Saturday, January 2, 2010

Doing enough?

I was driving my daughter somewhere yesterday, and I saw a car coming toward me, driving erratically. It was starting and braking suddenly, swerving to the side, and as I got closer, I saw a woman walking on the side of the road. The man driving the car was trying to stop her with the car. As I pulled up parallel, I stopped and asked her if I could help her, if she needed a ride.

She was clearly embarrassed, and in denial, and kept telling me, "No, he's OK," which was not true. He was not OK, and neither was she. She continued walking, and he got out of the car and grabbed her roughly. I shouted at him, "take your hands off her RIGHT NOW, or I am calling 911!" I was already dialing and trying to remember his license plate. Cars were piling up a bit behind him and I, even on a rural country road. I got part of the plate #, and felt that I had to move my car, so I drove up the road a bit, reporting the incident as I went, and turned around to come back so that I could give better directions to the police, and get the full license plate. He meanwhile let go of her and got back in his car.

They were gone. All the cars were gone. I looked down driveways, down side streets...nothing. Upset, I went on to my destination, and a trooper called me. She couldn't find them either, but assured me that someone else would call. I was very shaken. I remembered the feeling of being trapped by someone stronger than me - horrible when a child, worse as an adult woman, of having no way to call for help, of feeling helpless and terrified, embarrassed at the stupidity of it all. Of shaky voice, trembling hands, adrenalin pumping to flee, but shaking legs and tears of impotent rage and fear making it impossible.

When I got to my destination, one of the people who has caused that feeling in me was there. I couldn't look them in the eye. I thought I might throw up. I had no idea that my body memory would be so intense.Thought I had forgiven, and moved on. That I was healed. Something hidden, something brought to light, to come to terms with, to understand and encompass, so I can help others without falling apart internally myself. I worked in a battered woman's shelter both before and after being hurt myself, but the training doesn't stop the fear.

I went back and drove around, trying to find the car for awhile. No luck. I wish I had been smarter - pulled over, pulled my car into the middle of the road, gotten the full license. Asked for the other drivers to help too. I pray that she is OK. That she gets help. That he gets help.

I could have done more, but I was so confused in the moment and had my daughter with me - I was afraid he could be violent towards us. I hope that the police found them. They were still looking when I went back - I saw the trooper that I had spoken to on the phone.

I should have done more, but am grateful I was able to do something. Next time, I'll be better prepared. At least my daughter saw me stop someone from getting hurt. From confronting abuse and intimidation, and call the police. She saw me and she'll remember.


ms. kitty said...

Oh, Kelly, how scary that must have been! And how courageous you were to reach out to the woman so spontaneously and quickly! You changed things for her; you may not yet know how you changed things and you may never know how you changed things. But you did. You at least showed her that what was happening to her was wrong and that someone cared enough to offer help. She may never have known that before. Your act of courage and caring has done something important for her and perhaps for him as well. Your daughter also received a vision of courage and compassion that will stick with her. And you will see the meaning for yourself unfold gradually as you reflect on the situation. Thank you for sharing it.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Ms. Kitty. You were very courageous. Thanks for being there for her and sharing with us.

Tom Beall

Joy said...

You did the best you could and you did more than most would and you know that she wasn't ready to get out of there. Perhaps seeing that you found the situation unacceptable will help her to see it that way too.

Most folks freeze when that happens. You didn't you are so very brave. And you acted with attention to safety for you and your daughter which is your job.

Try not to feel bad about succeeding. You helped, just by showing him and her that someone cares.

Kelly KH said...

Thanks for the kind comments. I am glad that I was able to do something - standing up against violence is vital. I feel a bit better tonight, but strong in my desire to be better prepared for the future.