Sitting next to her, I noticed how quiet and unable or unwilling to make eye contact with others she was. I carefully reached over and patted her hand and asked, “You doin’ ok tonight?”
“Oh yes. I’m fine,” she said in a voice barely audible.
I tried not to stare, but I was certain something was wrong. I studied her out of the corner of my eye. Yes, there was something very different about my friend. What was it? Then I noticed it. Heavy make-up had been applied to the top of her hand attempting to cover a large and ugly bruise that ran up her hand and continued up her arm. How did that get there? I wondered.
When she suddenly turned to look at me, she must have seen the look of concern on my face. Slowly, barely above a whisper she confided, “He did it… last night… but he didn’t mean to do it.”
Memories flooded my mind. I had heard that same line over and over again in the past. Always they came from a woman who had been beaten by her husband – a woman who was a victim of domestic violence.
Before coming to GEMS, one of my previous jobs had been working for a special task force on domestic violence. The messages spoken by the hundreds of women I interviewed at that time were always the same – “He didn’t mean to do it.” “He promises to change.” And, “He says he really loves me, and He’s sorry.”
Sadly, that was never the case.
Battering is the single largest cause of injury to women—more than auto accidents, muggings, and rapes combined. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists reports that 3 to 4 million women are beaten in their homes every year. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, approximately 2,000 women are murdered every year by an intimate partner.
I looked into her eyes and said slowly and meaningfully, “I’d like to help. Could we talk sometime?”
“We can talk, but I’m fine, really.”
I pressed on knowing above all else that my friend indeed needed help even though her words communicated otherwise. “How about Thursday evening after work or Friday for lunch? Would either time work for you?”
“I could do lunch on Friday.”
“Great,” I said, meaning it.
We picked a spot to meet, gave each other hugs, and then got up to leave. I watched my friend walk away thinking that my meeting with her on Friday would require some preparation on my part. I needed a refresher course on: statistics including the lack of success in changing abusive behaviors, what to say to victims in denial that refuse to believe their husbands or boyfriends will likely not change, contact information for local support groups, and, equally important, contact information for domestic violence shelters.
Domestic violence has been called the silent epidemic. Victims rarely reach out for help and too often their pain, fear, and sadness go unnoticed even by friends and family members until it is too late. Their very lives could well be in our hands. This encounter was a wake-up call to me to pay more attention to others, to notice the little and the big things. Indeed it may be that someone’s very life may depend on my ability to particularize or notice them and respond with Christ’s love and compassion.
Now what about you? Will you determine to be a noticer?
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