Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Familiar Arms

Wrapped in blankets almost up to her eyes, Liana's barely visible. Naz, her husband, met us at the door with a roll of the eyes, as if to say here we go again. It takes a few minutes before we coax the first words out of her and longer still until we could calm her breathing enough to be able to have a conversation. A little boy of about three, a mix of Middle Eastern features and Eastern European pallor, runs around the house without a care in the world. Every few minutes he would come back in to check on what was happening and satisfied that there was nothing untoward, would go back to playing.

Naz never left the room for more than a few seconds at a time. He stood by the door, watching our every move, listening to every word. 

"Is Liana on any medication?" I ask him. 

"Only some painkillers when she needs them." 

"Do you have the packet?"

"I'll go and find it." 

The moment he leaves, Liana moves the blankets a little away from her face. 

"Liana, do you want to tell us what's wrong? What's got you so upset?" 

She shakes her head so violently that the straight-flowing tears suddenly zigzag their way down her cheeks. But she can't bring herself to say it. She just looks in the direction of the door and a shiver runs through her. When Naz comes back, I suggest that we need to do some more checks in the ambulance.

"I'll come with you." It's a demand rather than a request.

"Why don't you stay here with the little one, we'll just be a few minutes, do a few checks, then we can decide what the best plan is." 

Reluctantly, he agrees, but tells us he would just get their son ready and then he would be down too. In the time it takes him to find coats and shoes, we've already got half a story and realise that we need to get Liana away from home. She told us a little of the terror she faces at home every day, how she's not allowed friends, how her family have been kept away, how the threats of harming their child make sure she's kept on a short leash. Before she can tell us any more, the door to the ambulance swings open and Liana jumps in fear.

"Well, what are you doing with her? She doesn't need hospital, you know. She just needs to get back home and calm down. She's always doing this." 

"Where's your boy?" 

He shuffles slightly aside to show us a frightened shell of a child, totally different from the one we met upstairs. 

"I think we need to take Liana to hospital. Her pulse and blood pressure are a little concerning, so we want a doctor to look at her." It's a white lie, one we hoped was real enough for him to accept. 

"You're sure, yes?" 

"I'm sure." 

"Can I come with you?" 

"Why don't you come in your car, then you've got a way of coming home?" 

"Fine. But I don't want this child crying all the way there. You can take him too." 

"Not a problem. We'll look after them both. We're only going to the nearest hospital."

"I'll be a few minutes behind you. I go to the emergency department?" 


For the few minutes in the ambulance, Liana was silent. Her little boy had calmed down a little, a combination of glove balloons and a bottle of bubbles easing his fears. He even managed a laugh when one of the bubbles flew up to the roof of the ambulance, drifted slowly down and suddenly popped on his nose. As we arrive at the hospital, an all too familiar queue appears in front of us, with two other crews and their patients waiting for triage. It gives us some more time to talk, but Liana chooses to keep quiet. 

As we reach the front of the line, I have one final chance. 

"Has he ever hit you?" 

A single tear escapes and rolls down her face, as a confused little boy wipes it away for her. She leans forward, kisses him on the head and lifts the back of her shirt. She's black and blue from top to bottom. Belt marks, cigarette burns and crude, jagged cuts cover her entire back. 

"Please don't tell anyone. Please!" Her plea is barely audible, no more than a tormented whisper.

"Liana, I don't have a choice. Some of these wounds need treatment. I have to tell the nurse."

After more tears and pleads, once we promise that both she and her little boy will be looked after, she finally agrees. Having waited almost half an hour, we hand over just as Naz walks into the department and immediately all the eyes turn on him. 

"You told them, didn't you? I told you what would happen if you told anyone!" His screams make every other person in the department turn around and make me clutch on to the little boy. "What are you all looking at? She deserved it!" 

A security guard hurries over and after a bit of a struggle promptly removes Naz from the department, all the while calling for police over the radio. Liana breathes a sigh of relief and holds on tightly to her little boy who I've handed back into familiar arms.


Stairlift Wit said...

Thank you for being a hero to to the mother and her child. Their saviour.

Jess said...


Anonymous said...

This just made me cry.

MouseyMoomin said...

Your incredible act of courage and dignity saved two peoples lives. You should be so proud of yourself. There isnt enough praise in the world for what you did today. That woman put her trust in you, and you have turned her life around for the better now.

Claire K said...

OMG thank God you got her to confide in you xx

Robin said...

A job well done, both the writing and the act.

Torge said...

Un.Be.Lievable the things that you encounter. Let's hope she isn't one of the great many women who, after a short bout of confused independence, blames herself and walks back to the bastartd for another round of beatings.

You've done extra good in negotiating a minefield of a situation, though.

Torge said...

By the way, now that this Naz character has basically shouted "I am a wife-beater and oroud of it" to a whole bunch of witnesses, can procecution against him progress without Liana filing a report, i.e. Independently of thevictim? I am not familiar with UK law, see.

hilinda said...

I hope things turn out well for the Mom and child. It's so hard for anyone to get out of such a situation.
I'm glad you were able to get them separated enough to move things in the right direction.

Anonymous said...

Torge, she will still have to give a statement, however, domestic violence can and will still be prosecuted with or without her consent.

Anonymous said...

Well done on getting the lady and child to hospital and away from mr psycho for a little while. The best outcome for a job like this although not the end of the road for this lady by far.
Jobs like this are always difficult for me. What happens when we leave the hospital? Does she get the same care and attention from the hospital staff? Do they give her advice what to do next or is she sent packing back to the home where Naz will be? She has lost touch with friends and family so who is there to support her? Does she have rights to the home? Naz wouldn't be held for more than a few hours at the police station even if he was arrested. He would be back at the home when she returned from hospital; and she would have to return home after all, all the childrens things are there, her personal belongings, passport etc. It's very well being put up in a refuge but does she know how to find one? and they are not pleasant places.
Even if the home is in her name and she can get an Occupation Order to keep him away is she going to be advised how to do this? The legal system is not an easy one to get through for anyone, let alone a single lady, with child, who has zero self-confidence. How about a non-molestaation order? Worth the paper it's printed on, if she can work out how to get one also?

As you can tell this subject is a little close to home. I was lucky and had a supportive family, one of whom was a solicitor. I finally found the strength (and finances) to break free. But I fear that for the most of the people we meet in similar circumstances the story continues.. and we are pretty helpless to change anything. After all they need to do it themselves.. but it's not easy!

Happy to be free.

Anonymous said...

No, it's not easy to leave. Abusive partners keep you there with fear and by destrying your own sense of self worth. Things like Naz said - if you leave, I will hurt the kid etc. The day I left my abusive ex he had a loaded gun pointed at my back and I didn't care if he used it. At least it would be and end to it. That is how low they get you.

SlummyMummy said...

I so wish that this story wasn't true. Bravo for giving her the chance to break free.

Bobbi said...

Well done! Thanks for rescuing the mother from a lifetime of fear, and for stopping that child from growing up with a fear of anyone that raises their voice or hand. I hope after she is discharged that there is enough protection and support for them to start again - I dread to think what would happen if she had to go back. Sending hugs as well, cos jobs like that sound horrible.

Purpleladyflutterby said...

Oh god! You may have saved those two tattered souls from death or worse. Praises and blessings on you and your partner and families.

lucymedic said...

I'm not looking forward to experiencing this. I'd hate to leave them. Hopefully everything turned out ok.

InsomniacMedic said...

It's been a long time since there have been this many comments on a serious post. Thank you to all of you.
I wish I had answers to your questions, but in truth, we'll never know. We won't know if she went home, or if she filed a report, or if she ran away, or any other detail.
We can only hope.

Muppetelle said...

Amazing post, I just found it through twitter and will be subscribing, thank you for being there, when that family needed you x :) x

Anonymous said...

oh god how awful.
I hope she finds the strength to stay free.
My love and respect to you all, I don't know how you cope.

parajen said...

The thing about our profession...not all blood and guts like many think, but a chance to make a difference in someone's life, by whatever means possible. Well done! On that day you can say, " today, I made a difference".