Scared to Death
THURSDAY NIGHT, 7:15 PM. TEXT MESSAGE
“I have an urgent question, please call me!”
The temperatures were just starting to cool down when I walked in the door from work, laid my phone on the counter and headed to the deck to relax and spend some time with my husband. When we came back inside a little later, both our phones were lit up with missed messages from our daughter, a Nurse Practitioner in another state. She was calling from a rural hospital emergency room, her current assignment as a traveling provider. I quickly called her back and she answered immediately.
Her voice was soft and quiet, like she was in closet. “Mom,” she said, “I have a patient here who’s been badly beaten by her spouse. She tried to tell me she fell down the stairs, but I knew that was a lie. I finally said just tell me what really happened. And she did. She admits it was her husband, but she refuses to file charges. She says that will just make it worse.”
The ER nurses wanted desperately to call the police, but in their state as in most states, reporting of adult domestic violence is not mandatory. Only cases that involve children, the elderly or disabled are required to be reported by Providers. Adult victims must give you their consent to report.
“Mom, I know he’s outside somewhere,” she whispered, “just waiting for us to discharge her. She won’t stay because she’s afraid he will go after her daughter who brought her here. She won’t go to a shelter for the same reason. This is awful. I don’t know what else to do.”
Immediately, I thought about our local ENOUGH! program. Small purple dots with our crisis hotline number on them that will fit in your shoe, a small jean’s pocket or anywhere else one might want to conceal it. They are placed in various businesses around town.
“Find your local crisis hotline number,” I told her. “Write it on a small piece of paper with no other information and give it to her. They will have resources for secretly transporting her to a safe house. Or give her our hotline number. We often take in victims from other states who are trying to put distance between them and their abuser. We work with another non-profit who will bring her to us. And give the numbers to the daughter, too.”
We hung up and I said a little prayer that the woman would make that call. I quickly played out her exit in my head. The hospital would hold her until someone could pick her up and start her journey to a safe shelter. They would soothe her broken and bruised spirit with calm and encouraging words while they traveled. Once she arrived, compassionate advocates would bring her inside, get her comfortable, give her clean clothes and a clean, comfortable bed to sleep in.
Over the next few weeks, a shelter care team would provide counseling, comfort, legal guidance and many other resources to help her get back on her feet in a safe place. And the healing could begin.
In my heart, I feared she wouldn’t make the call. And she didn’t.
FRIDAY, 5:36 PM TEXT MESSAGE
“She’s dead,” the text read. “EMS just brought her back. Found at the bottom of the stairs. Beaten to death.”
I was cooking dinner when the text came in. I had to sit down, put my head in my hands and cry. We were so close.
Next month is Domestic Violence Awareness month. If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, please know that help truly is a phone call away. 1-844-579-6848