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I spotted them across the street I was making a left turn onto. A man and a woman, both wearing backpacks. He was talking loudly and animatedly, following after her. She was very obviously walking away from him, and he was exhibiting what I can only describe as threatening behavior. I'm not sure, but I may have seen him grab at her arm.
The light turned green, and I made my turn. But instead of turning into the 7-11 parking lot where I was headed, I slowly drove past them, watching. Nothing really crazy was happening, they were both angry looking and he was still walking behind her. About a block ahead there was a turn-off to a trail head. I made a u-turn and pulled in, and just sat there. My window was down already.
Should I say something, or just drive away?
At this point, it was obvious that I was watching them, and the man began to cross the street, looking directly at me. He shouted to me something to the effect of 'why don't you mind your own business and stay out of other people's.'
My heart was pounding.
I heard her say 'no doubt.' I called out, "Are you okay?" He replied, "YEAH, she's okay!" Incredulously. Those were his words, but in his tone I heard 'stupid meddling bitch.'
I drove away.
I hope she really was okay. I was prepared to offer her a ride, a way out of the situation if she needed it. Once I stopped, it seemed like she was not running from him. Maybe it was just a fight.
But, you never know.
I hope that I didn't cause her any more trouble than she already seemed to have on her hands. I'm sure that both of those people thought I was meddling, that I was an idiot. Maybe it was just a fight that got out of hand. Maybe later they'd be embarrassed. Whatever they thought, I don't regret stopping.
Because you never know.
What if she had needed a way out? What if she had been in danger, and I could have helped? In any case, if you choose to behave like that in public, you SHOULD expect someone to say something.
Every 12 seconds a woman is battered in the United States (Ms. Magazine, 2000).
Last week, Kriston Peterman-Dunya was shot to death by her estranged husband here in Bellingham. She left behind a 7 year old son.
Domestic Violence is the largest single cause of injury to women in the United States, more than car accidents, muggings, and rapes (Surgeon General of the U.S., 1990).
In my training and volunteering for Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services, it's become apparent that we need to do more. We need to educate people about domestic violence. We need to empower people to speak out. We cannot rely on the fact that someone ELSE is going to help.
When we lived in Redmond 9 years ago, there was a night I heard our neighbors fighting. I heard him yelling at her, I heard her shoved up against the door. I stood at our front door, phone in hand, absolutely ready to dial 911. Luckily, she'd called friends and they picked her up before it escalated further.
It can be difficult to step into a situation where we don't feel we belong.
Sometimes, it's worth feeling a little stupid.
I would rather feel stupid than wonder if someone needed my help, and I didn't offer it.