Impending danger sometimes is cloaked in a very day to day look about it. This was my first thought the other day when I was sitting in the car waiting for my husband who had gone in to order fish and chips. It was cold and wet and I was feeling tired after a day at work so opted to wait in the warmth of the car. On the sidewalk where tables and chairs were set out for those waiting or those brave or numb enough to want to eat their fish and chips in the cold, there was a group of two youngish couples and three children. One woman was holding the handle of a twin pushchair containing two little ones and the other woman was hugging her daughter of about 9 or 10. The men chatted and laughed, innocently enough.
The woman with the twins commented on something the men had been saying. The other woman laughed and turned away. The man who I assumed was this girl’s partner sidled next to her. Innocently enough.
The girl smiled. He grabbed her arm with his finger and thumb …..and pinched. Hard. The look of recognition of impending danger flashed across her face and she tried to take a backward step..he moved with her and pinched harder. The girl froze and stood still dropping her head to look at the pavement. He sneered.
In that instant, the ‘brave hero’ looked my way and noticed I had seen it all. I raised one eyebrow and stared levelly at him. He looked away, let go of the girl’s arm and looked back at me. I glared. He then rubbed her arm and said something to her but she wasn’t believing whatever it was he said. Probably a very watery ‘sorry’.
The second guy then noticed something had happened and looked at his friend, the girl, then at me. I continued to glare. I was furious. I was counting to ten. I was debating with myself as to whether I should wind the window down and say something or just ignore it…look away….pretend it wasn’t happening. Just like everyone else does when it comes to a domestic act that appears to be innocent enough.
I continued to stare the ‘hero’ down. He was feeling uncomfortable like a little boy caught with his hand in the cookie jar. I slowly shook my head. He closed his eyes. The girl turned to look at me and I slowly shook my head again.
The next thing that happened amazed me as I didn’t expect this kind of reaction. The girl on seeing I had obviously witnessed the whole ‘innocent enough’ act of violent warning from the ‘hero’, found some courage. She raised her hand and slapped him hard across the face. The shock was a sight to see, on his face. The other guy moved forward and pushed the pinching ‘hero’ away from the girl. They walked up the street a little way and I watched the second guy talking to the ‘hero’ animatedly. They looked back at me in my car. I wondered what might happen next.
They walked back to the girl. The ‘hero’ apologised to her – she turned her back on him. By then the other girl had been inside the shop and had three parcels of food with her. She gave one to the girl, threw one to the ‘hero’ and kept the third. The small group walked off leaving the ‘hero’ behind.
I hate to think what may have happened once they got home away from others who would see the pinch or punch the ‘hero’ would dole out to the girl. I really hope he was a guy she was seeing and not someone serious in her life and that she dumps him.
Domestic violence is rife. It happens at all levels and can be measured at various levels also. I consider the act of this pinch as domestic violence – a cowardly act by an individual who seeks control of another.
I can only hope the girl and her twin babies move on and out of that situation. I hope that the ‘hero’ might re-think his actions before doing it again. I applaud the other guy for telling him it was unacceptable, and I was thrilled to see the others leave him cold on the pavement….for however long, it sent the biggest message that he was in the wrong.
We keep saying we have to break the cycle, but it doesn’t seem to be happening. There are more and more women being killed, beaten and threatened every day – more children who are innocent victims of such traumatic situations.
Have we failed as parents? Have we failed as a community? Why is there such anger in people? Why do so many men feel the need to degrade and control, belittle and injure the women in their lives? I wish we had the answers.