That’s what people in abusive relationships are told. But it’s not that simple, according to Lori Carter, an Ashburn mother who’s lived through it.
“You want to leave, but you’re afraid. And somewhere in there, you still care about them,” she said. “It’s more complicated than people think.”
It took Carter eight years to build the courage to walk out the door for good.
Twenty years after she left that toxic relationship, Carter is just now willing to share her story. What’s prompted her to speak up is the hope that she might give another woman strength to get help before it’s too late.
Her abuse started with control. A conversation with her boyfriend’s father resulted in an accusation she was cheating on him. Then it was a shove down the stairs. Later, a slap on the face. At its worst, Carter said her boyfriend held a gun to her head and threatened to kill her and her family if she left him.
“At that point I thought it’s not going to stop. It’s going to get worse. Somebody’s going to die in this relationship, either me or him,” she said.
She said that domestic violence doesn’t usually start with bruises. It can come in the form of derogatory name calling or obsession and control.
“With this younger generation, you’ll hear guys call females ‘bitches.’ That’s a form of abuse. We have to stop that,” she said.
Carter wants victims of abuse to know that they’re not alone, and to be brave enough to ask for help. If a victim is ready to leave, they should call an organization like Loudoun Abused Women’s Shelter or at least tell a friend. “Have a plan before you leave. Let somebody know your plan so you’re not alone,” she said. Then, get ongoing help. “Get therapy. You don’t have to go through this alone.”
Carter said she understands the temptation for victims of abuse to keep their struggle to themselves. But not being willing to speak up allows the problem to continue and fester, she said. “This is happening in our church communities, in our schools. This is going on and we need to stand up to it.”
A year ago, she started the Beautiful Movement, designed to empower women to love their inner beauty. Women who lack confidence and who look to a relationship for purpose are most vulnerable to abuse, she said.
Carter will share her story at the community meeting planned on domestic violence prevention, at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 17 at the Loudoun County Government Center, 1 Harrison St. in Leesburg. Learn more about Beautiful Movement at squareup.com/market/thebeautifulmovement.