I was paying for a cliche in a large department store with a current cutesy tv ad today – bright red woollen socks, a Christmas present for my Dad- when a woman appeared at the side of the cash desk. She wasn’t crying or yelling, but asked the “colleague” to call security. The man she was with was harassing her, she said. He was laughing, and had his hand on her shoulder. It didn’t look like anything to be worried about. No-one was shouting, or swearing. No one was hitting or screaming. No-one did anything, no-one moved. She walked quickly off into the toilets. He followed. In that brief second, I smelt old alcohol, dirt and sweat. It was 10am.
“Are you going to call security?” I asked the shop assistants. They were blank. Obviously this scenario wasn’t covered in their training.
“Someone help her” said a voice behind me……nothing happened.
I grabbed my bag, and followed after her, telling the assistant to call security. She didn’t react.
I went into the toilets.I called out to her, making sure he hadn’t followed me. I’d watched him walk toward the main shopping centre, so thought I was safe.
I found her hiding in a cubicle, shaking. I mean really shaking. Whole body, uncontrollable gross motor jerking. I asked her if she was hurt. What did she want to do…? I had my phone out ready to call the police. I was concerned for her wellbeing, but really worried about my young teen girls, who were in another part of the shop.
“Has he gone, where is he? I want to go home. ”
I tried to reassure her, told her he’d walked off. We crept out of the toilet cubicle, through the washroom, and out onto the shopfloor.
I saw my partner there. His face a reassurance, his working knowledge of domestic violence and his sheer physical presence even more so. He’s an MMA fighter and Judoka. Calm, but able to use his physicality.
My partner told me the staff had called security, who’d escorted the man from the shopping centre. They wanted the woman to come back to the pay desk.
She was still distressed, shaking. My girls were hovering in the background, trying to smile at me. I think the smiles were to reassure me, that they were fine, we’re safe, mum. Honest.
At the pay desk they told us he was gone, he’d been ejected from the shopping centre. Should they call the police?
The woman just wanted to go home, she said. She looked exhausted. He’d turned up at her house last night. Drunk out of his mind. Shouting.
They’d broken up weeks ago, he wouldn’t leave her alone, couldn’t accept it was over. He wasn’t supposed to be near her. There was an order in place.
We offered to take her home, she lived in an apartment in the shopping centre.
As we walked through the shops, she told me what he’d done, what he’d said. The promises, the threats.
She opened the door to the apartments. Of course he was sitting there, waiting for her. Drunk, swaying, stinking. But with a look on his face that frightened me. A man who had never been challenged, being passively confronted by a family out shopping. He was angry.
Who was I, he demanded. How did I know her? Who the fuck was HE? She muttered, no one, just looking out for me, you’re frightening me.
My partner started talking to him, quietly, passive, non-confrontational. The man kept glaring at me, who the fuck was I? What fucking business of mine was it? He stepped toward me.
I thought he was going to hit me. This tall, stinking, blood stained cunt. I didn’t want to get hit, or my partner have to hit him. I could see my girls loitering some feet away. Frightened. I told him to go, I had the police on my phone.
A security guard turned up eventually and went after him. I made sure the woman locked herself in, and we went home. I reported it to the police, but have no idea what happened.
I despise that cunt for showing my girls domestic violence. For making me feel small and vulnerable. For terrifying me.
If I helped one woman to avoid a beating, was it worth it?
You tell me.
Posted after much deliberation due to the sensitive nature of the incident.