Leslie Morgan Steiner is the author of the New York Times best-selling memoir “Crazy Love” and a TED Talk about the many reasons abuse victims stay. She was the general manager of The Washington Post Magazine from 2001 to 2006.
Just before I fell in love with a man who abused me, I spouted off to my New York City roommate that I’d never be stupid enough to stay with a man who hit me. Like most people who are naive about the complexities of relationship violence — victims and bystanders alike — my dismissal of the dangers of abusive love cost me dearly.
When I see footage of Ray Rice knocking his then-fiancee, Janay Palmer, unconscious in an Atlantic City elevator — and her subsequent defense of Riceafter he was cut from the Baltimore Ravens and suspended indefinitely from the National Football League this past week — I recognize how hard it can be to leave a violent relationship.
Here are the times I wish I’d left my abusive husband, an Ivy League graduate and Wall Street trader I met in New York when I was 22 and a recent Harvard graduate:
Three months into our relationship, the night he choked me during sex and I wrote it off as weird but somehow erotic (for him; not for me).
The Saturday he said I looked better without any makeup and told me not to wear it anymore.
The night I was getting dressed to go out to dinner and he told me I was a slut because my skirt was too short.
The morning five days before our wedding when he first physically attacked me, because, he said with his hands around my neck, “you remind me of my mother.”
During our honeymoon, when he punched me so hard my head hit the window in our car.
The night he pulled the keys out of the car ignition while I was driving 55 mph on the highway.
The day he said I couldn’t spend Christmas with my family.
The first time he pushed me down a flight of stairs.
The first time he threatened to pull the trigger of the loaded gun he held at my head.
Here are the reasons I didn’t leave my abusive husband:
No one in my life had ever made me feel so safe, loved, beautiful and validated as he did during the early months of our relationship.