Last year in my neighbourhood off-leash dog park, there was a young lady who showed up on a regular basis with her golden retriever. At first she was awfully quiet, and kept mostly to herself, but as she warmed up to the regulars at the park, she opened up a little bit about herself. She would often come to the park after fighting with her husband. She needed to get out of the house, and she needed to be around people who posed no threat to her. The more she opened up, the more some of us realized she was in an abusive marriage.
On one occasion, she showed up with her husband. As we watched in horror, they kept to one side of the park, arguing loudly. Without any warning, he grabbed her roughly by the arm and threw her to the ground. I guess they realized they had an audience at that point, and quickly left, without a word to anyone.
I must say, those watching were too stunned to act upon his violence. It all happened so quickly that by the time anyone could figure out what to do, the perpetrator and his victim were in the car, pulling out of the lot. The next time we saw this young lady, she had a cast on her arm. When I inquired as to what had happened, she meekly explained that she had fallen down the stairs. Three of the park regulars, and myself sat down with this young lady and gently prodded her story, and of course by the time we were done, the tears were flowing and the truth had come out.
Sometimes there is an angel watching over you, and that day, I think there was one sitting on her shoulder. One of the ladies sitting with us was a family lawyer. She offered our young friend her services free of charge, but on the condition that our friend contacted a therapist who dealt with abusive relationships. I don’t know where that young lady’s parents or family were during what turned out to be her very short marriage, but I do know that if we hadn’t stepped in to inquire, and then help, that poor abused girl would have ended up severely beaten or even worse.
The four of us who were there that day became this girl’s friends, and dare I say it, family. We helped her navigate her way out of the marriage and into the light of day. Don’t ever underestimate the power of community.