This morning I was an hour late to work because I witnessed a domestic assault in broad daylight on the corner – a man relentlessly beating on his girlfriend. I only saw the tail end of the beating, but it was enough to see him hit her 3 times and swing her around by her purse. Her personal belongings were flying everywhere. I pulled over and ran to assist. By that time her assailant had run off. She was crying, had scrapes down both arms and one leg, and clear bruises/strangle marks on her neck. I and a few bystanders started looking through the bushes for her phone. She did not know if he took it or if he threw it. That’s when the assailant’s brother returned. He threatened her with physical harm. I took a video of it. That’s when he threatened to “beat [my] ass.” Now, I’ve been through my share of scrapes through the years and held my own pretty good, but that was as a younger man, and no matter what you see in the movies about one old man whipping a bunch of younger dudes, it’s mostly fiction. So I opted to keep recording and not to needlessly inflame the situation. She was still crying and he was following her around threatening to assault her, so I escorted her inside. That’s when he attempted to assault me. It was a weak attempt at a leg sweep, so I brushed it off, but it seriously tested my patience.
The police still hadn’t arrived, and the other 2 men who stood by had to get to work, so I sat with her in a nearby restaurant, waiting for police. She was still terrified, sobbing. She told me this was not the first time he had beat her. Twenty minutes had passed, with still no police. That’s when the original assailant returned. He again threatened her. Then he threatened to destroy all of her personal belongings, which were still at his place. This was all while I was sitting across the table from her. I told him he should leave. He asked me if I wanted to get hit. I asked him if he wanted to spend the weekend in jail. Then he left in a huff. There are a lot of uncertainties in any situation, but 5 will get you 10 that if I hadn’t been there, she would have gotten a beat down again – right there in that restaurant.
I thought about that a lot today. I thought about my position of privilege – that as my own boss with my own schedule I could sit and wait with her while the others had to leave for their jobs, to pick up their kids, or to catch the train. That privilege, the lack of any good sense to mind my own business, and the lack of any measurable self-preservation instinct, is what got me into politics in the first place. I know a lot of good people, on both sides of the aisle, who share those qualities, and I am proud to serve with them. Some of them have experienced these things personally, not just as bystanders.
35 minutes after the assault, a police officer arrived. The officer didn’t want to talk to me at that time, so I left the young woman in her good hands. I hope the officer did a good job. I hope he’s charged with felony strangulation. I hope she gets her stuff back. I hope she was able to find her phone, her ID, and her bus pass, all of which he took. She was supposed to be at work in the mall at 10. I hope she was able to call her boss, whose phone number was in her missing phone. I hope she finds a place to stay tonight. And I sincerely hope he gets what’s coming to him. As an officer of the court, a state rep, and a candidate for statewide office, I was not the guy to deliver it. But his train’s a comin’ down the track and it’s due for a whistle stop.
There are a lot of young women in her shoes tonight, walking though the wreckage of a broken relationship, no place to stay, no phone. So I’m going online tonight and making a contribution to Women’s Advocates, the first shelter in the nation for women and children escaping domestic violence, located right here in Saint Paul. $50 provides two months of education and support groups for each resident. $100 provides one month of supplies for the children’s program. Whether or not you donate, say some prayers for the folks walking alone out there tonight. Some of the loneliest people are right on your street, and most of us will never know.