Driving gloves & domestic violence?

 

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look at our boys playing games

He moved with the energy of a stretched rubber band. The black pleated khaki pants, paired with a short sleeve button up tucked in shirt, were worn like a costume.  The fidgety  adjusting and re-adjusting of  his sunglasses. The quiet strained way he barked orders at the two boys, to look for quarters in the arcade machine’s slots. How he grabbed the joystick and gloated “this is how you do it,” as if he needed to show them who’s boss at these fucking machines. How he slammed the second beer glass into the first when he was finished. The way he strode outside and smoked a cigarette hastily, after telling the woman to just ‘take a damn picture’ of all the art on the wall. And then, he got into his black Toyota, kids buckled into the back, and his wife texting in the front seat. I watched him pull on gloves, and speed away.

Our Monday night solo-mama dinner out had been punctuated by witnessing this strange interaction between a man and his family. There was nothing overt. He didn’t touch anyone harshly. He barely even raised his voice. But the strained energy was like that gas smell right before an explosion. My gut screamed danger, but my eyes said ‘normal family eating dinner at Zippy’s Giant Burgers.’ Sure the kids seemed angrier than other 8 year olds, but they could have been having a bad day, right?

My gut says domestic violence.

But my question is…what do you do about it? If you ever witness something…off…in public (or not), what do you do (if anything)?

When I worked as a crisis counselor I felt prepared to go into situations that were volatile. When I’m out for dinner with my 2 y/o I don’t expect to have to put up emotional boundaries about what I will experience and how I will react. There’s no law against being an asshole, and the guy didn’t DO ANYTHING. But my gut said a different story. My mind starts to race, thinking that when he was in the bathroom I could have struck up a conversation with her. Or asked her outright if he hurts her. Or just given her the Crisis Line #. Or I could have said something to the kids. Or I could have gotten the license plate and reported a drunk driver (because I had just seen him drink a beer).

Instead I stood gape-mouthed as he drove away. Even hours later, the icky feeling in the pit of my stomach lingered. I know that legally I didn’t have to do anything. I don’t even know if ethically or morally I needed to do anything. I do know that if Candid Camera was filming I would have felt like an ass for not doing something. But…but…what would you have done? What should I have done?

Reflections on 16 months of crisis counseling

I have witnessed a lot in the past 16 months of crisis counseling, and as I sit on my last day, having discharged my last client last night, I feel so much hope in my move forward. But there is also this lingering sense of  heaviness from all that I have witnessed…

I accepted the job, as a Crisis Intervention Specialist, working with youth 3-18 and their families in King County, 24 hours after I learned I was pregnant. So my first 9 months on the job I was pregnant and the 2nd half of the job I was a new mom. While I have been employed there for 16 months, if you take out the maternity leave in the middle, I’ve solidly worked there for 1 year. But 1 year feels like an eternity. There are things I have seen, and witnessed, and felt that are hard to put into words, hard to describe to people who haven’t been there.

Like, how do you explain the feeling of arriving at an apartment, to find a 250 lb naked teenage developmentally delayed (can’t speak or understand language)  girl from a foreign country sitting on the stairs and realizing that she is the client. Naked. And what goes through my mind is, “my schooling did not prepare me for this.” To be body slammed and try to explain to the family through an interpreter how the mental health system works here in America.

How do I explain the smell of a pre-adolescent who hasn’t showered or changed clothes for the past 3 months because she sees a bloody axe wielding woman in the bathtub. How do I explain the condemend house infested with fleas with the family living in the basement? Or the 13 year old who was pregnant and kicked out of her house by her aunt, who said it’d be fine if she just went to live in a shelter. Or the 5 year old who put his mom in a choke-hold while she drives down the freeway. Or the meth-coke-crack-oxy-marijuana-alcohol abusing 15 year old trying to stay sober in a family of addicts.

Or what about the 12 year old prostiting herself because she heard her birthmother did drugs and was on the street and she hoped that maybe she would meet her out there, somewhere, sometime.

I have seen so much, and yet, what I have seen doesn’t compare to how much my family’s have seen. And I am leaving this position changed, in a way that is hard to put into words. Not much scared me before, but now there is very little that I am really afraid of in reaction or relation to teens or their families.