Resilience after Domestic Violence

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‘I have a penchant for being in the wrong place, at the wrong time and this week I found myself witnessing man ripping a young woman out of a car and ruthlessly beating her in the street’


Alicia Chamely
By Alicia Chamely

THE first body I saw was in Hell Yard, Beetham. A woman had been shot in the face. She was wearing a white shirt.

The second and third were victims of a reprisal gang killing. They were shot in their car. I can still hear the sound their bodies made on the coroner’s gurneys when they were pulled out.

The fourth was a bandit that chose the wrong parlour to rob. The owner had a licensed firearm. I was surprised how bright red his blood was. Pooling on the pavement, it was almost orange, the colour of the same salt prunes being sold in the parlour he unfortunately tried to steal from.

I held hands and prayed with a man who was slowly bleeding to death from internal injuries after a boating accident. Deep within the fear in his eyes, there was still a small spark of hope that he would survive. He didn’t. I have lost family and friends to tragedy, sickness and crime.

Over the past 37 (or 38, depending on when you are reading this) years I, like many of you, have seen and experienced some truly horrific things. It is an unfortunate part of life for many and you would think I would be immune by now or would have given up on life, but I carry on. I have a penchant for being in the wrong place, at the wrong time and this week I found myself witnessing a man ripping a young woman out of a car and ruthlessly beating her in the street.

I would discover she was in the process of escaping a bad relationship with this man. I won’t go into details, but thanks to a heroic bystander, a frantic yet incredibly descriptive 999 call and a quick response from the police, the young lady was saved.

Oddly, despite this not being the worst thing I have ever experienced, it bothered me a lot. More specifically the look in the eyes of the woman who was being abused.

Vacant, completely empty. Whatever she had lived through, experienced with this man, had drained the
life and light out of her completely.

Perhaps earlier in the day, when she was packing her bags and making her arrangements to leave there was an ember of joy in her. The anticipation of being free. But after her plans had been thwarted, all the light in her was blotted out.

Even after the man was torn from her and she was assured she would be safe, she stood there at the side of the road, a complete ghost of a woman. It never surprises me the harm we humans can inflict on one another. Domestic abuse, murder, genocide, just switch on the news and it’s all there.

No one is immune to the cruelty of man, it gets us one way or another, either through experience, through the stories of others or simply being in the wrong place and wrong time.

There is enough horror in the world to justify never getting out of bed, giving up completely on life. But we don’t. We keep living, never fully healed and a little broken. We may not be happy, but we keep going. I would like to think it’s an innate sense of resilience we all have within us. It’s eggshell thin and buried deep, but it’s there.

It is not rainbows, sunshine and the drive to change the world after our experiences with trauma, but a subtle strength that propels us forward.

Be it religion, the responsibility to others, denial or hope, we frame our resilience in many ways. After all, with all the horror around us and all that happens to us, how do we explain our ability to just not give up on life.

I believe in this resilience, this most basic of human traits and I know that that young lady will find hers. With the fading of bruises and the passing of time, she will rise from the dead. I wish I could tell her how brave I think she is; she took a step to leave, a step many women in similar situations are too fearful to take. And for this I admire her deeply.

Perhaps this resilience is what propels our evolutionary desire for survival. It is one of the most powerful and often overlooked attributes, but whenever we are faced with tragedy, it is there. Life in all its supposed beauty is also filled with a vile ugly.

And even though we all experience trauma, we all experience loss, we have all seen things that plague our dreams and steal our peace, we inexplicably carry on.

We are a resilient species, for even in the darkest of moments, or days when every part of our body aches, we find a way to carry on.


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