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:
- * I got these facts and statements from here https://www.ourwatch.org.au/Understanding-Violence/Facts-and-figures
- Get educated on what to do if you need to help someone here: http://www.dvrcv.org.au/help-advice/guide-for-families-friends-and-neighbours