To the woman who intervened — s***, you were brave. I really want you to know that.
He was big, muscled and angry. You were half his size and not muscled. But you were brave.
I was driving out of the South Mall supermarket car park in Manurewa last Sunday afternoon when I first heard the yelling.
To my left was a parked car. On one side stood an angry man. On the other, the woman he was yelling at.
"Get in the f***en car, b***h. Get in the f***en car, now!"
Again and again and again.
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My mind raced. Do I stop and help? Do I pretend I've seen nothing and keep driving?
I slowed and had a good look at the number plate, trying at the same time to remain aware of the scary, yelling man behind me.
The woman was still standing by the passenger door, frozen.
Parking a safe distance away, I briefly considered going over.
Instead I decided to call for help. I can't honestly say how much my own fear of the yelling man played in this.
105 or 111? Was anyone's life in immediate danger? No, I decided. He was yelling, but he wasn't hitting.
I called 105, the police non-emergency number.
In retrospect, while I think I made the right choice to call for help, rather than going over, I should've called 111 - this was a situation that could've turned physically violent in an instant, not to mention the danger the woman might've been in once out of public sight.
Fortunately, it wasn't a long wait calling 105. I was speaking to an operator within a minute. I told her where I was, what was happening and the number plate.
As she kept asking questions, so many questions, about what else I could see, it happened.
Another woman began approaching the woman standing frozen by the car door. If she was afraid of the still-yelling man on the other side of the car, she didn't show it.
She leaned close to the frozen woman.
I don't remember why this brave woman began to leave. I couldn't hear what was being said and everything was happening so fast.
But I do remember the man, still yelling, at one point starting towards her and, immediately after, a teenage boy standing several metres back, phone to his ear.
I couldn't hear everything he said, but "you calling the cops?" was part of it.
His body language was incredibly menacing, and they retreated, the teenager tucked behind the woman.
From a distance it looked terrifying, but the frozen woman was now alone again.
Did I have it in me to go over? Should I arm myself with a shopping trolley?
The 105 operator was still asking questions. And when I looked up again, the yelling man, the frozen woman and the car were gone.
We know family violence happens.
In 2017, police attended 118,923 family violence incidents - an average of one every four minutes. And three-quarters of family violence incidents aren't reported to police, according to a New Zealand Crime and Safety Survey in 2014.
But so many of us never, or rarely, see its ugly face. And when we do, it can be hard to know what to do.
When I got home I tried to look up the police callouts website media have access to. I desperately wanted to see the job had been "closed".
But the website wouldn't work.
I still don't know what happened to the woman in the car park.
WHAT THE POLICE SAY
Family harm is not a private matter, it is a crime. We all have a role to play in preventing and effectively responding to family violence.
If you suspect someone is a victim of family violence, or witness an incident, it's ok to get involved - you could save a life.
The best thing to do is to call police immediately. You should not put yourself in harm's way.
If you're questioning whether to report something, report it and let police decide whether it requires an urgent response.
If a crime is currently happening, has just happened, or someone is in danger, call 111 immediately.
If it's already happened and it's not an emergency, call police's non-emergency line on 105.
WHERE TO GET HELP
If you're in danger NOW
• Phone the police on 111 or ask neighbours of friends to ring for you.
• Run outside and head for where there are other people.
• Scream for help so that your neighbours can hear you.
• Take the children with you.
• Don't stop to get anything else.
• If you are being abused, remember it's not your fault. Violence is never okay.
Where to go for help or more information
• Women's Refuge: Free national crisis line operates 24/7 - 0800 REFUGE or 0800 733 843
• Shine, free national helpline 9am- 11pm every day - 0508 744 633
• It's Not Ok: Information line 0800 456 450 www.areyouok.org.nz
• Shakti: Providing specialist cultural services for African, Asian and Middle Eastern women and their children. Crisis line 24/7 0800 742 584
• Ministry of Justice: www.justice.govt.nz/family-justice/domestic-violence
• National Network of Stopping Violence: www.nnsvs.org.nz
• White Ribbon: Aiming to eliminate men's violence towards women www.whiteribbon.org.nz
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