stayed because I wanted to prove my father wrong about my abuser. I stayed because I had no money, he kept me from making more while using my life savings to sustain our family and his lifestyle due to his financial irresponsibility. I stayed because I wanted a father in my children’s lives. I stayed because leaving seemed more of a risk than staying.

We all have different reasons why we stay, why now isn’t the right time to leave. Yes, it’s easy to think we are stupid, crazy or just lacking self-love to judge our motives. But I ask that next time you find out that a woman (or man) is being abused don’t judge instead help her because she may not realize it yet but she has to leave. It’s hard to leave a man you love, even more so when he has manipulated you and controlled you for so long. She doesn’t need your judgey questions about why she stayed she needs you to help give her the strength to leave.