Pulling from the memory banks today… going back to around 1998, I think. At least I remember which car I was driving at that time and where I was driving to. So that helps me pinpoint a date.
I was driving home from work… down the “main drag” in town, around 4:30 pm. Centre City Parkway is the original highway that used to go through town before the Hwy 395 was laid down. It’s a divided “highway”, two lanes in each direction… between the lanes is a large grassy median planted with trees and shrubs of varying sizes. There are several stop lights along this “highway” and it tends to get a bit backed up when people are getting off of work.
As I slowed to approach the stop light I noticed a white 2-door hatchback parked on the shoulder. The car was rocking back and forth and I could see a struggle was taking place inside the car. As I slowly passed the car I saw a man in the driver’s seat, reaching across to the passenger seat and struggling with a woman.
Without thinking, but internally knowing it was the right thing to do (to get involved) I immediately whipped a U-turn at the light and another U-turn over the grassy median. As I pulled up behind the white car I remember thinking to myself “Everyone else is driving right by this?! No one else is stopping to intervene?!”
And this is the part of the story where my mom freaks out, every time…
I parked my car. Walked up to the driver’s side door… and as I got closer I could see the man in the driver’s seat had his hands around the throat of the woman in the passenger’s seat. As I opened the driver’s door I noticed there was a little girl in the backseat, witnessing all of this drama, crying and looking very scared.
Yanking on the driver’s door handle I was YELLING at him to stop. Thankfully this caught him by surprise and he let go of the woman’s throat long enough for her to hop out of the car and start running. (Thankfully he didn’t pull a gun on me. This is the part my mom is the most thankful for, I believe.) He turned around to look at me and got out of the car. She hopped over a fence to get farther away from this villain. He started to chase her.
I picked up the girl from the back seat and held on to her and told her I was going to stay with her until help arrived. I asked her what was happening and all I can remember her saying to me is “He was choking my mommy!” I asked if he was her dad. No. She said he was her mom’s boyfriend. I wanted to chase him down and kick him a few times, just to let him see how it felt.
Eventually, someone else pulled over to the shoulder and luckily had a cell phone and had called 911. Turns out she was a social worker! She took care of the little girl while I provided my report to the Police when they arrived. The victimized woman eventually returned… once she saw the police had arrived. The cops told me they couldn’t necessarily do anything about the man unless the victim pressed charges. I pleaded with the woman to protect herself and her daughter and press charges against the man.
Unfortunately she did not press charges that day… instead they got back in their car and went home together. Who knows what happened to their relationship and more importantly to that woman and her daughter. Who knows if she ever found the courage to press charges against this villain. If my actions encouraged her to do so, I would be honored to know so.
To this day I pray for her, still trying to remember her name… and wondering if she and her daughter are safe. And every now and then I picture the scared look on his face when someone finally stood up to him … he was just another scared, lonely man…