I heard a faint scream and tried to convince myself I didn’t hear anything. Then I thought about all of the women in my life who have riddled off that statement about men doing nothing when they hear a women screaming, and how people are more likely to respond to someone yelling fire than to respond to the cries of a woman. I heard it again. I was taking the ferry from Barisal to Dhaka and two rooms over a man was beating his wife. I came out of my room to try and do something. I was amazed at the crowd of men staring at the woman being beaten, none of them doing a thing besides watching. It was 12:30 in the morning.
Her dark black hair was matted to the back of her head with blood. I pulled them apart and yelled at the group of men, hoping one would know English. One did, he was a dentist and I asked him to translate for me. I was yelling commands to separate the two and to get me a first aid kit. My arms were covered in blood. My wilderness first responder training finally seemed to revealing itself as a practical financial decision.
It was clear the woman had a serious head injury and was responding to it with all normal signs and symptoms. She was combative, vomited, had close to no pulse, couldn’t tell me what happened, where she was, or what time it was, and her pupils were not responding. Her husband had fractured her skull. When I looked at it, I made an effort not to palpate too firmly as I was scared to do damage. Her skull was not in tact.
I was quickly reminded of the cultural differences when there was no effort made to refrain the husband. Besides what I had done with my attempt to separate the two, He commanded the group of men watching. I asked that she lay in recovery position while the man responsible for her fractured skull attempted to help. I grabbed his shirt and clenched a ball of it in my hands and pulled him out of the room, then pushed him back into the crowed of onlookers. His face looked pathetic. I could have seriously hurt that man had I not been so focused on helping the woman.
I took her vitals and called a doctor from the U.S embassy for advice. The husband became jealous when the crowd of spectators started going against his word and agreeing with mine. They tried to tell him that I was helping. This part of the story is hard to tell… I was very disappointed. The husband made me leave. I physically resisted the husband and asked for help from the rest of the men standing around and nothing was done. They said it is their culture… If they do something they could be blamed. I said I didn’t care and they could blame me if they wanted to but I wanted to help. The doctor from the embassy said the woman would have about an hour to live if her pupils didn’t respond and she didn’t get to the hospital. Her pupils weren’t responding and I could do nothing. We had three hours left on the ferry before we reached Dhaka and the ferry boat captain wasn’t willing to call for a boat to meet us, call the police, or have an ambulance there waiting. Again, his response was that he could do nothing.
Everyone told me they could do nothing. I was furious. I asked how the men would feel if the severely injured woman in the room was their sister, daughter, or mother. Hearing this the men looked ashamed, but still did nothing. They said it was up to the husband to ask for help, call the police, or decide if she even went to the hospital. They were telling me that a man could fracture a women’s skull and still be responsible for the decisions she made to get help.
I stayed up all night standing outside their room. People became angry with me and told me it was none of my business. I responded with a look I’m pretty sure is universal for “I don’t give a #4%! what you think!”.
In the end nothing was done. No police were called, no ambulance met us at the dock, just an uncle called and a barley conscious women in the room her husband beat her in. I knocked on the door and confronted the husband one last time before I left the boat. The woman was holding her head. In the end I had no effect and no power over the situation. The husband looked like the most pathetic and scared man I have ever seen in my life. It is almost impossible for me to accept that I had to give that man so much power in that situation.
The women in this country have next to no rights. The men have no history in confronting bad men and the responsibility is passed on to a greater authority. There is no one, or very few, willing to take action against bad men. Those men were cowards. I was devastated.
Posted By Adam Kruse
Posted Aug 9th, 2012