In central park today on my way back from Strawberry Fields with Vito (my sisters puppy I have been dog-sitting for the past few days), I saw a man aggressively pulling a woman by the arm. I gave it a few seconds to see if I was somehow misinterpreting the situation. He didn’t let go, and actually got more aggressive, with one hand on her arm and one on the back of her neck, openly physically abusing her in broad daylight in Central Park. I ran up behind them and yelled to get their attention. The man responded with what sounded like some sort of an eastern European accent “She is my wife” very matter-of-factly. He then turned and continued manhandling her, and I responded that I don’t care who the hell she is, he needs to take his hands off her and he has no right to abuse her. (though i said it with less polite words) He removed his hands, and responded “but it’s my wife… and it is none of your business”. I asked the woman if she was okay, and she said ‘yes’, though she was clearly shaken and seemed caught off guard that a man with a dog confronted her husband about how he was treating her. His hands now off of her, they began walking away and I yelled to her that she doesn’t have to deal with his shit. He yelled back a last time “why do you care?” I yelled “because I have a sister” though i should have yelled ‘because I’m human’. I followed them for a little while longer, until it was clear that he had either calmed down, or was too confused about what just happened to abuse her, at least for now. The most upsetting thing was how he thought that letting me know it was his wife, would be enough to make me go away. It seemed like he assumed I thought he was assaulting a random woman. Assuring me that “She is my wife” was supposed to make it okay. There were a lot of things that I wanted to say, and a few I wanted to do. But they walked away and were lost among the crowd shortly thereafter. Then I sat on a bench with Vito, sort of shocked at what I had just seen in the middle of the afternoon in a crowded Central Park. The fact that this man was acting as aggressively as he was, when and where he was, and acting like he had done nothing wrong, sadly doesn’t bode well for “his” wife. It’s one thing to read about, hear about, or talk about things like this, but seeing that today, in 2014 in a crowded public park, shook me. I sat on that park bench for an hour afterwards thinking about what I had seen, about the situation, and about what if anything would happen to that poor woman after they got home. Will she be able to leave him? I hope that my words will somehow have an impact on both of them, but they were just words and I feel guilty about that. But using violence to convey my message to him wouldn’t have solved the problem. They would have more than likely still left together, and he would possibly take out his anger about the situation on her later on, making her situation even worse. I let him know that what he was doing was wrong, let her know that someone cared about her and that she didn’t have to deal with his shit. Beyond that, sitting on the bench afterwards, I felt helpless. I wish there was more I could have done. I can’t even imagine how that woman, and countless others feel constantly. If he hit her, I would have physically stopped and restrained him. Why is that the mental line I had? Should I have reacted that way anyhow? I thought about it, but also thought about the fact she would still likely leave with him, and I would possibly leave with the NYPD, and she might suffer more because of it. I hope that since I approached them sounding more concerned than angry, the man will be receptive to what I said and the fact that someone called him out on what was clearly abuse. I hope the woman makes it through the night, and can eventually see a way out. It was sad to see yet another example of man’s inhumanity to man, up close and personal…but it was also a wake up call. I’m not doing enough. I wasn’t speaking out. All violence is wrong, whether between nations, or neighbors, or partners. Just because we don’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not happening.
I told my sister about this when she called earlier, but I wasn’t going to write anything. Then did a google search for services in NYC, and in general. I told the woman she could get help, but I wish I had the name of an organization to tell her. Fortunately, a lot of information and websites came up. I found out that October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. I’m sorry that I didn’t already know that.
If you (or someone you love) are in an abusive relationship, there is nothing to be ashamed of, you didn’t do anything to ‘deserve’ the abuse, you didn’t do anything wrong. Please know that you are strong enough to stand on your own, and you are loved, and there are a lot of great organizations available to help you through out of your situation. If you (or someone you love) are an abuser, please STOP and get help immediately. Regardless of what you have been through in life, or what your girlfriend, wife or partner said or did to you, there is absolutely no excuse, ever, for domestic violence, (or violence of any type). It doesn’t make you tough, it makes you a coward.