In the summer of 2006 I attended the Alternative Breaks Citizenship Schools at the Hosteling International building. Each ABCS has a theme, ours was Women’s rights. During the week long conference we learned all about issues that negatively impact women. The conference took place in the same week as July 4th so the city of Chicago was abuzz with activity, between fireworks displays and the taste of Chicago.
During one of the sessions about women’s issues we discussed domestic violence at which point I had never witnessed any domestic violence so my perspective completely revolved around what I had seen on television. Little did I know this would change.
On the 4th of July we took a group trip to Navy Pier to watch the City of Chicago’s fireworks. We all, about 40 of us in all, walked from Grant Park to Navy Pier for the show. We got to our destination a little early so we started playing a game of ultimate Frisbee. During this game I managed to tear up my ankle so walking had become a bit of a problem.
After watching the program on an extremely packed Navy Pier, the 40 of us started to walk back. Me being slightly injured I fell to the back of the group fairly quickly. One of the conference staff saw that I was having a bit of trouble so he bought me and a couple of my fellow conference goers bus fair. This but was much larger than the one I was used to living in Kalamazoo, it was one of those buses with a joint in the center.
While riding the bus back the the HI to meet up with the rest of the group a group of young men and women got on the bus. Two of these new riders were not getting a long to well. They were arguing about something not quite apparent but it got physical extremely quickly. More than 3 years down the road this memory is quite vivid. The physical conflict started when the female started punching her partner in the chest. He obviously was not excited about this and responded by shoving her out of punching range. Eventually he became so upset he grabbed her hair and held her down to the seat and jerking her around.
So there we were, 5 people sitting in the middle of the bus, who were in town to try and make the world a better place for women, watching a domestic dispute right in front of our eyes. All of us are stunned, no one can speak, and our faces are covered with guilt. At the next stop the couple and their friends were asked to leave the bus and we were left with a conversation to have back at the conference.
This experience was brought into my life all because we got on the bus.