The other day I witnessed the aftermath of a violent crime. The injuries were not life threatening, but they were disturbing. I was near Franklin Avenue, the main street in Yellowknife on the evening of Wednesday, June 21 when I heard a car horn. I turned to look and saw a person sitting in the middle of a crosswalk with a large black truck stopped just in front. I was worried she had been hit (she had, though not by the truck), so I ran to see if I could help. When I got there her nose was bleeding, her eye was swelled shut. She had been hit so hard half the eye lashes were missing from her lower eye lid and were scattered across her cheek. The man in the truck had witnessed the assault and honked his horn to scare off the assailant. Once I arrived he went off to pursue the young man while I stayed with the victim. It was no random act; the young man was her boyfriend.
A friend of hers got a phone from the store they had just left and called the police. The man in the truck also raised them on his cell phone. I stood on the street with the victim for fifteen minutes before the man in the truck returned. We suggested the victim go to the hospital to have her eye looked at. They left walking, but she didn’t go to the hospital.
Two patrol cars had passed us while we stood on the street. The local RCMP detachment was less than four blocks away. Perhaps we should have instructed her to go to the detachment, or have taken her there ourselves. I was informed by the man in the truck, diligently following the case two days later, that the victim had not been located. She was young and ashamed. Her boyfriend had just hit her in broad daylight on a busy street.
Was it simply miscommunication, a busy day for the patrols; and was it mere coincidence that she was aboriginal? Since this incident did not result in charges it will likely not enter into law enforcement statistics. It will instead enter the endless and infuriating tides of domestic abuse that ravage our communities every day. The young man who struck her may have been a victim himself. If nothing is done, his future partners will likely be victims too. If he has children, they may suffer the same fate at his hands, and perpetuate it.
Glamorous, violent crimes splatter our headlines while personal tragedies go unreported and destroy lives. When will we get our heads on straight?
What bothers me the most is that I should have done more. I could have escorted her to the station, encouraged her to report it. I could have gotten on the phone myself, and pressed to have a constable come to the scene. I could have waved down the passing patrol car and forced him to stop. She may not have decided to press charges, but then at least we would have had statistics that more closely reflect reality, and maybe that one young man would have been less likely to try that kind of heinous bullshit again.
Next time I witness an act of violence against women I am not going to expect law enforcement to properly attend to it. Individuals need to be vigilant to what may be going on around them.
Here are a few sites for anyone interested in getting more information or getting involved:
Information on the Centre for Northern Families – Emergency Shelter