Lizzy and Daniel – should she have left earlier?
“Lingering Shadows” wasn't an easy story to write. It's certainly not your average #Christfic romance, but it's a real story and deals with real issues. Issues that have caused some readers to become quite opinionated about what Lizzy should have done at the first sign of abuse. Whilst I respect the right of readers to have and state their own views on the matter, it's sometimes not as cut and dried as it seems. For anyone who hasn't been in that situation, it's easy to say Lizzy should have left at the first instance of abuse, but having been in that situation myself, I know from first-hand experience it's not quite that simple.
I do not, however, condone abuse in any shape or form, however, a person's self-image, maturity, support network (or lack thereof), personality and religious beliefs all determine how they handle it and what they do when it happens.
In Lizzy's case, she married Daniel on the rebound, and in many ways was quite naïve and vulnerable. When Daniel started drinking, she had no idea it would lead to abuse. When it did, she was in shock. It threw her, and she didn't know what to do. She wanted to understand what had caused him to behave like that and to help him. She'd only just married him, and as a Christian, even though she'd married him for the wrong reasons, she was committed to her wedding vows, and so leaving wasn't really an option at that stage. Maybe it should have been, but it wasn't.
Also, the underlying issues between Lizzy and her father caused her to put on a front, and there was no way she'd admit defeat to him. After Daniel stormed out at dinner when they'd stopped at her parents' place at the beginning of their holiday, and then abused her that night, she started to realise she had to take a stand against him, and she made it clear she wouldn't tolerate him doing it again, and stated she'd leave if he did. She still had a lot to learn about standing up for herself, but she'd made progress.
When Lizzy finally made the decision to leave, it was the hardest decision of her life. She had finally stood up for herself, but fully intended to return when and if Daniel sorted himself out. She was much more confident in herself and in what she was doing than she had been early on in their relationship, but she'd also grown to love him, and her greatest desire was that their marriage would work, and that Daniel would find God. But to do that, she had to leave, although it tore her apart. She was angry, disappointed and disillusioned, but she knew it was the right thing to do at that time, and she had hope.
One wonders what would have happened if she'd left the first time it happened. Would either of them have had the desire or the know-how to sort out their problems? Somehow I doubt it. In that case, Lizzy would most likely have wallowed in self-deprecation, and would never have wanted to face her father. Or, Daniel would have found her, apologised profusely, and convinced her he'd change? As he was a sweet talker and she was soft and naïve, she probably would have given in and gone back, then they would have been back at square 1.
Then again, she could have told her parents she'd made a mistake, and left him for good. But would she really have been able to do that, given her Christian beliefs? I don't believe so.
I often hear comments like: “They should leave and take out an AVO”; ” I don't know why they stay”, and similar. These statements are valid, but still, there's no easy answer, and no one simple solution that fits all. Taking out an AVO should help, however, it sometimes only serves to aggravate the situation further, as abusers often treat it like a red flag, and it only inflames the situation. For many women, staying is often the easier and safer choice, although it might not the right one. Unfortunately, there really is no easy solution to this insidious problem our society is faced with. If only there was.
If you're still not sure about the whole issue, and haven't read Book 2, “Facing the Shadows”, I'd encourage you to do so before making your final judgment. I won't spoil it for you, but most readers have said it's a satisfying continuation of their story.
Lastly, and I've really debated whether to do this or not, but in the end decided to do it…… I'd like to let you know that I've also written and published my own real story of living with an alcoholic husband. I've also had some readers ask why I didn't leave at the first sign of abuse – maybe I should have, but I didn't. If I knew what I know today, if I'd been older and wiser at the time, if I'd been this or if I'd known that, then maybe I would have, but at the time I was young and naïve, much like Lizzy, and I also really believed that God and I together could help him. That was my belief at the time, and whilst it may have been idealistic, it was what I believed. Anyway, if you'd like to read my story and get a real life insight into the emotional turmoil that goes on inside someone when they're in that situation, the link is below. It's published under my real name (yes, Juliette Duncan is my pen name – I hope that doesn’t come as too much of shock to you!), and here's the link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B007OHZFX4. Please don't be too harsh on me if you read it. It is my story after all, and I lived it. In hindsight, I probably should have handled things differently, and I probably should never have gone back after the first time I left. But I did, and I can't change that.
I welcome your comments on the topic. All I ask is that you respect each other's personal opinions. I do believe that none of us condone abuse, especially with so many domestic fatalities happening these days, but so many women in particular still feel trapped. If it was as simple to leave as some make out, then why don't they? Because in many cases, it's still not that simple…..