Why do women stay in violent relationships? Money. The gilded cage traps birds of all feathers. Children who experience abuse and incest are trapped in that cage. The life of a teenage run-away is dangerous. Women with children often are trapped in that cage. They will endure horrendous abuse to provide their children with advantages they won’t have if mom is on welfare and barely able to keep a roof over their heads, food on their plates, and clothes on their backs.
If the man in her life is a pit bull abuser, she and her children are safer at home inside their gilded cage than out on their own where a predator can easily pounce upon prey.
So, why have I included her story in this National Domestic Violence Awareness Month celebration of abuse survivors? To drive home the point that we need to be financially self-sufficient to effectively exit an abusive relationship so that we can ultimately survive, thrive, and find joy. It is as true today as it was in Virginia Woolf’s time.
The most common thread in the successful survivors’ stories that I have featured this month is that they either were financially self-sufficient or they were able to leverage their talents to become women of independent means. First Mother Virginia Clinton Kelley had a lucrative career. But, she learned a powerful lesson on the importance of financial independence when she didn’t have control of her income and had to borrow money to leave Roger Clinton.
- Virginia Woolf
Adeline Virginia Stephen, a member of the infamous Bloomsbury Group, married Leonard Woolf on August 10, 1912. They founded Hogarth Press in 1917. The investment was intended as therapy for Mrs. Woolf, and it became a thriving business which published all her works. They moved from London to their country retreat, Monk’s House, at the start of World War II in 1940. Her greatest legacy is the wisdom she shared in A Room of One’s Own about the power of the financial self-sufficiency she achieved from a £500 legacy from her aunt Mary Benton:
. . .in a hundred years. . .women will have ceased to be the protected sex. Logically they will take part in all the activities and exertions that were once denied them.
I think Virginia Woolf would be very disappointed to know that, sadly, most of us are not yet women of independent means.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. Please join me in wearing your purple and celebrating survivors. As we celebrate survivors, let us honor those who died so that we might be free.