“I always wondered why you just didn’t leave him.”

Family Shelter Service new Executive Director Judie Caribeaux has been sharing regular Friday features on our Facebook page. In case you missed them or you are not on Facebook, we will be reprinting them here. Following is her first post:

I grew up in a family with two older sisters and one younger brother. I remember a recent conversation I had with my oldest sister about my first marriage. She said to me, “I always wondered why you just didn’t leave him.” If only it were as simple as that statement purports. I experienced mental, emotional, and financial abuse during my first marriage. Because I had no physical signs of violence, the judicial system did not consider my experience as abuse. If I would have “just left,” I would have also abandoned most of my rights. I was forced to slowly untangle myself from this web of abuse through the divorce process. It took more time than I wished to sell the family home; find a good-paying job; look for a new place to live; finalize my divorce. This was my experience. For other women “just leaving” is not possible as the abuser threatens that she will never see her children again. This threat is valid considering the abuser has made real past threats of physical violence. Or, for other women, they don’t “just leave” because they erroneously believe this is what they deserve. The question we need to ask is not “Why doesn’t she leave?” or “Why does she stay?” The question we need to ask is “Why does he abuse?” and “What can we do to help stop this?”

–Judie Caribeaux, Family Shelter Service Executive Director