“Is she safe at home?” my friend’s friend asked in a hushed voice as I headed down the hall to the restroom.
I am, but her concern was well placed. The weekend before I had lost my balance while misjudging the distance between my body and a piece of furniture in a spectacularly grace-less moment, slamming my arm hard against solid wood. Two days before my dog had jerked her paw against my chest, leaving a slight purple mark there. And the day before my son – excited about a video game – pointed at the screen in my lap, scratching his nail against my cheek.
This picture only captures my arm that day, but you can see what drew concern from her.
I don’t know her. I probably won’t see her again. But? She cared enough for me to ask a mutual friend the hard and awkward question, “Is she safe at home?”
I am, thankfully. My husband is a refuge for me and our children. But other women and children (and men too) aren’t safe behind closed doors. I wrote about domestic violence in the church for Key Ministry a couple weeks ago, and then I came across this last week.
Abuse happens. Your friend might not say anything, but her injuries might speak for her. Be willing to engage in further conversation when they do.
If you’re wrong – like that well-intentioned friend of a friend was – there’s no harm done. But if you’re right, you might just open a needed door for healing and safety. If you're right, your one question might be the beginning of her rescue.
Let’s all be brave enough to ask the hard questions when our gut senses something is off. It might be weird, sure. But it might just save a life.
Edited to add: A friend and former co-worker of mine commented on my Facebook page about her own experience in an abusive relationship. I thought what she said was so powerful that I'm bringing it here. In Amy's words, "I would add that sometimes a woman tells others what she wishes were true - that she is safe - when she actually is not. I had friends gently but persistently ask multiple times, and when it turned out I was not indeed safe, those women were there to help, no judgement, no "told you so", so just immediate help. It's better to ask and be wrong, multiple times even, than to not say anything at all. Ask. And keep asking."
Yes and amen. Ask. And keep asking. And then be there to help, creating a non-judgmental space for your friend when she's ready for it.