I was leaving the domestic violence shelter Tues. nite when a young,thin, light-skinned man drove into the parking lot in a late model car. I did a double-take. The woman behind me yelled, "Hey!"
Uh,oh. Men are not allowed at the shelter, unless they've been asked to come--as an interpreter for an immigrant speaking an unusual language, a workman to fix something, the only taxi driver the shelter uses, and so on.
An equally young couple sat in the back seat holding a small dog. They also looked about 20 and "okay" (not that you can always tell). Still, occasionally a man will show up at the shelter looking to kidnap, stalk, or scare his partner. The police are immediately called.
But these men don't bring friends with them. And it was 8:45 p.m. on a school night. It was also the usual time "outside" women left group to go home. Resident moms were in the process of taking kids upstairs to bed; some had work in the morning. No one wanted to have a police drama that would upset everyone and delay bedtime.
So I took a chance. Walked to the car; looked inside. The couple looked ok, too. I tapped on the driver's window. He rolled it down.
"Men aren't allowed here," I said. "Why are you here?"
"I'm picking up my girlfriend."
"Well, you'll have to leave. Turn right out the driveway and park a block down. I'll tell her where you are."
"Okay. I didn't know."
"What's your girlfriend's name?"
He paused too long for the truth. "Lynn."
I watched him go. Went back inside. No one answered to the name, "Lynn."
I told the office what happened. Told the women on their way out where the car was. Emailed the Shelter Director when I got home.
My bold action still bothers me, though. I didn't feel threatened because I've never been abused by a boyfriend or my husband. But I did a stupid thing. Innocuous as these people looked, they had the shelter address which few people know, and they were on shelter property. I could have been in big trouble.
What bothers me more, though, is wondering how they got the address. It is kept a secret. Kids catch school buses down the block. Mothers and outside women coming to group must be dropped off and picked up away from the shelter.
Did "Lynn" forget she would put every person in that shelter in danger bringing that man there? And that the shelter might have to be temporarily closed, the women and children re-located, if it turned out this was a dangerous man? Possible, but not likely.
Did he force her to give him the address?
As I left, I saw the man had parked his car where I told him to and was walking back toward the shelter, talking on his cell phone. I don't know if he and "Lynn" connected or if he was telling the truth. If there was a problem, I'll hear about it tomorrow when I go in.
I'm thinking that it's "Always something" at the shelter, but none of us is immune to unexpected, threatening, dangerous "stuff" in our lives. It's just that my "stuff" and these women's and children's "stuff" are not on the same plane. Not even the same planet, sometimes.