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I believe one of the biggest failings of our family court system is the failure to understand the vicious cycle of family violence. Victims are often blamed because they did not “just leave.” In fact, many leave and return, on average 17 times, even after being severely beaten. There is a dedicated court in Harris County for obtaining protective orders. This means one judge hears all these cases. It follows then, that it is most important for that judge to understand domestic violence. The current judge, and candidate for reelection, is Judge Lynn Bradshaw-Hull. I have in the past felt that this judge does not understand domestic violence. I have seen her grill victims worse than she did the accuser. Apparently, investigations, as reported in the Houston Chronicle recently, have revealed that I am not alone in that belief. THIS IS WHERE YOU COME IN. The candidate opposing this judge, BARBARA STALDER, has been actively working in and with organizations for years to protect victims of domestic abuse. She has the background, training and experience, and I believe the understanding, in this area that Judge Bradshaw-Hull does not. I encourage you to step across party lines if necessary and vote for Barbara Stalder. Do not wait until it is your mother, sister or friend standing in front of the protective order court judge as a victim to take a stand.

The following is from a recent Huffington Post article explaining why victims do not just leave:

It’s the question every survivor of domestic violence is posed, often incredulously: Why didn’t you just leave? The reality is that leaving an abusive relationship is often a herculean task that endangers the woman and calls for resources that aren’t readily available.

In June, after The Huffington Post ran an investigative report on a woman allegedly murdered by her boyfriend, we received an outpouring of responses from domestic violence survivors who wanted to explain why they had stayed with their abusers. We spent the next three months interviewing these women. While they offered hundreds of reasons, ranging from the logistical to the deeply personal, some common themes emerged: Fear. Love. Family. Money. Shame. Isolation.

In this series, you will hear from six survivors of domestic violence about why they didn’t leave sooner. The stories — told in their own words — are as distinct as they are similar. One woman suffered a brutal week of abuse before fleeing. Others stayed for decades trying to make things work. Two women were shot, the bullets narrowly missing their hearts. Another endured years of incessant stalking.

This week, stories like theirs became part of a national conversation when a video surfaced of pro football player Ray Rice violently punching his then-fiancee Janay Palmer in an elevator. Palmer, who married Rice just a few weeks after the incident, was criticized for having stayed with him. Then, something remarkable happened: Writer Beverly Gooden shared her own reasons for staying in an abusive relationship on Twitter, using the hashtag #WhyIStayed. Within hours, hundreds of survivors were tweeting their own reasons for doing the same.

As the stories continue to flood in, we hope this project will make it clear that “just leaving” often isn’t an option. We hope these accounts will prompt people to stop asking why she stayed — and instead begin asking how they can help.