Warning, this may be a little long. And a big fat trigger warning for violence.
Last night, I was in Eugene, Oregon for some business things and some shopping I had to do to prepare for a trip to Wales and Norway next week.
My son is going to the University of Oregon there, and lives in an apartment that is a bit of a distance from his job, so I decided to hang around town for a while in the evening to drive him to his room to save him a walk, at 10:30. He was hungry, we grabbed a bite for him at Denny’s, and then I drove him home and dropped him off. He lives at an apartment complex for students close to U of O. It was about 11:30.
Because it’s Summer, the apartments aren’t nearly as full as usual. He’s normally got three roommates, but right now, he’s got the place to himself. I was by myself in the car, no one else around except a couple talking to each other, I thought playfully, on the lawn in front of my parking spot. They looked like they’d been drinking a little.
I was gathering up my phone and stuff, about to send a message home to my hubby that I would be home in about an hour and fifteen minutes. I wasn’t looking forward to the drive, I’ve been working a lot at night and was pretty fatigued.
The girl and the guy started making some noise, but I didn’t immediately think anything was wrong, because I had thought they were play arguing.
It turns out they weren’t.
When I looked up, they had moved, and I couldn’t spot them immediately. There was no one else around, and as I say, it was very dark.
Pretty soon I heard the girl start screaming. She was yelling, get your hands off me, get off me. I rolled down my window, and it was clearly serious, something very bad was happening.
So I grabbed my keys and my phone to go see what I could do. By this time, she’s full on screaming and the guy is cursing and yelling, and at the very least, I can hear that he’s hitting her. I run towards the sound, and she comes running out of the dark area between two of the apartment buildings…she’s thrown her shoes off to be able to run.
And she’s screaming HELP ME.
And the guy comes out after her.
Now, it’s dark, and there’s nobody around. And when I worked at a crisis center, they used to warn us not to go into dark, enclosed areas like this when there’s a dangerous situation.
So the guy is chasing her, and I make it to her, and put myself between him and the girl. I have my keyring clenched in my fist with the keys sticking out, which does a lot of damage very quickly, if necessary. I am weirdly, completely calm, but it is also very clear that this guy is not going to be allowed to put his hands on the girl. What I don’t know is that my son, in his room on the third floor, has heard the shouting and is looking for the number for the complex’s security.
This could have been a really ugly situation because there’s no way to know if this guy is going to stop just because a woman is in the way. The girl behind me is crying and in a bad way, almost like she’s going into shock.
Wonderfully, a guy comes, a young guy. He’s not a big guy, but he’s solid, a little stocky. And he does just the right thing, he comes over and stands close, doesn’t threaten, doesn’t do anything but stand there, making sure the guy can’t get to the girl. So we are between the abuser and this girl. The first guy realizes he isn’t in control, and he is blazing angry. His body language is submissive, like, “Oh, I’m so sorry, this is a misunderstanding.” But his eyes are absolutely raging, and he keeps trying to engage her, getting her to look at him.
My son can’t find the security number and he’s worried some girl is being hurt, so he runs down out of his apartment, and he sees I am still there and he runs over, and now there are three of us. But it’s weird, there’s an open restaurant, a bar and grill, and dozens of apartments buildings, no one else came out.
The girl wanted to call the cops, good for her, and I gave her my phone to do it. The abusive guy went to get her purse, and then was trying to hand it to her, I told him absolutely not, give ME the purse and I’ll give it to her. He was clearly infuriated, but he was trying to play Mr. I’m So Sorry. I took her purse, but she already had the cops on my phone.
This is the part that surprised me, when he heard she was calling the cops, he ran off. He couldn’t get her to look at him, and then he ran off. Maybe he had something on him, don’t know, but we found out that he lives in the same complex, so he wasn’t going to run very far.
I sent my son back to go get security, and fast, in case this guy came back with a gun or something.
I was proud of the girl. She told the story clearly, and it was worse than I thought. They were boyfriend and girlfriend, but had split up, and while apart, he had dated another girl. Then they got back together, and in the conversation I had witnessed, she had told him that she had seen another guy while they were separated, and that sent him into a frenzy.
He started calling her names, and then he dragged her back between the two buildings, where it was dark, towards a dumpster, and this part is chilling, he said it was so ‘no one would hear her.’
Then he started beating her.
She still seemed a little bit shock-y to me. She had managed to run. And that’s where we caught up with her.
I was very, VERY happy and lucky that that other young man was there. It turns out that he is a brown belt in jiu jitsu, and also a boxer, and in fact had a jiu jitsu tournament coming up the very next day. My son is a black belt in Okinawa shuri-te. There might have only been two guys who came out to help, but they were the RIGHT guys for the situation.
My son got security and called them and came down and told the Jiu Jitsu guy, “I wouldn’t have minded if you’d thumped that bastard.” And J.J. said that it was probably good that he hadn’t, and that the martial arts are for self-defense. I liked him a lot! Decent all the way through.
We waited for security and the cops together. The girl said that she couldn’t drive home because she’d had a couple drinks. Despite the crappy situation, she seemed to be using good judgment, which made me happy. She said she had some things in the guy’s apartment.
She turned to us and said, “I guess I shouldn’t see him again, should I?”
And I said, “I wouldn’t think so!”
But again, Jiu Jitsu guy said the right thing, “These things always escalate.” And she did seem to listen.
Weirdly, security finally shows up in a truck, but doesn’t get out. Me being so calm has, I think, calmed the girl down some. Security stays in the truck, just watching. I don’t know if he was monitoring, or what. But this girl needs help and I’m worried about her.
So I said, “Screw this,” and I went and made the guy get out and come help.
He said that he would be filing a report, and he would stay with the girl until the cops arrived. The Jiu Jitsu guy had to leave, but he had stayed until he was sure the girl was safe. Again, good people still exist, whew.
We waited almost an hour for the cops to arrive. The girl called her cousin, who was going to come and help. At this point there wasn’t much I could do. The girl thanked me and I told her I was glad she was going to be okay, I gave the security guy my information, and at that point I felt like having more people around was making her nervous, so I agreed to go, finally.
It’s a bad story, but it could have been a lot worse…if she hadn’t managed to fight back, to make a noise, and to run, God knows what could have happened. A guy dragging a girl back to a place where she can’t be heard, that’s not good.
Two follow-up thoughts. It is extremely odd, but at the time, I was really filled with a real calm. I used to work at a crisis center, I know that in abusive situations, a LOT of bad things can happen. The guy could easily have come back with a weapon. But I was very, very calm at the time. I remember thinking, Why am I so calm?
It turns out I was saving it. On the drive home, I became furious. That bastard dragging his girlfriend to a dumpster to beat the shit out of her, I just became filled with anger and rage. And I was mad at myself for not picking up that something was wrong sooner. I came home furious and couldn’t sleep and I’m STILL angry. I hope she’s okay. I hope this doesn’t leave any physical or emotional scars.
Second, what the hell is going on…is this really how we respond in 2013 to violent domestic abuse? Security shows up and won’t get out of the car? Police don’t show up for 45 minutes (I don’t know when they DID show up, because I left after that length of time).
What if she was still in danger?
Showing up 45 minutes later, or more…that’s a long, long time for a beaten woman in a potentially dangerous situation.
The cops and security people have my name and phone number. I don’t know if they are going to call, but I will be DELIGHTED to testify if necessary.
I don’t know how this story ends, I don’t know if the girl will be okay, I don’t know if the guy will have to face consequences, I don’t even know if the police are taking it seriously.
But I’m still angry and sad.