In our second lifetime, post abuse, my girls and I lived in a small, two bedroom, second-floor apartment. During the summer, new tenants moved in across from us. A woman and a little girl.
I don’t remember when I started to notice that something was very wrong over there. It seems like maybe it was a Sunday morning. I heard the woman berating the girl. This wasn’t just “pick up your toys” or “go make your bed” – this was really ugly character assassination. The girl was probably eight years old. I was weak in the knees. Sick to my stomach. The verbal abuse shook me violently back into the ugliness that we had so recently escaped.
I struggled with “what to do” for several weekends. There was no way to avoid hearing the mom, she had a voice like a train coming through a tunnel. As far as I could tell, there was no physical violence. The child didn’t seem afraid, just sort of withdrawn and quiet. Now, where had I seen that behavior before?
I wanted so badly to go over there and do something, say something, anything at all, to break the spell. How do you tell a child to go to a Shelter? Can’t do that. Do you call Child Services and risk the mother thinking the child made the call? What if the mother gets violent? What will I have then done to help the child? Nothing. I will have made it worse.
I suppose that I could have tried to befriend the woman. Tried to find some way to help her. I knew the pressures of being a single mom. I certainly could understand what she was going through. But, I failed. Miserably. I never got up the nerve to face that abuser. I cried and paced the floor and waited for it to pass. Just like I used to do.
About the third or fourth Sunday morning, it was quiet. I could hear talking, but no yelling. Nothing that sounded angry or mean. There was a man in the apartment. They were cooking breakfast together and chatting like they were enjoying each other’s company. The window was open. Soon, they were sitting at the table together like a family. Quiet. Happy. Just normal stuff.
Mr. Boyfriend was there for several more weekends. There was no yelling. The woman was happy. The girl was still quiet, and I had stopped crying about the situation.
Then, one Sunday morning, I heard the yelling again. I knew right away that Mr. Boyfriend was gone. I prayed to God to please bring Mr. Boyfriend back so the little girl would be happy. God, of course, was silent. Days and days and days I prayed. Mr. Boyfriend appeared to be well and truly gone.
Then, a few days later I noticed that they were gone. Moved out. What could I do for that little girl now? Absolutely nothing! Now I could cry and pace and be sick to my stomach without knowing where they were or what was happening. I prayed that they were with Mr. Boyfriend, somewhere.
That little girl is a woman now. I hope with my entire heart that she has found something to love about herself, something to be proud of. And, I hope that she has become someone who loves, not someone who hates.
I would like to think that, given a few more days, or weeks, I would have overcome my PTSD over the situation and tried to approach the mother, or come up with some other possible way to help the child. As it is, I am still disappointed in myself for doing nothing. I should have been able to do something, I just still don’t know what that would have been.