Domestic violence bystander – What I did then

I sat on the small verandah of the Stones Corner library, next to the box for returning books.  I looked out over a large courtyard fringed with trees.

I started on my Spanish homework.  A young couple were sitting on a park bench opposite me.  She was pregnant and things were heated between them.  The man spoke tersely to her, his face like a schoolyard bully.  She stared off into the distance, her gaze steely, fixed and defiant.

I finished my Spanish homework.  They were still there.  This time they seemed to be engaging in real dialogue and I felt my heart relax.

I checked my emails.  Uh-oh.  She was sitting in the same spot facing forward.  He had turned around 90 degrees on the bench to look at her in profile.  He was sneering and speaking unkindly to her.  I didn’t understand a word but facial expressions are universal.

I stepped inside the library and approached one of the librarians, an older woman.  In a confidential tone, I asked ‘Can I ask you something as a woman?’  She gave me her attention.  ‘See that couple out there? They’re arguing.  She’s pregnant.  I feel bad in my conscience.’  The librarian looked over at them.  ‘I see.  Have they been at it for long?’

‘At least half an hour.  What shall we do? Have you got any flyers for a domestic violence support service?’

‘Why don’t you just go and sit there. I’ll watch them from here. ’

So I made a big show of planting my bum on the seat, plonking down my bag and glancing in their direction.  I stayed for as long as I could before I met my friends at the café up the road.

© Marissa Ker 2014

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