Plus ça change

It was the spring of 1977. I was a teenager. I called the police on my abusive boyfriend.

It’s funny how some memories from my past are redacted completely. The screen goes black when I try to recall specific events. They say this is classic PTSD. Yet some memories, are as clear as day.

Like this day.

When patrol officer Herb Satzger came to my house, I met him in the driveway. I remember I was still shaken; my eyes were red from crying. I remember folding my arms and looking down while Satzger was calmly trying to console me while asking me what happened.

He wasn’t the stereotypical cop. I remember thinking to myself that he was a nice guy. He actually cared about me and my situation. He spoke to me politely in a reassuring and supportive tone.

While he was sympathetic, he explained to me that things were going to get worse if I didn’t file charges. He calmly pointed out that he’d seen this many times. Unless you take an action against this guy, he’s going to learn he can get away with it.

But I was afraid. I was afraid of what could happen. And how I could make things worse for myself.

I never did file charges. Not that day or any other day.

So, I get it.

This week is #PoliceWeek. The week honors police who’ve lost their lives in the service of keeping their communities safe.

Law enforcement is still, 40 years later, on the front lines of domestic violence. Next week, I’ll be presenting a series of case studies at the American Society of Evidence-based Policing conference. I intend to attract as many smart and caring cops to our mission as possible. The foundation for holding abusers accountable begins with proper data collection.

After 40 years, I re-found Herb. He’s living here in Florida about an hour away from me. He went on to have a very successful career in law enforcement as a homicide detective and retired here.

Here’s what he said:

The picture you have sent me of yourself as a 17-year-old should have been on an record album cover back then.
My mind wandered as I tried to digest the girl in the picture. I thought… young, naïve, and vulnerable. Reaching out.
Further thoughts? Did I know you back then? How do I get thru to you? How can I make you understand? Where are you going… if you continued in that relationship?
Will I be back again? Well… 40 years later I found out.
I wish you the best on your mission. I’m sure it will be a success. As you are driven as I once was.
Try to help those who can’t help themselves. Remember you can only take a child/person so far…the rest is up to them.
If you get through to one person. Then that’s an achievement.
I’m honored.

No, I’m honored Herb. Thank you for your many years of service. I wish I had listened to you so long ago.