The Many Sad Truths About Domestic Violence

Leslie Morgan Steiner's memoir details how she was assaulted 20 times before leaving her abusive marriage. In a Q&A with Newsweek she says: "I thought it only happened to poor women with children and without options."

Steiner is brave to admit her naiveté when it comes to domestic violence, though it is certainly troubling that she thought it couldn't happen to her because she was affluent and smart. When asked if she saw herself as vulnerable, she replies:

A lot of people assume that I must have had really low self-esteem at the time, but it wasn't that. In some ways, I was too confident. I had just graduated from Harvard, which some people thought was a big deal, and I had a great job at Seventeen magazine and a New York apartment and I was meeting men everywhere. I was on top of the world. When I met my future husband, he told me about his very abusive childhood, and I never really doubted that I could help him. I was very naive in that way. I didn't realize what kind of psychological problems this kind of history could create. He was my first love, and I threw myself into loving him unconditionally.

Steiner's situation was incredibly sad, and her statements offer a clear view of the psychology and thoughts women in domestic violence scenarios often have. For instance, she talks about keeping the abuse a secret from her friends:

With most people, I would work to hide it … I also think I knew that the minute I told people, the jig would be up. I would have to leave the relationship, and I was not ready to do that.

In addition, when Newsweek asks: Did you ever blame yourself for what was happening? Steiner reponds:

I didn't blame myself for him being abusive, and I never felt like I deserved to be hit. But I blame myself for staying. It would have been easier if I had told people the first time it happened. But I didn't. By waiting until it had happened 20 or 30 times, I was afraid everyone would think I was pathetic that I let this go on for so long.

Some people might find it hard to understand why a woman would not leave a man who physically injured her, and while Steiner isn't completely clear about her reasons (she does say violence doesn't happen on a first date, but instead when you're already "trapped" in a relationship), it does seem that she has learned from her experience:

I hope so much that other women won't ignore the red flags like I did. When he choked me during sex, I ignored it. His early possessiveness, I ignored it. I didn't realize that things would get much worse… Love can't fix a violent person. The only thing you can do is leave.

The Shadow Of Shame [Newsweek]