Last summer I witnessed an incident of Domestic Violence in a parking lot one afternoon. I had gone to pick up my son from a day camp and as I was standing by our car I could hear a man speaking angrily to someone. I turned around and was horrified to see this man standing in a woman's way, refusing to move. She stepped to the left, he blocked her, to the right, same thing...I felt sick. He positioned himself about two inches from her face, her head was down, eyes to the ground. He finally stepped back, threw the keys at her and she got into the driver's seat. The entire time I could hear him, not the words, but the low voiced, threatening tone of someone who is letting his partner know that he has a problem with something she said or did, letting her know by his physical presence that she is powerless.
I agonised over what I had witnessed. All that evening I planned how I could somehow let this woman know that she wasn't alone and that I was sorry that I hadn't gone up and intervened, that there were places she could go to, people who could help. The next day when I went to pick up my son I had a carefully written note tucked into my pocket that I envisioned somehow being able to slip to her. This was the last day of camp and there was a production being put on by the children. I craned my neck over the crowd and finally saw her, sitting at the back of the room. When the show was over I casually made my way out of my seat and headed in her direction. What I saw made me realise in an instant that this was not the time to slip her my note. For the same man that I had seen intimidate and humiliate this woman the day before was now acting the part of the great husband/partner...loving and attentive - and she was clearly happy. This woman was smiling and laughing, holding his hand and walking away to collect their children, the picture of domestic bliss. I could have still given her my note I suppose but something made me think that she might not appreciate it as much today as she would have the day before. Today she was happy,
What happened? I don't know because I wasn't there but I could bet a box of Tim Horton's donuts that her happiness wasn't because she had a great relationship. I don't even think she was happy because he might have said "Sorry, it'll never happen again", although I could be wrong there. It's just that her happiness looked an awful lot like my happiness after having my way blocked and after being spoken to in that sort of voice...it is the kind of happiness that isn't happiness at all but is actually more like relief - relief that he (her partner) woke up in a good mood or that he got a job offer that he was waiting for, or even just relief that he seems nicer today although you are not sure why.
In abusive relationships you are excruciatingly aware that so much of your 'happiness' depends on the other person's mood. If they are happy, so are you. In fact, in my case I was overjoyed if my husband treated me with respect and dignity, if he held my hand it suddenly was the best day ever...it validates you somehow. If he isn't being mean to you then you must be important to him after all.
I'm not saying this is the way it is for everyone, I know that it isn't. Writing this blog as a survivor is how I get to share what has happened in my life, it is a way for me to move forward. But the purpose for writing this blog is so much bigger...it connects us. You read it and you can identify with part or all of what I might be saying or maybe you pass it on to your sister who lets her friend at work know... this is how we support each other. Really, why put myself out there if I didn't think that there are others who are struggling with the same things?
I wonder if the woman from last summer will ever know that what she experienced in the parking lot that day was Domestic Violence. Maybe she knew even then that what was happening was wrong. Maybe she had already left him five times for just that kind of behaviour or maybe it was the first time it had ever happened. I doubt that we will ever know but if I ever run across that kind of situation again, this time I know exactly what I will do...I will hand her a card that has the 1 in Four website address on it and she can read what it says for herself..." Someone you know needs help, maybe that someone is you". This website is here for that woman, and you and all of us. Let's help each other.by