I'm going to do something a little different this week. I'm going to 'theme' the week around both the difficulties and the pleasures of working in a multicultural area. This is partly because there are various bits in the news about race at the moment and I have various thoughts churning around in my head, setting them out here will help me deal with them.
We were looking for the last job of the day, something simple that would leave us close to our home base. The job which came down our vehicle's terminal wasn't ideal, but it wasn't awful either.
“36 year old female, assaulted. Currently in police station”.
It wasn't ideal because she would be going to a non-local hospital, but it wasn't too far from our station. We'd be getting paid overtime to drive back.
Our patient was sitting in the front of the police station talking to one of their civilian support workers. With her were two of her neighbours. All three came from the Indian subcontinent. Our patient didn't speak any English at all, the neighbours were translating as was the civilian support worker.
Out patient physically had a small injury – nothing too awful, it would be sorted out by a quick visit to hospital.
We set about getting a history of what had happened to her via the different translators.
Our patient (36 years old) was married to a sixty-year old man. She had been assaulted by him and by her daughter.
Except the neighbours told us that the daughter wasn't her daughter – she was the sixty year old man's other wife.
She is aged thirteen.
The neighbours had basically rescued our patient and brought her to the police station in order to get this state of affairs out in the open – the assault had been the final straw for them.
Our patient kept crying, partly because of what had happened, but also because she thought that the police, and us, would beat her up.
There are some weird (compared to how I was brought up) power dynamics in some of the communities around our area – young girls marrying men very much older than themselves is just one of them. This is the first one I have come across where the other wife has been under the legal age.
But then I wonder – in this community families live in large groups, perhaps I've taken more than one under-age wife to hospital. If they are described to me as a 'daughter' or 'sister', how am I to know? I've got so used to seeing lots of people packed into one bedroom that I don't think about it anymore. Is there a huge amount of child abuse going on that I have no way of knowing about?
I used to think that these large families were a good thing – the community would look after their own elderly population, I'e often been very impressed with the round the clock care that large families can give. But perhaps there is a dark side to this.