Friday, May 1, 2009

"Do you remember people you take care of?",

... asked the slight, blond woman who sat on the bench seat of our rig. The strap of her tank-top was torn, and she was shaking.

We were called by police to evaluate her - not because she'd bumped her car at a super-low speed into another - but because in talking to her after the fender-bender, police had noticed marks on her neck that were shaped suspiciously like a pair of big hands. A swollen cheekbone. A bloody lip. Scratches on her arm and wrist.

It had happened a couple of townships over from where we were now, and she left and had escaped to her car to drive home, dog in tow. The local police urged her to contact the police where the incident had occurred, because they had no jurisdiction to arrest anyone.

"But he's connected. With (insert motorcycle gang name here), and the mafia. He has lunch once a week with the magistrate. He knows all of the cops. They won't do anything!" She looked at us as if she didn't expect us to believe what she was saying. She felt the need to explain: "This man is like my father figure. He put me through school... through graduate school! Nothing like this ever happened before."

And then, looking me in the eye: "I'm not someone who does this. I'm not some drug addict or something."

I looked back at her, thinking to myself, Neither am I, honey. Neither am I.

I wondered if she had any idea how similar she and I were, even though she was an interior designer driving a BMW and I, a paramedic of more modest means. She had lost her parents at a young age. I had, too. By age 21 I considered myself to be an overaged orphan. We both ended up involved in some way with someone who was toxic. She, with a "father figure" abuser, me with a seemingly nice guy who ended up with a raging alcohol addiction.

"You have no idea how humiliating this is", she said with downcast eyes.

He hit me once. Once. I looked at the already-swelling purplish eye in the bathroom mirror in disbelief, and then calmly walked downstairs to call the police. Police that I knew and worked with on a daily basis were going to come to my door and see me like this. It's amazing my ex didn't end up having any "unfortunate accidents" and didn't "trip and fall" during his time with these guys, who treated me like their little sister.

The next day, I went to the courthouse downtown and got a PFA, and cried in front of the whole room as I did so. "Who the hell is this person?", I wondered, because this couldn't be my life. I was not raised this way, to be a woman who needed a PFA. I pressed charges and faced him at the magistrate's office, stating I would not drop charges, but I would be ok with him not spending any more time in jail if he was required to go to AA. Hung out in the back room waiting for my hearing with those same cops I see and work with every day, wondering if they thought less of me now. Went to work with a black eye. Wore garish pink and purple eyeshadow on both eyes so my eyes would match.

Sweetie, I thought to myself looking at her, I know what humiliation is.

I can only hope and pray that this really is the first time this has happened to her, and the only time that it will happen.

"Do you remember people you take care of? Like, if you read about me, would you remember it was me?"

God, please don't say that.

3 comments:

  1. Wow. I don't know how you do your job and leave it there. :hug: for you and her.

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