There are nights out on the track that are incredibly difficult, the most intimate encounters with darkness, suffering, and pain. This weekend was one of those weekends, when the reality of the work we do and the violence these women face on a daily basis confronted us head on. This is not a typical scenario we face, and for that we are thankful. But it is a very real and constant reality for the women we minister to. One of our team leaders wrote this post to share her processing of the weekends events and we ask you to pray with us for K.
Cameron, who’s sitting in the backseat of my car, sees her on the right side of the road. She’s curled in a ball. A man—an athletic 6’2”—hovers over her, screaming. His arms are spread wide, like they had hit her or were ready to. I was in the left lane. It was too late to pull over, but not too late to flip a u-turn. When I do, it’s still hard for me to see between the sporadically parked cars and the night sky.
“There she is—she’s still there,” Cameron says. Sam confirms.
“Get your phone ready to call 9-1-1,” I tell him.
The man with the long arms stands up and huffs back to his PT Cruiser and drives away. We’re across the busy road, but we have to make sure she’s okay. As we reach her, a man on bicycle and another girl who’s working the track that night (“F”), stop too. Our conversations with them are brief. I approach the woman who sits with her knees up against her chest, huddled against a chain link fence. Her face is sopping wet with tears.
“I’m with After Hours Ministry,” I say. “Would you like a gift?” She accepts it.
I bend down and ask what’s happened and if she needs prayer for anything. The young woman explains through tears that she’s in love with old boyfriend from high school. It was a mistake to get back with him. He hits her. He hits her. He’s almost killed her a couple of times. When I ask her if she needs a ride somewhere, she says she’s waiting for her mom.
“Would you like us to wait with you?” I ask. She nods.
We wait patiently, standing guard. From behind me, I hear Cameron tell me the PT Cruiser has returned. I don’t know if he has a gun, a knife, or just his violent arms, but I turn my back and ask the woman, “Would you like a ride somewhere safer? We can drop you off somewhere your boyfriend won’t know. Your mom can pick you up from there.”
“Yes,” but when she stands to follow, the man with the long arms hauls across the street. He’s screaming without room to breathe. He weaves through Cameron, Sam and myself… straight to her. She steps up on a stoop, pressing against the gate to a stranger’s yard. She’s cornered like a dog. He’s hurling insults, slurs and curses. She’s musters up the strength to say if he hurts her again, she’ll press charges. When he defends himself, she gives details like “you tried to shove a cigarette down my throat,” and “you tried to kidnap me.”
When the man with long arms continues to threaten her and says that she doesn’t care for him anymore, I gently correct him—“She cares for you. She told me. We were just praying for you.” Which was true. He takes a couple of steps back from her, still yelling, but at least there is more space.
It’s just past 2am. Cameron stands yards away. He’s on the phone with 9-1-1, but now it’s faster to waive down a squad car. By the time they pull over, the man with the long arms is back in the driver’s seat of his PT Cruiser.
Cameron, Sam, and I watch as LAPD calmly ask the woman questions, like:
“Did he hit you?”
She denies it. She loves him. It’s toxic, but it is what it is. The police recommend she gets a restraining order against him, but she doesn’t know how. We do. We introduce ourselves to the police and tell this young woman that we can connect her to the resources she needs, like Christian Legal Aid or other non-profits that can help with legal counsel. She dials our hotline number so we can keep in touch.
Since the police are willing to stay with her, our team is just about to pack up… when her uncle shows up. We don’t know if he’s really her uncle, or another boyfriend, or another pimp. But he’s 6’4” and was the size of linebacker. His eyes are gentle. He graciously shakes our hands as a thank you. His palms are sweaty though.
I’m not sure if my legs and hands are shaking from the cold or adrenaline, but I tell K it must be the cold. I don’t want her to be anymore scared than she already is.
I’m happy to get back in the car. I’m happier we were there for the woman (“K”) when her crazy boyfriend returned. God knows, something worse could’ve happened if we weren’t.
Behind locked car doors, we pray for K again. We want her to go somewhere safe. Wherever she is, we’ll be in touch with her tomorrow. We want to help. We want her to be free.