Author Leslie Morgan Steiner wrote "Crazy Love", a memoir about her life as a battered woman. She is speaking in San Jose on Oct. 8, 2009. (hand out from publisher)

Author Leslie Morgan Steiner wrote "Crazy Love", a memoir about her life as a battered woman. She is speaking in San Jose on Oct. 8, 2009. (hand out from publisher)

San Jose Mercury News

September 30, 2009

Fisher: A battered woman’s compelling story

By Patty Fisher

Why didn’t she just leave?

Every time I hear about a battered woman who is shot or beaten to death by her husband or boyfriend, that’s what I wonder.

What was she thinking? How could she let him hit her, night after night — and stay?

I have heard the answers to those questions many times, from the women themselves and from the counselors who tried to help them: She stayed because she had no money and nowhere to go. She was afraid he’d kill her if she left. She didn’t think anyone would believe her story. And, saddest of all, she thought she deserved it.

But in a new book that chronicles in brutal detail the four years of beatings and psychological abuse she suffered at the hands of her handsome, seemingly devoted husband, author Leslie Morgan Steiner offers this simple reason why she stayed.

“I loved him,” she told me. “I just thought he was a really troubled guy.”

Steiner, a successful author who edited the 2006 best-seller “Mommy Wars” about the conflict of career moms vs. stay-at-home moms, will be in San Jose Oct. 8 to discuss her new memoir, “Crazy Love,” and to raise money for Next Door Solutions, our largest provider of shelter and other services to victims of domestic violence.

Last year in Santa Clara County, domestic violence hot lines fielded more than 24,000 calls and provided emergency beds to 795 women and children. But nearly 1,100 victims and their children were turned away because there weren’t enough beds.

This year, after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger cut the state’s entire $16 million domestic violence budget, shelters across California are closing or cutting back on services, making it even harder for women and men to break free from abusive partners. Next Door and three other shelters in Santa Clara County, each took $200,000 hits.

Kathleen Kreneck, executive director of Next Door, hopes to sell enough $50 tickets to the Steiner fundraiser to keep the doors open for at least a few months.

“We’re hoping our community will rally around us and say we want people to be safe here,” she said. “I find it interesting that the governor rallied around the state parks but not domestic violence, when there are victims literally dying across California. That certainly doesn’t speak to my value system.”

Or mine.

Steiner, too, was appalled when she heard about the service cuts in California.

“It’s like a body blow to think that women and children who are so desperate that they reach out for help will not be able to get it,” she said. “The long-term cost for society will be far greater than just the cost of keeping shelters open.”

In some ways, Steiner is not the stereotypical battered woman. She was well educated and independent. She never spent a night in a shelter. Perhaps that’s why “Crazy Love” is such a compelling read. It’s the story of a young Harvard graduate with a dream job at Seventeen magazine in New York City who falls for a 30-something guy she meets on the subway. He’s well dressed, attentive and romantic — until she moves in with him and he starts hitting and choking her.

“I literally could have walked out the door, except for what happened to me psychologically,” she said. She felt compassion because he was beaten as a child and vowed to help him. Meanwhile, he became increasingly controlling and manipulative, taking her away from her job and alienating her from her family.

It wasn’t until he nearly killed her one night that she finally called the cops.

Steiner spent 10 years writing “Crazy Love” and another year agonizing over whether to publish it. It took courage to go public with her story, and thousands of women will read it and see themselves.

On Oct. 8, we’ll all have an opportunity to hear her tell that story in person.

More important, we’ll be able to help keep Next Door’s doors open. Without safe places to go and caring professionals to help them, battered women — and men — will have one more reason not to leave.