Monday, September 15, 2008

When to speak up and when to back off....


Yesterday, shortly after I posted, something very disturbing happened in my environment. Please be aware before reading this that there is some disturbing dialogue.

As I sat here at the computer, I heard some crashing and banging noises in the apartment next to mine. It's a small studio and a man and woman live there together. The guy is an abuser. I've known that for a long time. I've heard his yelling and badgering before. In fact, I've had a few interactions with him myself over other issues. I yelled right back and he backed down.

Yesterday was more disturbing though because, as far as I'm concerned, I heard a rape in progress.

I was drawn to the hallway because of the crashing and banging. I heard his voice coming through the door.

"Why? I want you to tell me why!"

(muffled female sounds)

"You are a useless m---f-----! Everything you do is an embarrassment to me! And now you won't even do what you're good at? I want you to tell me why!"

"I love you. I'm sorry."

"I love you. I'm sorry," he repeated in a mocking tone. "That's no answer! I want an answer!"

"I don't know. I'm tired. I've been working...."

"Oh, yeah! At Walmart! You're really something special, aren't you? Is that all you plan to do with your life? If it wasn't for you dragging me down, I could be so much more! And you say you love me? Bullshit, you m----- f-------!"

(muffled female voice)

"Well, you'll give me what I want now or I'll go find someone who will! Today!"

There were some other things said. I moved out of the hallway because I really couldn't stand it anymore.

It made me cry. I couldn't fathom, in the deepest part of me, how any woman would allow herself to be treated that way.

I'm a peaceful person but will admit that I am not known for taking crap from anyone. If a man spoke to me that way, he'd be out so fast his head would fall off. He'd be walking like he just got off a horse for a very, very long time. I don't play around. I've never tolerated verbal or physical violence from anyone and never will.

So obviously I can't understand her. At all.

Yet I gave serious thought to my obligations to her - as her neighbor and as another woman.

My instinct was to call the police. My further instinct was to go to her place of work and let her know that I'm paying attention and that if she needs help, she can yell through the wall for me.

I'm fairly familiar with the dynamics of domestic violence but I'm no expert.

So I ask... what would you do in similar circumstances?

~*

26 comments:

Christy said...

I don't know.

I've been with a few women that had similar problems. Even been NEAR that myself.

I probably wouldn't have done anything right then.

Or....I don't know.

Yes. Find her later. Offer her help.

It is dangerous.

I knew a woman who was killed--AND her friends were killed by the jealous boyfriend for helping her.

So when I make a move, I try to think I'd be ready to die for it.

(Even though we could die anytime. It is just the conscious thought that gives it import, to me.)

I have a bad temper, myself, and would be tempted to try to hurt him, somehow. But that probably is wrong....

afeatheradrift said...

I have been there. Many years ago I owned a 2 family flat and rented the lower. I rented to a couple who were both hair dressers with a grade school daughter. Soon there were huge fights with him screaming and her crying and the child begging him to stop "hitting mommy." I tried to reach out to her when she was alone, and she was extremely rude and rejecting of my offer. I resorted to threatening to call the police if he persisted. I banged on the floor often. I finally evicted them. Some women are so beaten down and feel so useless that they cannot be reached unfortunately. But the concern of violence directed toward you is real. Be very careful. Perhaps you might contact the people responsible for your building? Keep yourself anonymous? I would definitely at least try to visit her privately and offer help.

Carla said...

Oh, this is a tough one. I know many who say they wouldn't take any crap, but the dynamics of domestic violence is a strange one. Even strong women get beaten down and have trouble extracting themselves from the situation. She definitely needs help. Whether or not she is willing or ready to take an outstretched hand is another thing. I don't know what the laws are where you are, but the police here take these sorts of reports very seriously, mainly because of the pattern of violence escalating. Try what you feel comfortable with. I would probably try to approach her when he's not around. Make her aware that you know, offer help, try to get her to commit to a safety plan, some way she can let you or someone know that she needs help if things escalate further.

ThomasLB said...

I faced a similar situation when I was in college. I heard a commotion outside my door, and saw a little blond girl being held by the pony-tail and crushed against the brick wall by her boyfriend.

I wasn't sure what to do . I stepped out the door and just stood there. He let her go- and she walked to her apartment, opened the door for him, then looked at me and said, "Why don't you just mind your own business?"

I don't know what I thought would happen- but that wasn't it. Overall, though, I think I handled that situation about as well as I could have. Sometimes all you can do is shine a light on the situation, and let people know that you're there.

Defiantmuse said...

One thing I would be concerned about would be whether or not he would come after you if he knew you were trying to help her? B/c if you're going to be living next door to them it doesn't seem very safe for you.

And, having seen some very good friends in abusive relationships, I know that no matter what I said or did they had to find the courage within to leave. To know they deserved more.

Do what you feel is right for you but please keep yourself safe.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

I think you'd put yourself in danger if you reach out to her on a personal level. I guess I'd call the police and report that you think a rape is in progress, because hopefully they'd send out a female police officer versed in getting help to this person. Oh, I feel for her and for you.

Catherine said...

Oh wow. I think I'd say call the police. But its so hard to know.

There's a couple that live in our building - he's an alcoholic with a gun hobby, and they fight, a lot. Sometimes I hear what he says to her (not quite as bad as what you heard, but still bad) even though they are two floors away from me and we share no surfaces. I've asked myself the same question - but never felt that I could/should do anything, considering that I have children with me and am home alone most of the time.

I was happy one day to see that several police cars and ambulances came and hauled him away. I did go visit her that day and she told me that she had called the police. I'm glad she was able to do that, but she very clearly did NOT want me to be with her or help in any way.

Its hard to know what to do.

wheelsonthebus said...

FInd a private time. Then hand her your phone number. "Just in case you ever want to talk. I am right next door, you know, if you ever need anything. And I mean that."

But also call the police.

Brandi said...

call the cops and intervene is what I would do with no thought otherwise.

SUEB0B said...

I have had this situation before. Know first that I am extremely well-trained in self-defense, so I don't suggest this to anyone who isn't. I would have called 911, then gone over and asked if there was anything to do to help. When I got told to get lost, I would say "I'm not leaving. I will be right here."

That usually makes the guy stop acting abusive or leave. It is a short-term solution, but it is all I can do.

we_be_toys said...

That is worrisome, Chani. I think your idea of approaching her at Walmart and telling her you're her neighbor, you've overheard some stuff and does she need help, would be the best way to approach it. If he does ANYTHING untoward in your presence, call the damn cops and get it on record he's trouble. It also sends the message that his behavior will not be tolerated.But be careful - it does no good to anyone if this woman isn't willing to ask for help and you put yourself in danger.
Jiminey Chani - who needs cable??

Janet said...

That is horrifying.

One of my university roomies had a boyfriend who was a controlling, bad tempered a-hole. We would overhear things, muffled sounds of him berating her down in her room. Then he would come upstairs sweet and friendly. Me and some others in the house tried talking to her about it many times but she defended him to the the nth degree. We ended up losing her as a friend.

It's a tough situation. I think I would approach her quietly and let her know that you are there if she needs you.

QT said...

I would call the police, Chani. You can tell them when you make the report that you don't want him to know it was you.

There were many times when I was in that situation where I wished someone would call the police, so he would be caught "in the act".

MsLittlePea said...

How scary. I was in an abusive relationship in my teens for about a couple years I grew up in a small town where his father was a cop so I always felt helpless. It never occurred to the victim in me to go to my parents or tell anyone because it was my first real relationship and I thought it was normal. I'm pretty sure if anyone had ever approached me I would have got defensive so I would advise against that. At the least you could just say hello to her once in a while and give her your number. But I think the safest thing for you to do is call the police. She will only leave him if she found the strength in herself.

painted maypole said...

my first instinct, too, was to call the police. but the sad truth is that I'm not sure. Can you befriend her, somehow? going to her place of work and offering help is obviously motivated by care and concern, but will it make her feel more self-conscious, more worthless(which is what i'm guessing is one of her major problems now) if you can at least have a bit more than a passing aquaintance with her, than an offer of help might be more easily accepted?

I don't know, Chani. it's heartbreaking. maybe calling a domestic abuse hotline and asking for advice would help you learn how to handle it?

Sienna said...

I was raised in a household of violence Chani...what you have described is very much what went on at home.

I would call the Police and then step in to try and distract my Dad away from his guns, hurting my Mother and do whatever it took to preserve our lives and safety, as best possible.

I learnt this from a very young age, survival and resilience just seems to be strong points in me.

I would have no hesitation of calling Police and going to their door...I know that isn't necessarily the safest/smartest thing, but it is right for me.

Follow your head and heart.

Why partners stay in abusive relationships....is complex, we are, as humans, very complicated in how we react, think, do, feel..see ourselves...it's hard to explain.

My friend, Andrew puts it like this, one sort of type of reason/explanation:


"When someone experiences abuse in their youth their ability to respond appropriately to situations in adulthood is greatly impaired. People will undoubtly say, 'get help, there's support out there'. And therefore shift the blame to the victim because they choose to 'not get help'.

The fact is that many men and women who are abused when young are unable to be 'fixed'. Each have developed ways to respond to situations, repeating learned behaviours designed originally to help them cope, which in the end leads to enslavement.

There are many cases of abuse that are never reported. Sometimes loving relationships fall apart because this abuse is never uncovered, the victims are so ashamed that they cannot even share their experience with the one they love. Afraid that they will be rejected they turn away from loving partners because they feel 'unworthy' of receiving love.

They stay within abusive relationships not because of freedom of choice, but because this relationship feels 'right' for them, they do not 'deserve' better, and if offered better reject it because it does not match their self perception.

An inaccurate perception.

This is the problem.

Abuse victims are like any other person who is enslaved. They don't know they need help. Even though to everyone else it is as clear as day."

My Mum stayed for 20 yrs in her marriage because, partly she felt she didn't deserve any better and partly because "she thought" Dad would track us down and kill us, (ironic eh!), which he did actually try to do..

Plus she had no car to escape, no money...finally we did get away with some help, long story and complex..

I would find it nigh impossible to ignore cries, berating, but that's just me.

For many years I had to come to terms with not trying to save the world, you kinda come out the other side with a bit of scarring and interesting enough psychological do dar days... but there is always ways and means to develop insight about it all and get help..

Pam

Stacia said...

Don't approach her. She will be ashamed and will deny everything and she will resent you. I know, because in my first marriage, I was her (including the rape). Call the police. We lived in close proximity to our neighbors and I hated them because they never called the police. This will still let her know that you care, without embarassing her, and it will let him know that you're not going to just sit there and do nothing. Chances are, after you call, they'll move soon.

DivaJood said...

Call the police. There is no question about it. We have a tendency toward self-preservation (often misguided) which says "Don't get involved" but you can call the police and remain anonymous.

The violence will escalate. As for why she stays, well, it is complex. There is a statistic that says a woman will leave her abuser on average 7 times, returning and returning, before she is either killed or leaves for good. The more money a couple has, the more difficult it is for her to leave - the more she has to lose.

It's a tragic situation. You can only help by calling the police when you hear him going after her again. It could save her life.

Amy Y said...

How awful!!
I'm torn between calling the police and going to the woman's place of employment and having her yell out a "code word" to signal you to call the police when she needs help... It's hard to step in when not invited, but if she doesn't have the gumption to do it herself, it might be necessary. Then again, surely she could leave if she wanted to?
Tough one ~ I'm sorry you're having to deal with it. Keep us posted on how this turns out! I'm hoping she'll wake up and walk out.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I ran a domestic violence shelter, which is very dangerous work because I also became a target of not one man but of all the abusers whose punching bags I helped.

Certainly this woman needs help, but you will put yourself in danger if you interfere directly. I cannot stress this enough.

As for talking with her privately, you will just make her defensive of him and she may even mention what you said to him which will bring him down on you.

She knows how to leave if she wants to. From what you say, she is in the state of mind where everything is her fault. It's despicable and sickening, but you can't fix it. And you might make it worse.

His anger is like a freight train bearing down on everything in his path. You must not be in that path. No. No. NO!

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

I have no experience or wisdom about this.

I just want you to know that I am saying a prayer right now for you and her.

Carol said...

What a horrific situation. I'd call the police and befriend her. She needs help. You can help her. Good luck with this.

flutter said...

call the cops.

I think I have to email you the rest, because I am kind of a wreck after reading this

Angela said...

Chani, what a tough situation. I think if it were me I would try and let her know that she has an ally, should she need or want one. She must feel very alone and obviously, her self-respect is shot. Be careful of the guy. He's dangerous.

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womaninawindow said...

I'd have knocked on the door with the phone in my hand. Then I would have acted really stupid to disarm him. I'd have gone home and cried. There's no right answer Chani.

Leann said...

Having been in her situation I can tell you that he has belittled her so much she feels she cannot survive on her own and is just as worthless as he tells her she is.

Having said that, please know that the person being abused has to be ready for it to end. Similar to an alcoholic finally coming to the revelation they have a problem.

It was the support of family that finally gave me the courage to leave.