Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • Translator: Joseph Geni Reviewer: Morton Bast

  • I'm here today to talk about a disturbing question,

  • which has an equally disturbing answer.

  • My topic is the secrets of domestic violence,

  • and the question I'm going to tackle

  • is the one question everyone always asks:

  • Why does she stay?

  • Why would anyone stay with a man who beats her?

  • I'm not a psychiatrist, a social worker

  • or an expert in domestic violence.

  • I'm just one woman with a story to tell.

  • I was 22. I had just graduated from Harvard College.

  • I had moved to New York City for my first job

  • as a writer and editor at Seventeen magazine.

  • I had my first apartment,

  • my first little green American Express card,

  • and I had a very big secret.

  • My secret was that I had this gun

  • loaded with hollow-point bullets pointed at my head

  • by the man who I thought was my soulmate,

  • many, many times.

  • The man who I loved more than anybody on Earth

  • held a gun to my head and threatened to kill me

  • more times than I can even remember.

  • I'm here to tell you the story of crazy love,

  • a psychological trap disguised as love,

  • one that millions of women and even a few men

  • fall into every year.

  • It may even be your story.

  • I don't look like a typical domestic violence survivor.

  • I have a B.A. in English from Harvard College,

  • an MBA in marketing from Wharton Business School.

  • I've spent most of my career working for Fortune 500 companies

  • including Johnson & Johnson, Leo Burnett and The Washington Post.

  • I've been married for almost 20 years to my second husband

  • and we have three kids together.

  • My dog is a black lab, and I drive a Honda Odyssey minivan.

  • (Laughter)

  • So my first message for you is that domestic violence

  • happens to everyone --

  • all races, all religions, all income and education levels.

  • It's everywhere.

  • And my second message is that everyone thinks

  • domestic violence happens to women,

  • that it's a women's issue.

  • Not exactly.

  • Over 85 percent of abusers are men, and domestic abuse

  • happens only in intimate, interdependent, long-term relationships,

  • in other words, in families,

  • the last place we would want or expect to find violence,

  • which is one reason domestic abuse is so confusing.

  • I would have told you myself that I was the last person on Earth

  • who would stay with a man who beats me,

  • but in fact I was a very typical victim because of my age.

  • I was 22, and in the United States,

  • women ages 16 to 24 are three times as likely

  • to be domestic violence victims

  • as women of other ages,

  • and over 500 women and girls this age

  • are killed every year by abusive partners,

  • boyfriends, and husbands in the United States.

  • I was also a very typical victim because I knew nothing

  • about domestic violence, its warning signs or its patterns.

  • I met Conor on a cold, rainy January night.

  • He sat next to me on the New York City subway,

  • and he started chatting me up.

  • He told me two things.

  • One was that he, too, had just graduated from an Ivy League school,

  • and that he worked at a very impressive Wall Street bank.

  • But what made the biggest impression on me that first meeting

  • was that he was smart and funny

  • and he looked like a farm boy.

  • He had these big cheeks, these big apple cheeks

  • and this wheat-blond hair,

  • and he seemed so sweet.

  • One of the smartest things Conor did, from the very beginning,

  • was to create the illusion that I was the dominant partner in the relationship.

  • He did this especially at the beginning

  • by idolizing me.

  • We started dating, and he loved everything about me,

  • that I was smart, that I'd gone to Harvard,

  • that I was passionate about helping teenage girls, and my job.

  • He wanted to know everything about my family

  • and my childhood and my hopes and dreams.

  • Conor believed in me, as a writer and a woman,

  • in a way that no one else ever had.

  • And he also created a magical atmosphere of trust between us

  • by confessing his secret,

  • which was that, as a very young boy starting at age four,

  • he had been savagely and repeatedly physically abused

  • by his stepfather,

  • and the abuse had gotten so bad that he had had to drop out of school in eighth grade,

  • even though he was very smart,

  • and he'd spent almost 20 years rebuilding his life.

  • Which is why that Ivy League degree

  • and the Wall Street job and his bright shiny future

  • meant so much to him.

  • If you had told me

  • that this smart, funny, sensitive man who adored me

  • would one day dictate whether or not I wore makeup,

  • how short my skirts were,

  • where I lived, what jobs I took,

  • who my friends were and where I spent Christmas,

  • I would have laughed at you,

  • because there was not a hint of violence or control

  • or anger in Conor at the beginning.

  • I didn't know that the first stage

  • in any domestic violence relationship

  • is to seduce and charm the victim.

  • I also didn't know that the second step is to isolate the victim.

  • Now, Conor did not come home one day and announce,

  • "You know, hey, all this Romeo and Juliet stuff has been great,

  • but I need to move into the next phase

  • where I isolate you and I abuse you" — (Laughter) —

  • "so I need to get you out of this apartment

  • where the neighbors can hear you scream

  • and out of this city where you have friends and family

  • and coworkers who can see the bruises."

  • Instead, Conor came home one Friday evening

  • and he told me that he had quit his job that day,

  • his dream job,

  • and he said that he had quit his job because of me,

  • because I had made him feel so safe and loved

  • that he didn't need to prove himself on Wall Street anymore,

  • and he just wanted to get out of the city

  • and away from his abusive, dysfunctional family,

  • and move to a tiny town in New England

  • where he could start his life over with me by his side.

  • Now, the last thing I wanted to do was leave New York,

  • and my dream job,

  • but I thought you made sacrifices for your soulmate,

  • so I agreed, and I quit my job,

  • and Conor and I left Manhattan together.

  • I had no idea I was falling into crazy love,

  • that I was walking headfirst into a carefully laid

  • physical, financial and psychological trap.

  • The next step in the domestic violence pattern

  • is to introduce the threat of violence

  • and see how she reacts.

  • And here's where those guns come in.

  • As soon as we moved to New England -- you know,

  • that place where Connor was supposed to feel so safe --

  • he bought three guns.

  • He kept one in the glove compartment of our car.

  • He kept one under the pillows on our bed,

  • and the third one he kept in his pocket at all times.

  • And he said that he needed those guns

  • because of the trauma he'd experienced as a young boy.

  • He needed them to feel protected.

  • But those guns were really a message for me,

  • and even though he hadn't raised a hand to me,

  • my life was already in grave danger every minute of every day.

  • Conor first physically attacked me

  • five days before our wedding.

  • It was 7 a.m. I still had on my nightgown.

  • I was working on my computer trying to finish a freelance writing assignment,

  • and I got frustrated,

  • and Conor used my anger as an excuse

  • to put both of his hands around my neck

  • and to squeeze so tightly that I could not breathe or scream,

  • and he used the chokehold

  • to hit my head repeatedly against the wall.

  • Five days later, the ten bruises on my neck had just faded,

  • and I put on my mother's wedding dress,

  • and I married him.

  • Despite what had happened,

  • I was sure we were going to live happily ever after,

  • because I loved him, and he loved me so much.

  • And he was very, very sorry.

  • He had just been really stressed out by the wedding

  • and by becoming a family with me.

  • It was an isolated incident,

  • and he was never going to hurt me again.

  • It happened twice more on the honeymoon.

  • The first time, I was driving to find a secret beach

  • and I got lost,

  • and he punched me in the side of my head so hard

  • that the other side of my head repeatedly hit

  • the driver's side window.

  • And then a few days later, driving home from our honeymoon,

  • he got frustrated by traffic,

  • and he threw a cold Big Mac in my face.

  • Conor proceeded to beat me once or twice a week

  • for the next two and a half years of our marriage.

  • I was mistaken in thinking that I was unique

  • and alone in this situation.

  • One in three American women

  • experiences domestic violence or stalking at some point in her life,

  • and the CDC reports that 15 million children

  • are abused every year, 15 million.

  • So actually, I was in very good company.

  • Back to my question:

  • Why did I stay?

  • The answer is easy.

  • I didn't know he was abusing me.

  • Even though he held those loaded guns to my head,

  • pushed me down stairs,

  • threatened to kill our dog,

  • pulled the key out of the car ignition as I drove down the highway,

  • poured coffee grinds on my head

  • as I dressed for a job interview,

  • I never once thought of myself as a battered wife.

  • Instead, I was a very strong woman

  • in love with a deeply troubled man,

  • and I was the only person on Earth

  • who could help Conor face his demons.

  • The other question everybody asks is,

  • why doesn't she just leave?

  • Why didn't I walk out? I could have left any time.

  • To me, this is the saddest and most painful question that people ask,

  • because we victims know something you usually don't:

  • It's incredibly dangerous to leave an abuser.

  • Because the final step in the domestic violence pattern

  • is kill her.

  • Over 70 percent of domestic violence murders

  • happen after the victim has ended the relationship,

  • after she's gotten out,

  • because then the abuser has nothing left to lose.

  • Other outcomes include long-term stalking,

  • even after the abuser remarries;

  • denial of financial resources;

  • and manipulation of the family court system

  • to terrify the victim and her children,

  • who are regularly forced by family court judges

  • to spend unsupervised time

  • with the man who beat their mother.

  • And still we ask, why doesn't she just leave?

  • I was able to leave,

  • because of one final, sadistic beating

  • that broke through my denial.

  • I realized that the man who I loved so much

  • was going to kill me if I let him.

  • So I broke the silence.

  • I told everyone:

  • the police, my neighbors,

  • my friends and family, total strangers,

  • and I'm here today because you all helped me.

  • We tend to stereotype victims

  • as grisly headlines,

  • self-destructive women, damaged goods.

  • The question, "Why does she stay?"

  • is code for some people for, "It's her fault for staying,"

  • as if victims intentionally choose to fall in love with men

  • intent upon destroying us.

  • But since publishing "Crazy Love,"

  • I have heard hundreds of stories from men and women

  • who also got out,

  • who learned an invaluable life lesson from what happened,

  • and who rebuilt lives -- joyous, happy lives --

  • as employees, wives and mothers,