Earlier today, I was writing an article for our parish bulletin on the topic of Domestic Violence Awareness and recalled some disturbing incidents that took place early on in our marriage. These events were instances of domestic violence. I witnessed them, and have never forgotten what they stirred up within me.
[Let me offer a bit of background: Tom and I come from large families. Life was hectic in our households. Our parents had occasion to disagree from time to time, but never ever raised a hand to hurt or harm. The disagreements were just that—not opportunities to abase or abuse the other.]
One evening a few of months into our marriage, Tom and I became aware of an escalating argument taking place in the vicinity of our home. We were renting a little back cottage and were not far from an alley. It was mid Fall and chilly, so our windows were shut. We stuck our heads out the back door and saw a couple about our age standing beneath a light in the alley, screaming at each other. Their tone of voice continued to amp up in anger, their body language becoming increasingly tense. Then he raised his arm. We quickly got inside and shut the door. We were equally shocked and afraid for what might happen. We did not know what to do. We had never witnessed this type of nasty interaction before.
About a year later, we were living in an apartment with front windows in close proximity to the house next door. The driveway was ten feet or less from our baby’s nursery window. Our little one was about 5 weeks old, still up in the middle of the night. It was summer and warm, so the window was open. We were rocking our babe when a loud motorbike pulled into the driveway. The driver was a man who played in a band, and he arrived home to his wife and four or five little children, late at night with a young woman on the back of the bike, hanging on to him.
His wife bolted out of the front door and the two began arguing angrily and loudly. After about ten minutes of heated screaming, he took off with the girl. The next afternoon, as our little one was waking from his nap, the husband reappeared, this time in a big truck. I had just laid the baby on his changing table, which was situated in front of the window. There I was, gently seeing to a fresh diaper for this precious little boy, as I witnessed the following:
The woman apparently saw or heard the truck and stormed out the front door, down the steps to the lawn and drive, toting a big umbrella. Her anger was palpable. She began to hit the windshield repeatedly with the umbrella. The husband slammed out of the truck, grabbed his wife by her hair, flipped her onto her back, and dragged her across the lawn, up the stairs and into the house. There I stood, frozen with fear, cradling my baby. I grabbed the phone and called the police. In no time, two squads arrived and stayed quite some time. The police eventually escorted the husband out. About a month later, the wife and children left.
The wife and I had never talked but after that violent explosion, we would just look at each other from a distance. She looked so very angry, worn, defeated and burdened. I figured she knew I was the one who made the call.
A few months after that experience, I had occasion to witness a beating in the apartment building we shared with three other families. It was around 8:00pm and I was returning home from some activity. The parking lot we used was on the side of the building that caused me to pass the kitchen window of the folks who lived across the hall from us. I happened to look up as I walked by their kitchen to see the husband holding his wife’s head over the edge of the sink. The next day, she sported a huge black eye. This was not the first nasty bruise we had spotted on her. The couple moved shortly after this.
I wonder if she is still alive.
Had I been stronger, I would have offered her a cup of coffee, invited her in, or maybe even called the police. I was afraid of her husband, I can only imagine how terrified she was.
Domestic Violence Awareness calls us action. My responses were so very limited in those days. I understand better now. I still freeze in fear when I encounter signs of violence. Now I am less likely to be held captive by that fear, and more ready to act, to take a stand against domestic violence.
Take a stand with me.
Please. for their sake…