If you’re like me, you’ve spent the past several days practicing social distancing. In addition to working from home during the day, which I am fortunate to be able to do, I’ve also been taking some time each night to unplug and unwind by reading or watching a movie. A classic film that I always enjoy, Back To The Future was at the top of the list. The sounds of Huey Lewis’s “The Power of Love” blasted through the stereo system, and I settled into the movie.
It was the first time I’d seen the movie in many years, and I was surprised at how uncomfortable I was at some of the previously-familiar scenes. When antagonist Biff Tannen forced his way into the car of his love interest, and onto her, I felt myself shudder at the blatant sexual assault that was taking place so casually on the screen. The next night, when I started Back To The Future II, I was met with equally strong feelings of unease. Halfway through the film, protagonist Marty McFly traveled through time, only to realize that in this newly-created alternate universe, his mother Lorraine was in a disturbing and unhappy marriage with arch enemy Biff. Lorraine threatened Biff with the prospect of leaving him, only to realize that she had neither the resources nor the financial ability to do so.
Lorraine: Damnit Biff, that’s it. I’m leaving.
Biff: So go ahead. But think about this, Loraine. Who’s going to pay for your clothes, huh? And your jewelry?…look, Lorraine. You walk out that door, and I won’t only cut off you. I’ll cut off your kids.
Lorraine: You wouldn’t!
Biff: Oh, wouldn’t I? First your daughter, Linda. I’ll cancel all her credit cards. She can settle her debts with the bank all by herself! Your idiot son Dave? I’ll get his probation revoked. And as for Marty… well, maybe you’d like to have all three of your kids behind bars, just like your brother Joe. One happy family.
Loraine: Alright Biff, you win. I’ll stay.
These words were poignant. For all of the comically exaggerated behaviors of the characters throughout the series, these words rang soberingly true for an abuser.
People are quick to ask, “Why Doesn’t She Just Leave?” but it appears that as a society, we need to rewind and go Back To The Beginning. The question shouldn’t be “Why doesn’t she just leave?” but rather, “Why does he do that?” Many people don’t realize that having children makes it harder to leave an abuser, as does a lack of financial resources. And especially now when we are practicing social distancing, where many of us are safe and secure in our own homes, victims of abuse don’t have even that luxury – but there is hope.
At Genesis, we don’t ask survivors, “why didn’t you just leave?” We walk beside victims and talk through options, including how to stay safe during an uncertain time. If you have questions about your relationship or would like to discuss safety planning, call our 24-hour hotline at 214.946.HELP (4357).
Written by Amy Ridings, director of communications at Genesis Women’s Shelter & Support.