In downtown Whitby a young woman got on. I noticed her right away because she had a big black eye. An enormous shiner. It was her left eye. She stood so that few in the bus could see it. But I was pretty close to her and I saw it. Along with the tears in her eyes.
It looked to me as though somebody had taken a shot at her and gotten her good. It was pretty fresh and it was pretty big. Right away I assumed a guy had done it. Boyfriend or husband. There I was, jumping to conclusions. But my gut told me I had the truth of it.
There’s been a lot of talk about violence against women lately. And that’s a good thing. Let’s get it out in the open. Shame the men responsible. Compel the rest of us to do what we can to stop it. Which is what, exactly?
That was the question that came to my mind as I sat there on the bus looking up at this poor young woman with the shiner. What could I do? What should I do? Sit there and exude sympathy for her? What if I had it all wrong? What if she just slipped and fell or ran into a door?
About a minute from my stop I got up and approached her. “Are you okay?”
“Yes,” she said. “Thanks for asking. Well, trying to be okay.”
I felt like I was really going out on a limb. “If somebody did this to you, you should report them.”
“I just don’t want to go through all the bullshit,” she said. “It was my fault. I shouldn’t have gone back. I knew I shouldn’t go back and yet I did.”
So she didn’t fall or hit a door. I was appalled that she felt it was her fault. It struck me as almost cliche that she felt it was her fault. How could being punched in the face be her fault? How could she think that?
I know there are lots of variables here. I made lots of assumptions. Maybe I had it all wrong. Maybe she started it. Maybe she attacked him with a knife. Maybe it wasn’t a him at all but a her. Maybe she was lying to me. Maybe a whole lot of stuff.
But I’m pretty sure a guy punched her in the face and I’m pretty sure she didn’t deserve it.
I didn’t have a whole lot of time to think what to say.
“It wasn’t your fault,” I told her. “If somebody did this to you they should be held accountable.”
I don’t remember what she said. It was time to get off the bus, so I did.
Writing this feels a little self-serving. Yay me for standing up and saying something. I’m sorry if it comes off that way. It was just unthinkable not to say something to her after the events of the last few weeks. I’m sure that had I run into a month ago I would have wondered what her story was and not said anything.
Did talking to her do any good? Will she take pictures of the black eye (and any other injuries) and report the incident to the police? I doubt it.
Did I make her feel any better? Probably not much.
But I hope I accomplished at least that much.