When high profile cases of violence against women are in the media, the air waves fill with outrage, calls to action, compassion, political responses and inevitably someone somewhere will say: “Why didn’t she leave?” and “Why did she go back?“.
Those of us who work in women’s domestic and family violence shelters hear her stories and witness her tears and sometimes are asked to be her voice at a time when just taking the next breath takes a huge amount of energy.
This poem is dedicated to those women who are living in domestic violence or have come through it and have had those words asked of them :
Why didn’t you just leave?
I’m sorry I can’t hear you…
what did you say?
My ears are blocked and heavy
From vicious words that have been hurled my way
There used to be sweet words and promises
and whispered romance in my ears
I now I find myself wondering
“Can ears become blocked with all those tears?”
Couldn’t you see what he was doing to you?
I once had a clear and beautiful Vision of the life
we would live together
He held my hand when our babies were born
He was my lighthouse in stormy weather
I know that sounds corny but its true.
Each time he erupted into rage
it always finished with the deepest regret
I understood he didnt mean it because
He said you haven’t seen the best of me yet
And I believed him
But surely after those first few times you should have known he wouldn’t change?
By the time what I know now as The Cycle
had taken a hold and become our way of life
I couldn’t see the front door or tomorrow
I was so immersed in trying to be the right wife
My kids loved their daddy deeply
they still do even though he is jailed
And what struck me when my sisters said “leave him”
Were three words-
You have failed
You have failed
You have failed
Do you realise he could have killed you?
He once told me if I left him
there would be no more reason for him to live
He said he would kill us all and then himself
if I had no more love that I could give
It would be my fault. So I made sure to try harder.
He told me tales called “Theres Nowhere to Hide”
and no other man will ever have me
He put a pretty convincing case forward
he yelled it
as he turned around
and grabbed me.
I made sure to keep still and just nod.
That sometimes worked.
But there are shelters and places where you could have got help…
I had two friends come to my house one day
he wasn’t home
and I was glad
They came because they were scared for me
but I couldn’t hear them
and my vision that day was particularly bad
It was like they were in another place
even though they were sitting
right there in my kitchen
We all jumped and shuffled nervously
when he came home
You girls sitting around bitchen?
He said with his dangerous smile.
And they left.
And he took my mobile phone off me.
I know it must have been hard but weren’t you worried for your kids?
My little boy was wetting the bed and
the school had called me in with
concerns for my girls…yet again…
but I just knew if I was patient
my husband would overcome his anger
and his pain
You see I knew that he had a lot of pain from his childhood.
Well good on you for finally leaving him. Were you happy with the sentence he got?
There is no place for the word happy in
any of what has gone down
My kids ask after him all the time
and I remember how he made me laugh
when he’d play the clown
Anyway, I’m finding it hard to hear you again
my heart is starting to race
Theres a thing I call The Fog in My Head
it clouds over my personal space
and it will quickly cover you
and the floor
and the door
Sorry, don’t think I’m being rude
Its just I can’t really talk about it any more ….