What to do was always the big question. I don’t know what brought me to looking out the window but here I was looking down upon a scene which curdled my insides. If that was even possible. I could feel my fingers digging into the windowsill. If I hadn’t bitten my nails down to the quick my nails would be shattered by the wood my fingertips were now gripping with such an intensity if I had super strength it would have crumbled into splinters.
This wasn’t the first time I had been witness to such a scene. It was just the first time here at this place, just outside my brother’s apartment. I was here helping him pack up what little was left and clean up so he could turn his key in. But instead, I’m standing, looking out a window, witnessing this man’s brutality.
He had shoved the young woman up against the wood privacy divider between their apartment and the apartment next door. I couldn’t hear what he was saying but the look on his face, his stance, how he leaned over her, was that of a brutal monster. I prayed she would walk away, leave his ass and just get away, but I watched as they both returned inside their apartment.
I returned to cleaning. A few minutes later I stepped out the front door to shake the dust out of a dirty cloth and stopped dead in my tracks. The man and woman were now in the parking lot, next to a car, and between them stood a little boy probably not more than two years old. I watched as the man yelled at the woman. Then as if in slow motion, I watched him lift his foot, plant it against the little boy’s chest and shove so hard the boy landed on his bottom. Hard on his bottom, making him cry.
I turned to my brother and told him to call the police. He knew why because I had told him what I had seen only moments before. As he called the number I told him about the scene in the parking lot and he relayed it to whoever had answered his 911 call.
They dispersed and we waited for the police. While we waited I looked outside every time I passed a window or door. In a few minutes, they were back outside and back at it. The man this time held a gun in one hand while his other hand held onto the boy. The woman was at least fifty feet away from him and he was telling her to get out. She refused, said she wouldn’t leave without her son.
What to do, has always been a question, which rises in my mind, which seems to get answered before the last word reaches my conscious thought. I told my brother to call the police again and tell them to get over here now as I ran out the door then down the steps. I carefully made my way to the woman’s side, making sure I made no threatening moves towards the man. As I spoke with her, I watched as another man cautiously approached from behind the man with the gun and slightly to the side.
Neither one of us got close to the man. We were not going to try and steal the boy or grab the gun. I knew however the man approaching from behind the man with the gun was trying to position himself so he didn’t appear threatening but could also run and jump to tackle him if necessary if he should try to harm the boy. He remained on the ground which was at a higher level than the man with the gun which was supported by a cinder block wall.
I stood next to the woman, while I told her, she needed to get out of the man’s line of sight, she refused to budge without her son. The other man, spoke gently to the man holding the gun and the boy, telling him he didn’t want to do this. That he didn’t want to hurt the boy. That the boy had nothing to do with this and to let him go. He kept the man’s thoughts on the boy, pressing the boy’s innocence in what was wrong between him and the woman. With me in front and this other man off to his side, none of us knew what he would do. We all knew he could hurt any one of us, including the small boy at any time.
The other man kept on gently prodding him to let the boy go, and finally I saw the monster’s fingers release the boy. As soon as he did, the boy ran to his mother and I moved them off to the side, out of the man’s line of sight. I convinced her to come up to the apartment and wait for the police. She did and we all sat trying to calm the boy and her. It wasn’t long before the police arrived but by then the man had driven off in his car.
What to do is something I always ask myself, and in this case I didn’t hesitate. I knew I put myself in the line of fire. I knew the danger and still I didn’t hesitate. I also didn’t hesitate to offer a place for her to stay. A place this man would never know where she was. He would know how to reach her if she was with her family and so I offered her a safe haven. A place where she could regroup and decide what she wanted to do with her life.
The choices people make in life baffle me. Frequently. She chose instead to go with the police and go to her family. I knew when she left she would end up back with this man. It wasn’t the first time I witnessed this response from a battered woman. I knew it wouldn’t be the last time either. Speaking to the police after she left, they confirmed in most cases the women end up back with the man who battered them or threatened them as this man had done to her. In cases like that they could do nothing.
The police and my brother, not once ever told me I should not have done what I had done. I think maybe my brother saw me in a different way after that day.
Before this incident, there was one in the dorm I lived in, where I heard the splat of a body thrown up against the concrete cinder blocks the building was made out of. The sound came from just outside my door. I didn’t hesitate then either. I opened the door to see a man standing over my girlfriend who lived next door. She was crumpled on the ground at his feet. His immediate response was to raise his hands and look at me and tell me he didn’t do anything.
I found it interesting that he looked at me and not at the six foot six inch man who stood at my back. He didn’t look at him either when I told him to get the hell out and never come back. He looked at me and told me he wasn’t leaving without his money that he had given his girlfriend for safe keeping. She had told me he had given her the money so he would have enough money to get back home because he would gamble it away or spend it and end up with no money to pay his way back home. She had given it to me so he wouldn’t find it in her room. I immediately retrieved his money, gave it to him and told him to get out. Again he looked at me, not at the man at my back, and left as the police met him on his way out. Other girls in the dorm had called the police when they saw what was happening but none of them had come over to support me in my efforts to get him out.
The time after that was a friend whose husband had beaten her, threatened her with a gun and I gave her a place to stay and told her she could stay as long as she needed to. The next day, she was back with him. A year or so later, she split for good, and this man called me, asking me how he could get her back. I told him he couldn’t. The only way there would be any possibility would be if he sought help, got counseling, but I told him, he had ruined any chance he ever had of being with her. I had seen the results of his brutality. I spoke bluntly with him. He knew where I lived. And yet this man who could so easily brutalize my friend, could never raise his voice to me or try to intimidate me as he did her. When he spoke with me he took on the guise of a misunderstood damaged person who chose to blame everyone except himself. I told him it didn’t matter what had happened in his past, nothing and I mean nothing gave him the right to treat her the way he did. He was responsible for that, not his past. And I hung up on him.
The last time, was when my ex’s wife called me and told me he had hit her and she was pregnant at the time. She didn’t know what to do. I told her it was simple, kick him out. But she didn’t. Later on he beat her again. She still stayed with him. Their relationship ended when he walked out. I don’t understand people’s choices. They baffle me. His leaving left her in a bad situation of taking care of two kids under three or fours years old, making barely enough money to survive on. While he was living with her, she could get government help, food stamps and day care, but when he left, those things were slowly taken away from her. I helped her get away, to go to a place which is now helping her to have a better life and to not live in poverty.
This man tried time and again to get back in my good graces. But after this incident, when he called to talk with our daughter just before her birthday after seven months of no word from him, I had enough. My daughter had enough. She no longer wanted to talk to him. We had a good discussion about what a real father is and she made a tough choice to no longer be hurt by him. I supported her and because she asked, I told him. His response, “well, when she wants to talk to me then let me know”. That woke the beast within me and I finally told him what I thought of all the pain he has caused his five children. That he chose his life and he now had to live with it. He told me it wouldn’t matter what he did, people would believe what they wanted and I told him ‘NO. If he stepped up, and finally took up his responsibilities, did what was right, I would be there by his side.” but yet again he showed his true colors and blamed everyone but himself. I told him to never call back and hung up. A few months later, I was told he was arrested for molesting his oldest daughter. She turned him in, and the beast arose again. I filed and received full custody. Every day the beast lurks in the shadows, there will come a day when he will attempt contact and she’ll be ready.
I don’t say these things to pat myself on the back. I say them to remind myself. Too often I think I do nothing. I don’t act. I let fear hold me in complacency, keep me from acting. I forget the things I have done. The strength I contain within isn’t something I think about. I don’t consider myself brave or strong. I crumble in fear when I think about becoming involved with another man. But when someone threatens my daughter, or even a stranger, the beast within me awakens and before I can even ask myself, ‘what should I do?’, I’m already moving, already taking action, already looking down the barrel of a gun and staring a man in the face, showing him what a coward he really is, even though he is the one holding the gun.
I forget about this part of me, the moment the beast goes back into hiding. One person who used to call me ‘kitten’ said maybe I’m a ‘lioness’. But it is more than that, there is a beast within me, one well contained, but one which men sense and none have ever dared to ever get to know. My ex never raised a hand against me, never physically abused me. The question often came to mind as to ‘why’, what makes me so different from his wife, or another woman he also abused before we met? The only reasonable answer is he feared the beast within me.
What to do? It is a good question. I do what I have to do. I act. When I see something which needs being done. I do it. And yes, sometimes that means I put myself in danger. Sometimes that means, revealing the beast within me. I sometimes wonder if there will ever be a man strong enough, one who will not shy away, who will be brave enough to want to meet the beast within me. Will he want to tame her or will he want to play with her? Will he fear her sharp claws or will each scratch, each bite, each drop of blood, each bruise set him on fire? Will he understand the many facets of me, including the beast within, never fearful of what he might awaken? I wonder if such a man really exists.