An interesting discussion kicked off in my parent's lounge today, over our Saturday morning coffee.
"How is the book (Fools' Words) doing?" asked Pops.
"Pretty good," I replied.
"Are you still ploughing on with the next one?" he continued.
"Yup, slowly and steadily," I answered.
At this point, my Mum joined in. "Speaking of the book", (it's about domestic abuse) "we saw the woman across the road run out onto her balcony the other day. All red faced. Swiftly followed by her boyfriend who grabbed her around the neck and dragged her back indoors."
"Did you report it?" I enquired.
"No," she responded.
I was genuinely surprised. "Why not?"
"I don't know," she said. "Our generation just don't."
Knowing how much she had worried about me, and remembering how often she had expressed feeling helpless, it wasn't what I would have predicted. Her reaction wasn't wrong. In fact after speaking with friends and associates, it appears to be a common one. But it was thought provoking.
A healthy debate followed. Understandably. And it has left me pondering many questions about why we, as a nation (including myself), often choose to turn a blind eye. Her (further) reasoning was that she was unsure if the lady in question was subject to domestic abuse, or trying to self-harm (throw herself off the balcony) and was, in fact, being rescued by the boyfriend.
Should it have made a difference?
Would reporting it, have made any difference?
And if it had, would the difference have been positive or negative?
I thought back through my own experience. Without question, my neighbours, in the past, must have heard some of what went on between my partner and I. Raised voices. Doors being slammed. Things being smashed and thrown.
I lived in two different houses with him. The first neighbour lived a lifestyle, even more, violent than ours. Looking in from their perspective, I'm sure our relationship seemed quite idyllic. The neighbour of the next property we moved to belonged to the generation a good couple before my parents; another generation that 'just didn't' say anything.
I then shuffled through my own memories.
Had I ever been witness to anything that I too had chosen to ignore?
Shamefully, I had.
This is the first time I've ever really looked in on that world from the outside. You would think that having lived through what I did, that I would immediately report any similar incidences, and yet, here I sit, facing a dilemma, in that I am still unsure as to what action I would take.
Who would I report anything to? The police?
Would they take any action? Do they have the resources to pick up something, which will more than likely be denied by those involved?
If they took action would it make things better, or increase the risk of violence? Not only for the individual under the spotlight but also for me, as the person doing the reporting?
Interferers are invariably despised by abusers, and can often find themselves subjected to the same treatment. In addition, not only will the individual in the relationship who is being abused often get punished for the action of another; but they also will jump to the defence of the abuser. Turning on the Samaritan, who believed they were doing a good deed.
I'm still no closer to coming to anything that resembles a solid answer and can only conclude that I would assess and decide on each occurrence individually.
Domestic abuse cases aren't the easiest to get by the CPS. Even harder to push through the courts successfully (although things are slowly improving). Behaviour that has been kept hidden, behind sealed doors and in a shroud of secrecy, generally leaves nothing more than a 'he says / she says' for the authorities to work with. Even when there are bruises. Additional information from the public, people who have no emotional investment other than that they care about a fellow human being, can be more valuable that we realise. A few sentences can back up the picture being painted by the victim and remove a substantial amount of doubt and uncertainty.
It's a debate that could go on forever. It's affected by so many dynamics including personal ethics and morals, education and knowledge, and of course, our own life experiences; what our own normal and acceptable is.
I will leave you with this thought. For every person who exists under the rule of an abuser, there will be a parent suffering sleepless nights; worrying about them. Wondering if tomorrow will be the day when their daughter or son manages to break away ... praying that it won't be the day when a punch goes too far. A hit that is too hard. Hoping it won't be a dawn that breaks at the same time that their child's spirit also does, and they decide to end the abuse themselves by taking their own lives.
If it were your son or daughter, wouldn't you hope that someone would say something? Do something? Wouldn't you hope that they would remember you, the one lying in your bed, unable to sleep because of worry, and fear?
If you or anyone you know, is affected by domestic abuse please call the 24-hour National Domestic Violence Freephone Helpline 0808 2000 247 .