Don’t give up on them.

A group I am in is talking about people who have intervened in their life to save them from abuse and their gratitude. It brought up a memory of my own from when I had my own flat back when I was in my very early twenties.
A new couple had moved into the empty flat next door after it had sat vacant for years . I remember one night, the girls and I were having a little drink and movie night and we heard banging and shouting through the wall.
I remember the girl well, she had passed me in the hall prior to that on a few occasions that week and always seemed shy and withdrawn, avoided eye contact and would run away when I tried to say hi. I was young and naive and didn’t know how to see signs of DV.
So anyway, my flat was an L shaped building, in that my living-room window could look right into theirs easily and as they had only moved in had no blinds or curtains up. We had first turned down our music to listen,wondering what the hell was going on, when my friend caught sight of them at the window and we had all run over to look.
He was beating her.
He had her pinned to the window by the throat and we could clearly see him mouthing the words ‘I am going to kill you.’
We were about 5 girls I think, all late teens, early twenties and we saw enough in just 3 minutes to act without thought. While one of us stayed to use my house phone to call the police, the other 4 of us went straight to their door and started pounding on it, trying the handle to get in and calling out that we could see him.
Within minutes he answered, acting cool and trying to pretend he had no idea why we would be there. It didn’t last because we told him straight what we saw and to get out of the way, we were there for his girlfriend and when she appeared in the hall far behind him, we coaxed her to come to us.
She was visibly shaking, white as a sheet and tear stained. She lurked in the shadow afraid to come out and stayed silent when he kept demanding she tell us to go away because ‘they were fine’. I remembered thinking how much she looked like a terrified fragile child, half his size and build and that despite the mess of her, she was pretty.
He got really mad and as I was at the front , he squared up to me aggressively in an attempt to get us out of the doorway to shut it. I remember my tiny bombshell pal Rachel was in there like a cyclone, fierce little wifey she was, and used her breasts to bounce him back while delivering a full mouthful at him that we would not be intimidated by a wife beater.
The girl seeing a show of us not being afraid of him, came to us and was immediately shuffled to the safety of my open door while we informed him to go sit down and wait for the police. See we were witnesses and we didn’t need her voice to get him done. He couldn’t twist her to deny anything at all. She had five other voices fighting her corner this time.
Long story short – we took that girl into my flat., we surrounded and assured her we wouldn’t let him hurt her, we made her tea and gave her tissues and waited on the police, who came quickly. We repeatedly told her ‘it is not your fault or what you deserve’
They say you should never intervene in abuse , that it can make things worse, but we couldn’t stand by and watch that girl being thrown around like a rag doll. She was one of us – a girl who suffered at the hands of an abuser. Most of us had been through it in one form or another. She needed someone to not look the other way and not give up on her when her fear kept her grounded in that house. And when she ran past him and he caught her arm – we removed it. We were not leaving her behind. We were NOT backing down and going away, for anything.
And she WAS grateful to us, thanked us repeatedly. She shook, she cried, she admitted it was a common occurrence and the police took her to family, while he was carted off to jail.
When I got the letter to go to court as a witness I found out she had never gone back to him in that time frame. Neither had come back to that flat and the council had put a new tenant in.
Which I know better than anyone is not always the case – trauma bonding is a very real thing and why so many women go back.
She didn’t come to court though. I hoped it was because she had found a new life and didn’t want him to be able to get to her again.
The case was thrown out, despite our statements, because she was needed to be able to testify too. Which I think is wrong. We witnessed his violence and he should have been held accountable for that, whether she was strong enough to speak her truth or not. We were willing and able to speak for her. The law didn’t seem to care though.
I don’t know what happened to her and all these years I have wondered. Did we alter her life? Make a difference? Or did we make it worse?
Did she go back to him eventually? I hope not.
Did she run far away? Is she happy now? Is she safe?
She was literally a brief moment in my life. A 45 minute guest in my home and yet I have never forgotten her.
Does she remember us? Those five loud, stubborn girls in their pajamas who invaded her house and hauled her away.
I hope so.
She is why, and many like her that I will never stop writing about abuse, never stop trying to open peoples eyes. Never stop shining a light and saying ‘over here, look, you are not alone’
Don’t give up on that person in your life, who is too afraid or too emotionally broken and bonded to an abuser to leave ….yet.
Be there, stay close, tell them when they are ready that you will be their support and their safety. They need it more than you can ever know. They need to know they are not alone. That you will stand with them, beside, in front and do all you can to help them when the time comes. That you know it is THEM who has to choose to come with you.
See, their abuser has convinced them they are alone and that leaving is not an option and they will hurt any who help. Don’t reinforce that by walking away too.
Our strength came from one another, the trust in knowing we were a team and had each others back. . Alone we might not have had the courage to stand up to him……think of how that girl would have felt.
Would it have turned out the same way had we just called and left the police to deal with it? I don’t think so. I think she needed to know people cared, to gain strength from somewhere.
I know it’s hard and frustrating to watch someone you love stay, but please do not walk away. You will become another person to look the other way and do nothing and then carry that guilt and pain if one day, they just aren’t there anymore to save at all.
#standtogether #youarenotalone
My inbox is always open. I am a safe space and my email is on this website, my social media, with many links to resources for people who have been abused or live with abuse (all forms). Don’t be afraid to use them or to reach out.
There are people in this world who care.

2 thoughts on “Don’t give up on them.”

  1. You are such a warrior, Lee Ann, and on behalf of all of us, thank you. Thank you for writing about abuse, educating people on the syndromes involved, and inspiring action. May we all step up to change things.

    Liked by 1 person

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