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What Made You Stay?



Recently my sister and I were at home just relaxing and watching TV when Trinny and Susannah’s fashion show came on. The show caught my attention because they were in Australia – a place where I currently call home. The fashion duo were randomly picking women who were plainly dressed on the streets of Canberra, the Australian capital, and offering them free makeovers. My interest was further stirred by these unassuming women who previously were going about their business, pushing prams, having coffee, shopping and were now the object of Trinny and Susannah’s scrutiny. I was really interested in their reactions which ranged from surprise, shock, irritation, and embarrassment.

One woman in particular stood out to me, her name was Angela*. She was, dressed from head to toe in black and taking a stroll in the park when the duo ran up to her. When the fashion duo asked her why she was in all black her answer was a bit strange. “I like black because it does not make you stand out. You can go about your business without drawing attention to yourself.”

During the makeover session, I noticed that compared with the other ladies receiving makeovers, Angela was not a very confident person. She wouldn’t make eye contact with anyone and her eyes looked incredibly sad. I also noticed how tightly she held Trinny’s hands as they talked. Trinny must have noticed this too because at some point she asked Angela about the last time she was happy.

Angela who looked like she was in her early forties replied, “maybe when I was seventeen”.

“So how did you dress when you were seventeen?” Trinny asked looking as surprised as I felt

“I wore colours. I was very bubbly and girly. I was very confident.” She smiled sadly.

“So what happened? What changed?”

Angela paused for a bit, she couldn’t have looked any sadder.

“I was in an abusive relationship for twelve years. The man I was with stripped me of everything including my confidence. I married him when I was nineteen and he abused me all the time.”

It was from here we gathered that Angela’s husband had beaten her several times and would then throw her out. He would then come back to beg her and she would make excuses for him and return, thinking it would never happen again. But she was wrong, it happened over and over again for twelve whole years. Angela then goes on to show Trinny a long scar on her shin where her former husband had stabbed her. It was horrible and I felt truly sorry for Angela but then Trinny, who was crying by now asked the question that was on my lips, “Why did you stay? Why didn’t you leave?”

Angela’s reply was simple, she couldn’t. She said she had stayed because of her children. She wanted her children to finish school before she could do anything. Her ex-husband knew this so he used it as a weapon. If she left, he wouldn’t pay their fees or support them, so she decided to stay put and he kept the abuse coming. Eventually, I think after the knife incident, Angela left with her children to start a new life.

Angela looked fabulous after her makeover and I wish I could find a picture to show you. Her children were at the show and they were amazed at their mother’s transformation. But Angela’s scars are still there and will probably will always be, the physical one on her shin and probably on other parts of her body, the emotional and the mental ones too.

I spent the rest of the evening pondering Angela’s story and thinking of other countless women who are in or who have been in an abusive relationship. I discussed this with my mum and she said most women stay in abusive relationships because of their children. They ask themselves, “Where do I start from?” I then pointed out that in this day and age, you can start from nothing and make something for yourself, to which she agreed and said she hoped women realised this and begin to be more proactive rather than wait out a destructive relationship until it’s too late.

The more I think about it the more I realize that victims of domestic violence usually remain in such situations for selfless reasons. In some situations, they are bound by financial reasons, the need to have a basis to support their children and themselves. In other cases they are bound by social and cultural reasons which place greater value on being married regardless of the circumstances of that marriage. And in a few cases, they feel trapped, unable to see the light at the end of the tunnel, promising them a better life outside of the horrible situation of abuse.

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