Yesterday I stood and watched while my friend went home with her abusive partner and their son.
She had called a cab to go to a shelter. The cab arrived at the same time he did, and although I locked the door, she said to let him in. He took the baby out of her arms, and neither of us could get the baby back without hurting him (the baby, not the father). Once he had the baby, she said she had to leave with him. I hugged her and told her I was sorry. I can't even imagine how she was feeling.
This all transpired at a friend's house - not even at my own. I was there to care for the homeowners 7-yr-old daughter while she ran an errand. My responsibility wasn't just to my abused friend, but also to my other friends' daughter, to keep her safe.
When the homeowner got back, she called the police and explained the situation: that our friend had spoken to a shelter intake worker that day, who had said that she shouldn't be going home again. That he has a prior history of violence against objects near her (doors, walls, windows). They took us seriously. They said they'd send a car. They got a lot of information from us, and said that they'd let us know the outcome.
We were having tea, a group of women who have known each other for years, friends, and some not-exactly-friends-but-we-can-all-spend-time-together, but all people who know and love the woman I let go home yesterday. We waited until 10:30 for news, but no one called, so we don't know what happened.
I don't know what I should have done differently, what I would do differently if I had to do it over again. I only know that I feel like I failed when it was most important that I succeed.