Walked into a Door

If you saw this woman standing next to you as you both wait for your morning skim milk café latté with one sugar would you ask her if she was OK? Or would you politely look the other way as you wonder if you do actually need that white chocolate muffin with raspberry sauce for morning tea?

I reckon I’d be thinking about that muffin but secretly wondering if she was OK. How did she get that bruise? Did someone hurt her or is she clumsy and walked into a door? I’d also wonder is she was wishing I’d ask her if she was OK. What if she wasn’t? What if she really, really needed a stranger to ask her how she got that black eye?

This photo came up on my instagram feed this week and it’s of my insta-friend (as in, we’ve never met IRL but would totally be awesome BFFs if we did) Samantha. Samantha didn’t walk into a door. And no-one hurt her. But no-one has asked her if she’s ok either. She’s looked like this for a week and not a single person has inquired. Politely or otherwise. In fact, the only time someone did was when they jokingly asked her husband if she’d ‘walked into a door’? That’s right. Her husband!

Now I’m not here to throw shade on our fabulous men-folk but it’s a fact that in Australia women are at least three times more likely than men to experience violence from an intimate partner. The overwhelming majority of acts of domestic violence and sexual assault are perpetrated by men against women.*

Samantha said it’s been a really interesting experience walking around looking like she’d been beaten up.  “No-one has asked me if I’m OK. Not even HR at work. There have just been a lot of whispers and questions asked to other people, but none to me directly. I’ve been stared at down the street, on the tram at my daughter’s school. People just look away. They don’t want to get involved.”

Samantha also told me another story about a friend of hers who was in a similar situation with two black eyes (sustained from a fall) and her friends talked about it behind her back in shocked whispers; “Surely her husband wouldn’t do that?” They were right, he wouldn’t have. And he didn’t. But they didn’t ask her either.

So back to that white chocolate muffin.

How do you broach the subject of potential domestic violence with a stranger? How do you politely let someone know that you care and can help if they need it? And, regardless of if you’re on the receiving end of domestic violence or a simple personal mishap that sees you looking like a victim of violence, how do you take a stranger inquiring after your wellbeing?

It’s a minefield of political correctness, social etiquette and basic humanity. But like Carrie Bradshaw might say, I couldn’t help but wonder…should we just ask anyway?

Head on over to Simply Kim on Facebook and have a chat. I’d love to know your thoughts.

PS – Samantha ignored a dry bit of skin on her nose which turned out to be a squamous cell carcinoma that required a biopsy, a plastic surgeon AND a skin graft. Not to mention leaving her with a black eye for a week. Her advice is not to ignore random changes on your skin and to also politely and privately inquire about someone’s wellbeing if you have any concerns. She would have happily preached to them about the importance of regularly checking your skin.

FINAL THOUGHT: If you do ask are you prepared for the response? What would you do if someone DID need your help. Read up here.

References and useful links:

13 thoughts on “Walked into a Door

  1. Unfortunately I have been guilty of exactly this – not asking, which is completely awful. Will make sure to take Samantha’s advice in future.

    Another wonderful blog Kim.

    • Me too Chris. Me too! So I’m going to politely inquire in the future. Scary hey? Imagine if you didn’t ask and you could have helped…

  2. I can’t imagine not asking a colleague if they were ok if I saw them with a black eye, but I probably wouldn’t have asked a stranger, I think after reading your blog I would have to push out of my comfort zone and ask.
    Thanks Kim x

  3. I have been in this position – face planted at work – was a shocker and some caring person popped domestic violence pamphlets in my letter box. I did have a chuckle but was grateful that a complete stranger was looking out for me.

  4. Wow another great read! Would I ask a stranger probably not, would I ask a fellow staff member 100%. Also I am now asking myself how I would feel if a stranger asked me, hmmm. Lots of food for thought there.

    Thanks Kim

  5. An acquaintance who no longer lives in the same town as me posted a photo of herself in her bathroom mirror with a black eye and bruises on her arm on Facebook. I immediately privately messaged her and asked if I could help and if she has locked herself in the bathroom and whether I could call a friend near to her or the police. She was asking for help I thought as her post said “behind closed doors” so a little different to seeing it at the supermarket on a stranger. Out kids were at school together and aside from her volatile personality (which I now see was the result of her being traumatized at home) I never saw any bruises or anything that would have led me to suspect the abuse. I think that by the time it’s visible, it’s serious. That means the perpetrator is no longer bothering to hide the abuse. So perhaps it’s a case of going up and quietly complimenting them on their hair, their dress or their bag before asking if they’re ok. I wouldn’t know how to say it otherwise. I wonder if there are any women who have been abused on here and what they think. Would they admit it to a stranger?

  6. You so much want someone to help if it is not covered with block out makeup. “How did the other bloke look?” is not the question you want. “You need a course in Karate” is a good opener, because if she doesn’t want to talk about it, she can laugh it off, and if she does want help she can ask if you know a good gym.

  7. I’ve asked two women who I’ve seen with facial injuries if they were alright. The first was an acquaintance, she graciously thanked me and assured me it was a genuine accident. The second was a stranger who promptly told me to fuck off and mind my own business. I felt I handles the second one with tact and diplomacy, it rocked me a bit.
    I haven’t encountered another woman with any obvious bruising since to know if I’d be confident enough to ask again. It can be a bit of a minefield as male, especially given most perpetrators are males.

    I’d like to think it wouldn’t stop me, however, it may cause enough hesitation to miss the opportunity to ask.

    Thanks for sharing this Kim, it’s certainly a conversation worth perpetuating.

    • Yeah that’s a tough one. You can’t predict or be responsible for the response. It’s true that you can’t help everyone, but you can try. And that one time you don’t try is the time you may have made a real difference … hmmm…probably a metaphor for life in that comment.. ha ha. Thanks for your comment Dave. As always, love your ‘good bloke’ perspective x

      • You’re right Kim, nine hundred and ninety-nine fuck off’s is worth the chance that one “no, I’m not alright” makes a difference. And yes, it’s most definitely a metaphor for life.

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