I’ve been pondering this for a few years now. I wanted to write about it straight away but felt too raw about the incident. I got involved, and that could’ve been unwise. One could say it was no concern of mine, but there was no doubt in my mind: I had to act.
On the way to a meeting, I observed a couple walking in front of me. She drove a buggy with a little child. He walked in front. Then he turned around and started screaming at her turned around and walked on. This muster he repeated two or three times. By then I was getting close. I couldn’t hear what he was saying, but he was gesturing in a threatening way. On the corner of the street, they stopped, and it looked like things had calmed down.
I went past them and stopped at the red light. Behind me, they started quarrelling again. I don’t know why, but I turned around and at that moment, he grabbed her from behind: holding and shaking her shoulders. She started screaming, begging somebody to phone the police. Several people were standing around, but I was the only one who took out my phone. When I did that the man went away. When I got through to the police, I asked them to send somebody, giving my name and explaining what had happened and where we were.
The guy returned and as he saw me talking on my phone, he started screaming at me. He told me to put away my phone or he’d ‘take it and throw it on the street’. By then I was angry too, I tried to capture his ranting on the phone, but I believe that the call got cut off. Anyway, he stayed there shouting at me and his girl-fiend. I and some of the other people present tried to calm him down, but he kept threatening everybody. It took about five minutes. During that time, I noticed that the little kid had lost her cap and put it back on her.
When the police arrived, the guy disappeared rather quickly. The police talked to the young woman. They were helpful, as far as they could. They have their procedure, taking names and addresses, asking for the description of the man, and where he could have gone to. The young woman said that they lived together and that he could well have returned to their flat. Also, she explained that they’d had a long quarrel, lasting most of the day. He’d taken her mobile phone and, I believe, her bank card. The police sent another car to check if they could find him at the flat or somewhere on the street. When they heard that she’d have to go back to a flat she shared with this man, they suggested that it would be better for her to go somewhere else. It turned out that her parents live here, so they offered to bring her to them. I believe that she accepted the offer.
It was a harrowing experience, but worse for that poor woman and her child. We do far too little to avoid domestic violence. It is one of those things that, although they aren’t acceptable, can go on almost unchecked for years. People often know about the problem, but they don’t do anything. Admittedly, it isn’t easy to help. Mostly maltreated women are too scared to accept help or even admit that there is a problem. Often, they feel shameful about the abuse they are subjected to. No wonder, they’re alone with a violent man, they want to protect their children, and sometimes they still love their men, regardless of their inappropriate behaviour. These women are afraid for their lives, for their children’s lives, for the next beating.
In some ways, the law isn’t helpful. It is impossible to step in unless a crime has taken place. That means, a beaten wife must go to the police straight away and show her bruises, but most of us know women who try to explain away their bruises and or wounds, sometimes for years.
What makes men violent, and what makes women accept the beatings? Is it a matter of hormones or are there other factors? No doubt, there are men with excessive testosterone levels. But that isn’t the entire explanation. We must bear our part of the blame. Violence breeds violence. Little boys or girls that get beaten, learn that it is OK to hit. A slap can easily be followed by another. That’s how habits get formed. Abused children are more likely to abuse other children, their spouses, and children when they grow up. We know that. Still, some people insist that they have a right to chastise their children as they see fit. It’s a vicious circle. It can be broken, but It takes courage.
© HMH, 2021