Often, women who stay in violent relationships undergo gradual steps of reasoning to reconcile the violence in their minds. The reasons she stays often change as the violence changes forms.

First, she stays because:
· She loves him.
· She believes she can reason with him.
· She feels ashamed.
· She made a marital commitment.
· She believes he's capable of change.
· She believes she can control his rage if she just tries harder.
· She believes that if she can convince him that she loves him, his jealousy and other violent behaviors will change.

Later, she stays because:
· She loves him, but less.
· She's under pressure from family or friends to stay.
· She hopes he'll get help or change.
· She's become afraid to be alone.
· She still believes he loves and needs her.
· She doesn't know how she'll financially support herself.
· She has real fear for her life if she should threaten to leave

Finally, she stays because:
· Fear... he has become tremendously powerful in her eyes.
· Her self-esteem is gone.
· He's told her and she believes him that no one will love her like he does.
· He threatens to kill her or the children.
· She doesn't know how to survive without him.
· She is very confused and even feels guilty.
· She is having a hard time making decisions because she is depressed and immobile.
· She no longer feels any control over her life.
· She feels hopeless and helpless.
· She's lost sight of any of her options.
· She has any number of physical symptoms/ illnesses and emotional problems.
· She is suicidal.

What are the seven secrets on How to Stay Out Once You Get Out?
Having talked to hundreds of women for the research of my books and seminars on Domestic Violence, I have learned from them how to stop the revolving door of abuse. Although, every survivor's story is unique, there are often common threads that provide opportunities for learning. In the following paragraphs, three women share their stories: Ann, Margaret, and Teri. They confirm that domestic violence can happen to anyone and that there is a way out!

Ann was just 18 and in her first year of college when she began her relationship with her 29 year-old abuser. Already a college graduate when she married, now 40 year-old Ann and her husband had been together for 15 years. She described her husband as "controlling "and "manipulative." The abuse was most often "verbal" and "mental." She was told that she "would be nothing" without him and that she "could make no decision" or "do anything" by herself. Ann described attempts by her husband to isolate her from family, friends, and activities. He would tell Ann that "if she didn't behave" he would take the children. This would terrify her. Ann decided she would do anything, just to make her husband happy. She went to AI-A-Non to figure out how she could better support her alcoholic abuser. She even went to church and asked for prayer. She stayed because she thought it was the right thing to do for her children. She had left home several times, but always went back. The children weren't happy and later told her that they were glad when she ended the marriage. When Ann tried to leave, the abuser would "smother her with love" by buying her expensive gifts and apology cards. Her family was not helpful either. Her mother wanted Ann to stay because her husband was a good provider. Finally, Ann realized that nothing she did was going to make things better. The primary impetus for Ann to leave was the escalating violence. She was forced to move into a shelter because her husband wouldn't leave or leave her alone.
Ann learned the first secret of staying out: She had to get real and destroy the illusion. This man was not a happy, family man. Ann described how "more than once" her husband would apologize for what he did in an effort to smooth everything over. She would get taken in over and over again. She was on a roller coaster with his emotional ups and downs. One day he would be upset by one thing and the next day, it was something else. She began to only look at the way he behaved and to not listen to his words. Finally, she began to face a new reality. Her husband was abusing her and it wasn't going to change. Ann finally made the decision to face reality. She continued to do a lot of self-talk. She had to remind herself that he was an abusive man. Today, she is free.

Margaret, now 35, had completed high school and some college when she began her 6-year marriage to the man who abused her. Margaret has childhood memories of domestic violence. She was also told that she would be "nothing" without her partner. Margaret's husband would claim, for example, that the children "were not his" or tell the children "mommy was going to Hell." The entire atmosphere became so bad for one of Margaret's children that the child ran away from home. Margaret's partner did not allow the house to look as if kids lived in it. The children were not allowed to leave any fingerprints on a glass coffee table. She felt like she was always walking on eggshells. Margaret wanted to believe that every thing would be "okay." She could feel her health deteriorating. She had been healthy when she had married, but now she had a series of bowel and bladder problems. He continued to tell her that she couldn't make it without him and she began to believe him. She developed additional health problems as a result of her husband's philandering. The vicious cycle continued until one day she woke up saying, "I have a chance for a life if I leave him. I have no chance for a life if I stay." She repeated this mantra over and over again. Finally, Margaret left the relationship only to go back three times for the children's sake. The third time was the charm and she has never returned. She learned the second secret of staying out: "Cut off contact." Her husband was creative in inventing ways to see her and talk with her. It would get her emotionally reconnected and she would begin to second-guess herself. She realized that there was a hook every time she saw or talked with him. Intellectually, she knew that the hook had to be broken. She told herself that "no matter what," she could no longer hear his voice or be in his presence. She learned the power of the 'no contact rule." It broke the habit of the revolving door of abuse. Today, she can see her ex-husband without feeling the bond.

Teri is African-American and she, too, experienced domestic violence as a child. Twenty-nine years old, Teri was just fourteen and in junior high school when she began the six year relationship with her then 19 year old abuser. Teri described how each disagreement with her partner would end with her apology regardless of the issue. She described how her partner used the children, which is so typical of abusive relationships. When Teri tried to leave, he trapped her financially. She could not have the checkbook or credit cards. Cash was sparse. Indeed, she was financially dependent on her husband. She knew she would face severe economic hardship if she chose to support herself and her children on her own. For a time, it seemed worth it to put up with the abuse in order to gain economic security. Economic conditions today afford a woman with children few viable options. She often has no marketable skills. Government assistance is very limited and many dread welfare. She began to save a little money each week and hide it in a place that only she knew about. She opened her own bank account where statements would be mailed to a safe place. She found and made copies of her children's birth certificates, car title, insurance information and forms, social security cards, house deed, mortgage papers, marriage and drivers' license, bank account numbers, savings passbooks and credit cards/bank ATM cards. She also created a financial action plan, the third secret for staying out. This plan helped her determine exactly how much money she and her children needed to live. Teri's impetus for leaving was her children. She knew it couldn't be healthy for her two little ones to see her partner's rage. She wasn't sure how she'd make it. She escaped to a shelter where they still talk about how she bought a car for ten dollars. It actually ran for an entire year. She now has a responsible job. She is a focused parent and a wise woman. Teri, who dropped out of high school to set up housekeeping with her abuser, has now completed her high school requirements and is enrolled in college.

The fourth secret on how to stay out is to put the children first. How are children impacted by domestic violence? Children from violent homes may exhibit the following symptoms. They don't trust adults. They may experience anxiety attacks coming from the fear for themselves and their mother. Often, they will have nightmares and/or sleep disturbances. They will learn to be people pleasers, especially preoccupied with pleasing the abusive parent. They will have profound insecurity, which manifests in crippling low self-esteem. At a young age, they will have stress-related physical illnesses. There will be poor school performance even though they are often very bright. And what's even worse is that there is a high likelihood that they will become abusers themselves.

Vicky was a 28 year-old mother of three boys. She stayed in the abusive relationship for her children. She has been married for nine years to a man who beat her. Vicky grew up in a very religious family and was a religious woman. Although her family did not like the way her husband treated her, they felt she had a responsibility to keep the family together. One night, Vicky and her children ended up at a shelter for battered women. She was battered and confused. She used her time at the shelter to get some support and explore her options. She only had a high school education and no job experience. She had no source of income. She wanted to return to school and get a job, but her husband didn't want her to work. She had no daycare. In the shelter, Vicky struggled to make the right decision for herself and her children. She wanted to do what was best, and she measured that by the approval she got from others. Eventually, she felt she had to return to her home and family. Her parents were proud of her decision to fulfill her responsibility. Vicky expressed her appreciation for the safe harbor. The battery continued. Although her husband frequently left marks where nobody else could see, he would also beat her about the head. He said he was trying to pound some sense into her. Vicky went to see her minister. He suggested she explore ways to make her husband happier. He explained that marriage can be stressful, and that God rewards those who forgive others. He praised her for being a good wife and a fine mother by keeping the family together. When Vicky started having headaches, she went to see the family doctor. She told him that her husband beat her repeatedly in the head. The doctor said the headaches were stress related. She returned home. The headaches continued. The night before Vicky died in the hospital, she questioned her decision. She said she believed her husband was a good man and never meant to hurt her or the kids. Yet, she said, she prayed the children could stay with her parents after she died because she couldn't trust him to give them a safe environment. That night everyone thought Vicky would be okay. But Vicky knew then, as she had known all along, that there was no way out for her. On her death certificate, it said Vicky died of a cerebral hemorrhage. Putting the children first does not mean allowing your perpetrator to kill you! How many children grow up without the loving bond of their mother in the name of "keeping the family together!" Children who come from violent homes need a safe environment. They need someone to talk to with whom they can share their feelings. They need to know that they are not alone. They need to learn non-violent ways of expressing their feelings and to have non-violent role models. They need to have contact with healthy men and to learn how to value their mothers while she learns to value herself. And lastly, children need to realize that they deserve to have these basic needs met.

As a woman frees herself from the abusive environment, she can take steps to enhance her self-esteem and to improve the quality of her life. The fifth secret to staying out is to learn to love yourself. She travels through life with one constant companion and that is her "self." How sad if she allows her closest companion to be someone she doesn't even know. This self-inventory can help her discover who she is.
Please answer the following questions:
1. What do I like about myself?
2. What do I like best/least about myself?
3. How do I feel about my body?
4. How do I like to spend my leisure time?
5. What kinds of people do I prefer to be around?
6. What are the qualities I value most about another person?
7 What are the qualities I value least?
8. What kind of work is most fulfilling for me?

When a person has self-esteem, they learn to be responsible. They take care of themselves by not ignoring their own needs. They stop flitting from relationship to relationship looking for someone else to tell them who they are. They begin to listen to their heart and trust their inner wisdom. They are true to themselves, even if it means losing the approval of others and risking rejection. They stop letting other people and events determine the direction of their lives. Recognize that when the victim of abuse realizes that she was not loved, only controlled, she grieves the lack of love because she knows that she is lovable. Through this process, she regains her self-esteem. She knows that she is worthy of love and respect. As she frees herself from the abusive environment, she can take many steps to enhance her self-esteem and to improve the quality of her life.

Often, she will be so confused by the years of chaos and uncertainty that she loses touch with the characteristics of a healthy relationship. In a healthy relationship:
· You feel respected as a person.
· Your physical and emotional needs are met.
· You like the other person and you feel liked by them.
· You are appreciated and not taken for granted.
· You are not afraid to be yourself.
· You can communicate effectively with your partner.
· You can affirm and support one another.
· Trust is everywhere.
· There is a sense of humor and play.
· Responsibilities are shared.
· Your privacy is respected.
· You are not constantly fighting for control.
· You or your partner admit and seek help for your problems.
· You want to spend time together.
· Love is a verb, not a noun.
· You are growing and the relationship is growing.
· You feel good about yourself and feel free to be yourself.

Even after she has achieved financial independence, her self-esteem is intact, she's put the children first and she's stayed completely away from her abuser... there will still be times when she misses the rare, good moments with him. Often, it is only a temporary urge, but this is when she has to be the most careful. This is also when she needs the greatest support. It is very much like the emotional recovery of an alcoholic. She can't just have one drink or she may start the roller coaster all over again. Many mistakenly think that once she leaves the relationship, she just needs to close the door and start over. The sixth secret to staying out is learning how to toughen up for the long haul. There are many people and organizations ready to help.

Meet Maggie. Maggie was living in a beautiful historic home in Indiana. She knew she needed to leave the memories, but she felt stuck. She was so emotionally drained from the abuse that she had left, that she couldn't imagine packing up a 4000 square foot home. A new friend from the East Coast offered her a couple of rooms in her home if she could break away. One morning she woke up and knew that it was time to sell her house and begin a new life. She moved to New York, lived in two rooms and was never happier even though there were a lot of challenges. She had to begin her career over, make new friends, find a bank, and doctor. But she felt free. As time passed, a lot of the memories disappeared. It was hard for her to explain to people why she was now living in New York. Most people don't understand abuse unless they've been through it or know someone who has.

We are living in a new world since September 11th. Terrorism is in the forefront of most of our minds. We can't get away from the memories, even if we try. Abused women understand recurring memories.

One out of four women is abused in the United States and she goes back eight to eleven times. Each time she goes back, she's at greater risk for serious injury and even death. Terrorism is an organized form of "oppression" that uses fear as a weapon. Its goal is to terrify to the point that a person, or a people, cannot resist. September 11lh opened everyone's eyes to terror. One out of four women in the U.S. have had their eyes opened to terror for a long time. Domestic violence is an epidemic in our society. It cuts across every race, gender, social and economic class. It affects 6 million families in the U.S. annually. It is the number one leading cause of injury to women between ages 15 and 44.

When the sixth secret: toughen up for the long haul is brought to light it increases our national awareness to the significance of "family terror." There will always be memories of national and individual tragedies, but with time and support, the memories will heal.

Domestic violence is everyone's business. Many national and local organizations have made a commitment to stop the hurting and start the healing. Liz Claiborne Inc. has been addressing the issue of domestic violence through its women's work program. The program's awareness and education campaign has included billboards, TV and radio public service announcements, posters, brochures, surveys, campus workshops, and mailings to "influentials" in an effort to help end abuse. Don't ignore abuse and terror in our homes. Do something about it. Get involved. Speak out. To help or get help, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

The seventh secret of staying out is learning to focus on hope and healing. Two women who know all about the seventh secret are Oprah Winfrey and Christie Brinkley. Oprah stated in her January, 2002, issue of Oprah Magazine that the biggest mistakes in her life have all stemmed from giving her power to someone else...believing that the love others had to offer was more important than the love she had to give to herself. Many years ago, Oprah shared that she had been in an abusive relationship. She believed that she needed a man to make her life all right. She realized she was always doing things to make him feel special. No matter how hard she tried, she could never please him. Finally, she prayed for the strength to end it. She now realizes the truth, that she was all right just as she was and that she was enough all by herself. It was only after the end of that relationship that her world began to open up to her and to us. If she'd stayed entangled in that relationship, The Color Purple and Oprah would never have happened. Hard to imagine!

Christie Brinkley is still haunted by terrible memories. In September 1999, she opened up in Redbook about her newfound joy and lingering pain. She had been married to a mentally abusive man. It was the only time in her life that she had ever been isolated from her parents. She found herself in the familiar trap of trying to see the "good" part of her husband. Finally, she couldn't take it any more. She left when she was seven months pregnant. She said everything was screaming for her to get out of there. She remembers how everything seemed like a challenge. She felt paralyzed and embarrassed. Finally she said to herself, "If you realize in your heart that something is not good for you and your family, throw away any thoughts about what anybody else might be thinking." A lot has changed for Christie since those terrifying days. She found a supportive woman who helped her understand what had happened. She also says the key to a good marriage is picking the right husband. Her past did not make her bitter. She allowed her heart to stay open and in walked Peter. She now has a husband who loves her and her family. She's often wondered what would have happened had she not made some difficult decisions. Oprah and Christie teach us that there is life after abuse. The seventh secret to staying out is to focus on hope and healing. Healing is a lifetime process.

Nobel prize winner, Anatole France, says it well in his quote on Recovery:
"All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter into another!"

And Maya Angelou reminds us that there can be victory in her I Still Rise:

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?

Shoulders falling down like teardrops
Weakened by soulful cries

You may shoot me with your words.
You may cut me with your eyes.
You may kill me with your hatefulness
But still, like air, I'll rise.

Author's Bio: 

Jane Boucher received her Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts from The Ohio State University. She has done doctoral work at the University of South Florida and has been an adjunct professor at the University of Dayton, Wright State University, Sinclair Community College and Antioch University McGregor. She also served as the Associate Director of the Antioch University McGregor Organizational Institute. She is currently serves as President of the International Team Building Association (ITBA).

The author of seven books, she uses both the podium and paper to promote personal and professional excellence. Her best seller, How To Love the Job You Hate, has been endorsed by Dr. Kenneth Blanchard, respected author of the best seller, The One Minute Manager. She has been interviewed and profiled by Forbes and The New York Times. She is also a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist appearing in business journals throughout the country.

Jane worked with at-risk youth before going into her professional speaking career. This high-powered Fortune 500 professional speaker, corporate trainer, Certified Mediator and consultant tells it like it is with organizations such as: the United States Senate, USDA, Department of the Navy, United States Air Force, FDIC, Merrill Lynch, General Motors, Toyota, Medical Group Management Association (MGMA), IBM, NCR, International Association of Hispanic Meeting Professionals (IAHMP) and Prudential of Europe. She has received praise from such notables as Senator Orrin Hatch and has shared the platform with General Norman Schwarzkopf, Bernard Siegel, M.D. and Nevada Governor Kenny Guinn. Not shy with the media, she has been on more than 1,000 radio and television programs, including CNBC, CBN and CNN.

She is one of the most dynamic women on the speaking circuit today. The National Speakers Association awarded the CSP designation to Jane. Fewer than 8% of all professional speakers hold this distinction.

Jane's latest book: ABUSE: How to Get Out and Stay Out is the only book of its kind on the market. It deals with the fact that most victims of abuse return to their abusers 8-11 times before finally getting out for good. This book is required reading for anyone who is a victim of abuse or knows someone who is. It teaches the reader how to break the cycle of abuse and offers steps to take every day that will help the victim get their life back.