Ah, Saturday! Yes, I can sleep in! I rolled into bed rather late last night, or more accurately, early this morning, secure in the knowledge that I could get an unusual full night's sleep. Well, no, apparently. Just a few hours later, a ringing intruded into my dreams, whatever they were, and soon I was emerging into the not-yet-daylight. Fumbling for the alarm I had forgotten to turn off, I finally realized that it was the phone ringing--just as the caller hung up. I turned on the light and saw that it was Lizzie (my daughter) and Blaine (the young man we had raised from teenage years who ultimately became Lizzie's husband and our son/son-in-law), calling from Illinois.
Lizzie and Blaine! Something must be terribly wrong because they never call; they always send an enote. By now, Donnie was awake, as well, and called them back. Blaine answered. Yes, something was terribly wrong. His cousin, Alana, had just reached him. Her husband had arrived home drunk and had beaten her to the point that she had difficulty walking and was in pain. She needed some place to stay for the day and perhaps night while she was sorting through her options.
We made arrangements for her to be dropped off near our mission church. In a plan reminiscent of my experiences in eluding the KGB during the Cold War days in Moscow, I walked up as the taxi dropped off Alana and all the possessions she had been able to pack in a hurry while her husband was out of the house. She had to leave behind her beloved bike. (I suggested to her that she not give that a second thought. After all, bikes can be replaced; people cannot.) She did manage to bring a favorite cactus house plant and four suitcases of clothing and other possessions. We waited on the sidewalk until the taxi disappeared, and then I called Donnie who had been parked out of sight nearby. He drove up, and we put all the possessions and a very traumatized Alana into the car, then, learning that she had not had breakfast, had her pick out what she wanted at the local deli. We returned an hour later for pain medication. (I am probably the only mother in the entire country who raised seven children and never seemed to need an aspirin for them or for myself! Someone should give the condition a name: HPTS, as in High Pain Threshold Syndrome.)
At our house, she made some calls, often tearfully. Finally, a plan emerged to stay overnight for a few days with a cousin in northern California and then move in with her mother in Nevada, in order to begin to put her life back together and to shake her husband (hopefully, about to become her ex) off the trail. We drove her to her cousin's house this evening. It was a two-hour trip one-way, and we have just returned with sore bottoms from four hours of car-seat-sitting. We think the calluses-to-appear were for a good cause.
I tried to get her to see a doctor because the bruises and limp were obvious. She did not want to do that. I also tried to get her to turn her husband into the police; battery in California is mandatory imprisonment. She did not want to do that, either. Since she did not know us (but she knows several of our children), accepting guidance from me was not a natural thing to do. I left her with the story of my sister, Victoria, who kept going back to a husband who beat her, blaming herself for "pushing his buttons," until the day that he took a knife to her. Then, after the police jailed him, she divorced him and raised her two sons, happily, as a single mother. I take hope in the fact that after our discussion, Alana asked to borrow the computer and researched battered-wife sites. That was a reasonable, unemotional thing to do in response to a very emotional experience.
Some things are slow to change, however, or so it seems. Women are still blaming themselves for abuse. They are still afraid to tell doctors what has happened for fear it will make them look bad or be embarrassing. They are also afraid to pursue their beaters and molesters legally for fear that when they get out of jail, they will look up the person who put them in and beat them even harder. Somehow, women and we as a nation, not just those who comprise the group of the abused, have to learn to face down those who act in base ways and just stop the beatings, not with temerity but with reasoned courage. (See my post on abuse.)
Fortunately, unlike many other women in similar circumstances, Alana has a support system--the cousins, friends, mother, father. I have to hope that this will make the difference that will keep her from returning to an abusive situation.
After we dropped Alana off this evening, I said a prayer for her. She will need God's love in order to accept herself as a lovable person, and she will need God to give her strength as she takes one new step after another toward a saner and safer environment. I will continue to pray for her in the days ahead, and I ask anyone reading this blog to add her and all abused women and children to your prayer list.