For many years I was an Instructor Trainer (I.T.) for a first aid agency. This allowed me to train people to instruct certified first aid courses and monitor that they were capable and maintaining standards. One January, I was asked to go to Windsor to facilitate a workshop as a tune-up for instructors. I was to work with two local I.T’s. I arrived late in the afternoon to meet them and set up for the event. I went with of them to get some supper before the 7 pm start.
We chatted about ourselves. He was a paramedic who worked in the field and also taught in the college training program. I revealed my recent experience with leaving my home and staying at the WRRC shelter. He asked me if I could explain something he had witnessed on the job, due to my experiences.
One day, they were called to pick up a women who had been badly beaten by her husband, who the police had under restraint at the house. They treated the woman and loaded her on a stretcher to take to hospital, when he noticed a little girl standing nearby. He said that as a dad himself, and after years of dealing with children at emergencies, he usually found children were either overly curious and asking a million questions or shy and hiding. This girl was neither. In fact she was absolutely blank in expression. He felt his internal alarms going off and told the police that they were taking her to hospital as well. The father objected, but he announced that they were taking her daughter with her. At the hospital the woman was admitted for care and the girl examined. They learned that she had been assaulted and Children’s Aid Services took over her care for the time being. He found out three weeks later that the woman had returned home again. His big question was, “why?”
I said that I couldn’t speak for her and didn’t know all her circumstances, but my thoughts based on my experience, and talking to others in my support group was as follows:
She was probably very grateful for the care she received. She was probably connected to social services at the hospital who would set in place a network of assistance. Everyone believed that she now had the tools to get out of her domestic hell and create a new and better life. There was only one person in this formula who did not believe she could do it – herself. Believing in yourself after years of being told you are stupid, worthless and useless, and being prevented from doing anything to change that, leaves a person with basement level self esteem. Also when not present, you lose the ability to gauge his mood and the danger level, which is scary too. I contemplated once after separating, that t would be easier to go back to my old life than have to keep pushing forward. That day I took a large pad of paper and started listing all the things that he had done that terrified me and that I hated. I didn’t stop writing for 10 pages. When I reread the list, it convinced me that I did not want to live that way ever again. I folded up the list and have kept it to this day, so I can read it if I need reminding.
The paramedic is not alone in wondering why a woman would go back. Those who work at the shelter see it time and again. To those who work to help women caught in a cycle of abuse, I say Don’t give up! What you do is so valuable in the effort to end violence. Understand that you won’t win every battle, but one by one you make it possible for individuals to leave hell. The rest is up to the woman herself. Reach out and take that hand. As many times as it takes.back