*Trigger warning for domestic abuse*
So I’m in a cafe. I’m having a much needed half an hour break from what has been a busy day, before I go and collect the children from school and then onto the afternoon crazy that is after school activities. I’m enjoying my coffee in peace and sort of browsing my current book.
I’m a bit of a nosy person, and I am quite observant. The Husband will occasionally comment when out with me that he can see my “antenna” working as I pick up on what’s going on around me and the people in our space.
I happen to notice the couple sitting next to me. A man and woman. There’s a baby sleeping in a pushchair and they are having a quietly intense conversation. Normally I would ignore this sort of thing, haven’t we all had moments with our other halves when it’s a bit tense and you’re in public?
But the tone of his voice, and the way he reached out and gripped her arm, and the look that briefly flashed across her face, made me pause and my “antenna” went way up. I kept my eyes on my book but inside something didn’t feel quite right to me.
They kept talking and it was a busy cafe so I couldn’t hear what was being said, but it didn’t feel “ok”. I didn’t want to be seen to be watching them.
She got up and headed to the toilets. He got his phone out and was looking at it, so after a minute, I went to the toilet too. I stood by the sink and waited there, washing my hands and looking to see if she would come out of a cubicle. She did, and I decided to speak to her.
“Are you ok? Please tell me to mind my own business, but I was sitting next to you out there and I don’t think you are?”
She looks a bit horrified and I think she is probably going to tell me exactly where to go, for being a nosy cow and who did I think I was?
I was prepared for that. I held my breath and waited.
“Thank you, I’m ok. I made him angry, he doesn’t normally get so upset, today is a bit of a bad day”
I looked at her, and from the experience I have, and the knowledge I have from working with women and training I’ve been on, I knew she wasn’t ok. I reached into my bag and pulled out a card. It has the number of local and national help services for victims of domestic abuse on it, if someone should need help, either urgently or for advice and support. I handed it to her, told her my name and said “I work locally, just around the corner from here, in that building, this card may be useful but if you need help, I’m there most days too and I know people who can help”. She took it off me and muttered “thank you, I’ll be ok, I’ve got to go, he won’t like it if I am gone too long” and she left the bathroom.
The exchange took less than 3 minutes. I waited a few minutes myself, then went back out into the cafe. They’d gone. I looked out to see if I could see them outside. I couldn’t.
I don’t know if she will seek help. I don’t know if she will try and find where I work. I hope she does.
She was frightened and had a small child. Maybe she will find the courage she needs step away. I don’t know what will happen. But I am glad I interfered and maybe my handing her that card, and her knowing that another human being out there realized what she was dealing with, may push her to try and reach out. I can but hope.
Domestic abuse doesn’t just affect one demographic or one type of person, woman or man. If you walked past this couple in the street and weren’t aware, you wouldn’t think there was anything wrong. It affects a staggeringly large percentage of the population and few will seek the help and support they need to escape. Domestic abuse is not just someone physically hitting another person. It’s also emotional, financial and other areas and it can look from the outside that nothing is wrong.
I interfered. I’m glad I did. I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again.
*if you are in a situation where you are worried for your emotional or physical safety because of a person in your life, please seek help. You can call this number for advice or the police. You are not alone*