Her lips quivered as she tried to hold back the tears. Still stunned from what I had just seen, I moved in and wrapped her in a tender hug. Tremors rocked her body and she trembled in my arms, overcome with emotion.
“What on earth could have happened?” I thought to myself.
Everything seemed to be going well, barely three short months ago when Jessica married her long-time boyfriend. They’d both struggled with addictive behavior for several years, but things took a turn for the better when Jessica had an encounter with God. Funny enough, she was in prison at the time; serving time for assault.
Seeing the changes in her, Jessica’s boyfriend also made a decision to have a relationship with God, through Jesus. Things were going well and they finally tied the knot three months ago.
Everything was perfect – or so I thought.
A few minutes ago, I had heard the office door slam shut, so I walked towards to front to say hello to Jessica. I was shocked by what I saw; standing by the desk was Jessica, with a split lip and swollen eyes.
There was no mistaking the signs.
I pulled away from her, held her at arm’s length.
“Did he hit you?” My voice was fierce with concern and something else.
In the background, a clock ticked loudly, counting off each second as time inexorably marched on.
Mute, she shook her head…wiped the tears from her eyes.
“Then, what happened to your face? Tell me the truth!” I knew that many victims of abuse suffer in silence, too scared or ashamed share their pain with anyone else. I was determined that my friend would have a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen.
Her voice was soft when she spoke. “We got into it last night, and kind of pushed each other around. I…I guess I busted my lip in the process.”
I wasn’t sure I believed her. Was she minimizing her husband’s actions in order to protect him, or to keep things from getting worse at home? I remembered a case I’d seen on television, where an abused woman’s colleague took regular pictures of her injuries and kept a meticulous log. The colleague’s records later proved invaluable in the prosecution of the woman’s husband.
Should I do the same thing or would that offend Jessica? I battled the indecision and finally decided not to take any pictures. However, I resolved within myself that I would definitely do so if I ever witnessed more bruises.
“Why don’t you go to the restroom and clean up? Apply some make-up or something, okay? You don’t want everybody asking you what’s wrong.”
She nodded, rummaged in her purse for some things and left the office.
Still reflective, I watched her leave. How did two people who seemed desperately in love come to this point? How did Jessica’s husband feel when he saw the bruises on her face? Was he remorseful or was he even now justifying his actions by telling himself that she provoked him? I wished I could get an insight to what was going on in his mind.
Somewhere inside me, I hoped that he was sorry – that the bruises on her face were an aberration that would never happen again.
I didn’t know how wrong I was.
To be continued…