My husband and I spent a beautiful 4 days in Miami this past week. He had business to do and I was tired of the gloominess of Knoxville’s winter. My parents offered to watch the kids so we could travel together. While the trip itself was enjoyable, it ended on a low note.
Waiting for our luggage to arrive took longer than normal for our small airport. While everyone stood around the baggage carousel, my husband Mike, our 20-year-old daughter (who came to pick us up) and I sat down in the back of the room to charge our phones. That is when I noticed that in the midst of the crowd waiting for their luggage, a domestic situation was occurring.
The woman who had been pacing back and forth in front of us just a few minutes earlier was now standing next to her boyfriend by the baggage carousel. Apparently she wanted to walk around again, but he grabbed her by the arm and forced her in front of him. Now they were both facing the baggage carousel and he had both of his hands around her arms, holding her in place, speaking into her ear. I looked around and everyone seemed oblivious to his hostile behavior, pretending not to notice this tense scene.
They left the baggage area and walked over to the back of the room, only a few feet away from where we were sitting. I told Mike to keep an eye on this guy. The woman was looking straight ahead, not making eye contact with the boyfriend who was standing over her, very close to her face with both of his hands near her face pointing at her. At this point, I couldn’t bear it any longer. I walked over just in time to hear his angry voice and see his threatening eyes, “You have gone too far this time. You need to stop this behavior.” This was definitely not a mutual argument. While he was in mid-sentence, I blurted out, “You need to knock it off right now. Stop talking to her like that.” He looked at me with the same angry face and said sharply, “Nothing is going on here.” I said, “You’re wrong. I saw you over there grabbing her by the arms. You need to leave her alone.” My husband walked over and asked the man, “What’s going on over here?” I walked to the bathroom because I was too shaken to stand there any longer.
When I came out of the bathroom, I saw that the man was again standing near the baggage carousel and the woman was leaning against the wall near where we were. Mike said that he had notified the police of the situation. The policeman was standing another few feet away from us.
I couldn’t stop thinking about this woman. Here she was only a few feet away from me at the airport, waiting. Waiting for what? Luggage? A beating at the end of the day? I hoped I hadn’t placed her in an even worse predicament by getting in the middle of the altercation. I walked over to her said, “I’m sorry if I made you uncomfortable, but I saw the way he was handling you earlier.” She said, “There’s no need to apologize. You put yourself in harm’s way to help me.” I told her that I had previously been involved in a threatening relationship and that my mom had worked at a women’s domestic violence shelter for 8 years, so I am aware of the signs of abuse. I told her if this is how he’s treating her in public, what happens in private? She said sorry that he was being aggressive right now. I said that no man should ever be aggressive to a woman. I offered for us to follow her to the car at a distance to make sure she was safe, but she declined.
Mike got our bags and as we were leaving, I had enough time to hand her my refugee ministry card with my phone number, email address and blog info. I made sure to hand it to her when he wasn’t looking. She looked hesitant, looking from the card over to him several times before taking it quickly. I wish there was more I could do, but I did all that I could do. I haven’t stopped thinking about her since then. That was 2 days ago.
To the woman at the airport: I have no idea what happened the night that led up to that altercation. Maybe you had been in a fight with your boyfriend. Maybe you think you’re the one to blame for him getting angry. Maybe you even said some mean things to him to get him in such a bad mood. But I want to tell you that none of those things matter. Because the truth is that there is no excuse for a man to speak to a woman in that way, to look at a woman with a look of ferocious anger, to manhandle her and grab her by the arms. You have nothing to be ashamed of. You have done nothing wrong and you should not blame yourself for his actions. You are worth so much more. I know that when God sees you, He sees a woman who deserves to be cherished, loved, adored, protected.
This blog post title says that I am sorry. Why? I am sorry that in the midst of the large crowd of people at the baggage carousel, nobody stood up to defend you from your threatening boyfriend. Everyone looked the other way. I am ashamed to say it took me as long as it did, long enough for you to walk to the back of the airport near where I was sitting before I intervened.
I am not sure which country you are originally from, but here in America, women have rights. You have the right to live a life of dignity. Fear should never be a part of any relationship. You should not have to worry about public humiliation and episodes of shaming. Emotional abuse is still abuse. You have the right to know that when you don’t feel confident enough to voice your fears, then others will come alongside you and help you find the resources you need to overcome an abusive relationship. I saw that you had no voice that night. That is why I spoke up.
My offer is still open. If you need help, you have my number. May God keep you safe.