Why don’t you leave?

“Why don’t you leave?” Is the number one question people ask domestic violence victims when the truth is it isn’t that easy.

There’s housing to sustain.

There’s bills to pay.

There’s children to care for.

There’s employment to obtain.

There’s furniture to buy.

There’s food to provide.

There’s no food banks that provide laundry soap.

He’s told her he’ll ruin her life.

He’s told her he’ll get custody of the kids.

He’s told her he’ll call child protective services.

He threatens to abuse the children.

He’s told her he’ll tell her family things. Maybe they’ll be true, maybe not.

He’s told her he’ll harass her family.

He knows where her family lives and works.

He knows where she works.

He and she have mutual friends.

He’s told her he’ll sexually assault her.

He’s told her she’ll never be safe if she does.

He’s told her he’ll find her.

He’s told her he’ll torture her.

He’s told her he’ll kill her.

He’s told her they’ll never find her body.

She has no means of supporting herself.

She has no work history.

She has a job, but it doesn’t make enough.

She has a disability and needs him to help care for her.

She needs him for medical insurance.

She needs to use the car and it’s his.

She doesn’t want to be homeless.

She’s scared to be labeled a victim.

She’s afraid of being judged.

She knows he won’t honor a no contact order.

She knows he doesn’t care about being arrested.

She knows he has access to guns.

She knows he’s tracking her already.

She knows he’s capable of killing her.

She doesn’t want to make their friends choose sides.

She doesn’t want the kids to suffer.

She wants the kids to have a father in their lives.

She’ll have to admit what’s happened.

Her friends won’t understand.

She’s not aware of services.

She doesn’t know what resources exist.

She has no support system.

She’s pushed away her friends.

She’s scared to call law enforcement.

She’s scared to tell law enforcement when they do come.

She’s scared of retaliation.

She wants to make the marriage work.

She wants to maintain ties to her church and he goes there.

Her religion says the male should be dominant.

She doesn’t believe in divorce.

She’ll be sad.

She loves him.

The criminal justice system is flawed and won’t hold him accountable.

Law enforcement doesn’t always arrest immediately.

There’s a 10-15 day window between a violation of a no contact order and the hearing.

It’s a small community.

Everyone will know.

There’s nowhere that can help.

There’s not enough resources.

There’s shame in admitting victimization.

It’s not fair for her to have to change.

Batterer education classes don’t work.

Substance abuse treatment doesn’t fix the problem.

Criminal charges don’t stop abuse.

Mental health treatment doesn’t stop abuse.

Counseling doesn’t stop abuse.

Threats don’t have to sound scary to be scary.

A look can terrify.

It’s a huge decision.

It’ll change everything.

It’s not easy.

There are so many more reasons. It’s not our place to judge. It’s our job to uplift, support, listen, love, trust, and accept. We can offer our concerns. We can offer to help. We can offer our fears about her staying. We can be her person.

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A Pro-choice Blog

For those of you who don’t know me personally, I’m pro-choice. I don’t believe in abortion for the sake of killing babies, and I can’t imagine anyone does. I believe in giving women a choice in whether or not to continue a pregnancy.

I sometimes support women who are considering abortion. I help them weigh the options by openly discussing the pros and cons of each choice. I offer feedback and an objective perspective to help them in making this difficult decision. I watch them agonize over this choice, I’ve never seen a woman who doesn’t struggle with this. Sometimes this ends in helping them access abortion services.

I don’t think many people understand the weight of this decision. Many women remember this choice for years or decades after making it. Some wonder what their child would have been like. Some experience a deep sense of grief and depression. Some even celebrate due dates as birthdays or anniversaries to cope with the loss. Some turn to alcohol or drugs. Please know, these desperate women who choose abortion are not “using it as birth control”. I’m not sure this is a decision someone takes lightly.

I read this article a few days ago:

Rivers of Babylon

It is a heartbreaking story of a woman who had a late term abortion due to health concerns/quality of life/viability of the baby. I cried. I cried so hard to read her words. I can’t imagine having a baby inside you, and then there’s nothing. I can’t imagine the hurt, the anger, the guilt, the brokenness these women experience. I can’t imagine how it feels to hear someone say they made the wrong choice. They made the choice that was right for them at the time. I don’t understand judging someone for making that choice when I know exactly how hard it probably was.

Recently I had a woman come to me. She was pregnant. She told me “My boyfriend will kill me if he finds out. I have no other choice.” I believed her, the man was incredibly violent. We talked about adoption, we talked about giving the baby to family, we talked about relocating and keeping the baby, and so many more options. In the end, she decided abortion was the right, but agonizing choice.

She contacted the clinic and started the process. I went with her to her doctor’s appointment to confirm her pregnancy. I saw the look of defeat when her doctor congratulated her, knowing her choice was already made. I saw the ultrasound, the tiny little tic tac that was growing inside her. She was 6 weeks along. “The baby looks healthy.” the doctor told her. She sobbed in my car on the way home. This wasn’t what she wanted.

She made her appointment at the clinic and asked me to drive her. I knew she’d be emotional. I knew this was the hardest choice she’s ever made.  It was important to her that I was there, so I went.

The clinic was an old, run down building. It didn’t look like much. Out front there were men with signs. When we went in, a man with a body camera strapped to his chest asked to talk to us.  When we refused to talk, he screamed at us “They’re killing babies in there! They’re killing innocent children in there!” I thought to myself that he’ll never know what this choice is like, he can’t get pregnant.

The wait in the lobby was forever long.  She filled out paperwork which asked “How are you feeling about your choice?” Anxious. Relieved. Conflicted. “How sure are you about this decision?” Sure. After an hour we went into a tiny room where a woman did an ultrasound. She showed us the baby. She said it wasn’t even big enough to be seen with the human eye at this point. The doctor explained the procedure. The look on my client’s eyes was fear, sadness,  and resolve. I knew this was hard for her.

While the doctor performed the procedure I held her hand. I rubbed her arm and forehead and reminded her to breathe. At times I felt like I was reminding myself too. It was chaos, fear and a bumble of activity in a tiny room. It was blood, sweat and tears. It was mental and physical pain. It was doctors, advocates and interns. It was crowded. It was personal, vulnerable, and exposing.

Once it was over she was given after care instructions and we left. She stared out at the road as I drove her home. I saw a silent tear roll down her cheek and she quickly brushed it away.

In that moment I was once again reminded why I’m pro choice. I’m pro choice because she has the right to decide what happens to her body. When someone has had every other right stripped from them at some point in their life, they need the control for their own body. I’m not pro choice because I want to “kill babies”. It’s not called “pro baby killing” for a reason, it’s called choice because it’s her decision.

What I know is that if I was put into a situation where I was considering abortion, I’m not sure what I’d decide. If I chose to have an abortion, it would be truly heartbreaking for me. I’ve waited my entire life to be a mom, there’s nothing more in this world that I want.  But even if I didn’t choose abortion, I’d want the option to choose, and others deserve that right as well. And that is why I’m pro choice, and I will fight for every woman alive to have that choice.

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