I was interrupted from my early morning insomniac reading by what sounded like a woman crying and talking in a very rushed, upset voice. It sounded like it was coming from nearby, but outside. Then the doorbell rang three times; I thought, who could possibly be ringing the bell this early in the morning? I’m not answering it! But then Fox came into the room and said he didn’t know what to do, he’s not officially a member of this household yet but it sounded like someone was calling for help. I was off the couch in an instant – if someone needed help, I wanted to help them.
I went to the door to find a woman on my (enclosed) porch holding her dog. She was crying and shaking with her cell phone between her ear and shoulder, already talking to the local police department. As soon as she saw me she started apologizing and explained that the door to the porch had been unlocked, so she ran in to get away from her boyfriend. The boyfriend had been drinking, hit her, and threw her dog across the street. She was convinced that if she hadn’t gotten away he would have killed her. “Thank you so much for keeping your door unlocked. It saved my life!”
I let her in and locked the door behind her and checked that the other doors to the house were also locked. Sure enough, the boyfriend came and was banging on the door to the porch to be let in. I assured the woman that the most important thing to me was for her to be safe. Mom came over and tried to comfort her as well; that helped me feel more confident that I was doing the right thing. The cops came and arrested the boyfriend and took her in for questioning. Before she left I looked her in the eye and said, “Don’t go back to him under any circumstances.” I really hope that was helpful.
From what I’ve learned, by the time physical violence becomes part of an abusive relationship, the victim’s self-esteem is often so damaged ze has great difficulty living without the abuser – everything from believing hir safety is more important than the abuser to being able to perform basic tasks to care for oneself.
The woman on my porch kept apologizing, said she was “stupid” for staying with the boyfriend for two years, and said she owed me dinner. At the time I interpreted all that as low self esteem, but she seemed very, very agitated – very scared and grateful for safety and compassion. She was able to say that “he makes [her] look like a liar.” She was able to run away and call the cops and assert that she didn’t want to ride in the same car as the boyfriend; these facts give me hope that she will choose to stay away from him, and hopefully avoid abusive relationships in the future. But I’m worried about her, and I don’t feel safe living across the street from an abuser. I was shaking myself for a good half hour after everyone had left.
The whole thing was so surreal, I’d think I’d dreamed it if I didn’t still smell like the woman’s perfume from hugging her. It reminded me of dreams I’ve had in the past, where I tried to run into the house to escape some unknown but terrifying danger or run through the house locking doors behind me (often to no avail). But this really happened – to someone else – and I was a brief witness to it. I provided comfort, a haven, maybe even some hope.
At the time I put my needs aside to help someone in crisis, but now I need to tend to my own needs. Writing this post is part of it but I feel like there’s more – I’m not sure what, though. I think I’m still a bit too shaken to try and sleep. I have a letter I want to mail and a massage appointment I’m thinking of rescheduling. The former is an attempt to reach out to my cousin whose father died in late March, letting him know I love him and support him in doing whatever he needs to take care of himself on Father’s Day. Writing it (yesterday early morning, when I couldn’t sleep) was therapeutic for me because I was able to be honest in it while feeling like I might also be doing some good. The latter is a deep tissue massage intended to relieve the tension in my back, but at the expense of physical pain, emotional upset, and soreness lasting a few days. For a massage to be helpful today, I’d need its focus to be purely on relaxation – not the specialty of my currently-scheduled therapist. I think I’d rather cuddle with Fox, maybe even do something to try and express the crazy mess of emotions I’ve been
feeling trying to block out by playing Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion all hours of the day and night.