November 25, 2017

Article by Mary A. Kassian

The dark glasses didn’t fully conceal her puffy black eye.

Four of us surrounded our friend, Sandra, when she came to church that morning. One woman gently embraced her, whispering truth in her ear. I knelt at her feet with a box of Kleenex, supplying her with fresh, dry tissues as she knurled the tear-drenched ones into balls. Two other friends flanked her like sentinels standing guard. The abuse was getting worse.

More than once, the police had been called. Church elders had promised Sandra money for lawyers, protection orders, accommodations, and anything else she might need. We had formulated a plan: Who to contact. Code words. Where we’d take her. What to do with the kids. We begged her not to go back that day. We could help her leave.

But Sandra refused. She insisted she wasn’t ready. Dismayed, I silently prayed that the next call would summon us to her aid, and not her funeral.

A few weeks later, the call came.

In a fit of uncontrolled rage, her husband had pulled the china cabinet over, sending glass exploding across the room. To further assuage his anger, he smashed a chair into splinters, and then, uttering expletives and threats, had stormed out the door. Sandra figured she had about two hours before he came back from the bar to resume his drunken tirade.

The police were on their way. Her second call was to her church contact, who dispatched several couples to her aid. As Sandra gave her statement to police, we cleared a path through the treacherous gleaming shards. The wives packed up clothes and toys. The husbands moved boxes and other belongings into waiting vehicles.

In just over 90 minutes, our friend was on her way to the shelter. This time, she left for good.

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