What else can we do?
April 25, 2012 10:27 PM   Subscribe

Active domestic violence and emotional abuse in the unit above me... Help us brainstorm, are there other things we can do as neighbors with long ears?

My neighbors upstairs are a large guy and a small woman around college age, and we live next to the local large University. We moved in this last Fall, and from the sounds of things their relationship in the house was always a rocky one. He was always desperately jealous and controling and nothing she does satisfies it. It has gotten progressively worse from there.

1) My partner and I had growing concerns but felt there was not much we could do, until we were woken up by a sudden scream and loud crash at 4 in the morning. We called 911 immediately, and they responded quickly but left just as fast without the guy. A day or two later they were arguing at 5 in the morning, and this time I could hear them more audibly: most of it centered around her hanging out with a guy, him snooping through her cell phone, and her saying "why would I lie to you?" She also said something along the lines of "you threw me to the ground". We can only assume she was referring to the night we called the cops.

2) A few weeks later, during the day, another fight started and rapidly escalated, as if he were already worked up and waiting to ambush her. There was another sudden loud crash and then the loudest silence I've ever heard. We called 911 immediately and they responded quickly and left just as quickly.

3) Now just today, I heard the guy and a group of three of his friends talking about the girl outside. He said he was "going to spit in that whore's face." Shortly afterwards, she came around, and he yelled outside in the lot out back for everyone to hear, with the line "you fucking whore" repeated many times throughout. This was around 4pm more than 9 hours ago and it is only now burning out, thankfully without audible violence, but we really can't be sure.

Our landlord mentioned that she has plans to move out in a month, but is there anything we can really do as neighbors with long ears other than listen for violence in the meantime? Would it have been appropriate to call the cops in the third instance, and if so how could we have best framed that call? What is a good threshold for calling the cops?

We are in Central Ohio.

We are friendly with our landlords though they are generally absent, and they mentioned something about how if we make three complaints the landlords would be able to begin eviction procedures. Do you guys think this is something that might be worth pursuing?
posted by Leucistic Cuttlefish to Human Relations (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Eviction won't help anyone. But domestic violence is a very serious issue. I would ask experts rather than Mefites (no offence!), and call the 24-hour National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or TTY 1-800-787-3224. It's not just for emergencies, they'll also give general advice on your situation.
posted by pablocake at 10:36 PM on April 25, 2012 [8 favorites]

Best answer: I have called the cops on neighbours who were "only" (as far as I know) being verbally abusive. I said I was afraid for the woman's safety, that he was threatening her and they were disturbing the peace. I used the non-emergency police line for this, by the way. The police came, and did not arrest him, but they talked to him. The more often they get called on him the better, in my opinion. That way when/if the woman wants to press charges, and/or get a restraining order, there's a record of evidence from past incidents.
posted by lollusc at 10:48 PM on April 25, 2012 [14 favorites]

Maybe this page helps.
posted by phaedon at 10:52 PM on April 25, 2012

Best answer: Call. Every time. For things like the last one, you say that you're afraid for her safety and they're being disruptive, both of which are true.

My reasoning is this: first, you're giving her a paper trail. If she decides to press charges, or if she (god forbid) is seriously injured by this man, it's not just her word against his that this sort of thing has happened before--it's his against hers, and yours, and the police officer's, and... Second, I don't know about you, but if I chose not to call and it turns out that something horrible did happen, I'd never be able to forgive myself. So I'd do it if for no reason other than my own peace of mind, selfish though that may be.
posted by MeghanC at 11:07 PM on April 25, 2012 [32 favorites]

pablocake is right on, calling the DV hotline is always a good step.

Keep in mind that the average survivor leaves her abuser 5-10 times before it sticks.

Giving the abuser a history that the prosecutor can eventually make use of helps a lot. History can make the difference between a guy getting released on bail or being held for trial, stuff like that.
posted by kavasa at 11:18 PM on April 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Do you feel like the girl needs help? You could approach her and hand her some DV info/leaflet and tell her that she can contact you in case of emergency.

You absolutely can call the police; it is a disturbance to your peace (particularly at night time) and a safety issue.
posted by travelwithcats at 11:35 PM on April 25, 2012

Nthing calling the police whenever you notice a disturbance. As for actively getting involved, unless you have a relationship with the woman, there isn't much you can do. If you haven't already, it's worth reaching out to her and cultivating a cordial relationship. If she knows she has someone on site she can turn to, she could be more apt to seek help (even if she is moving out soon), but I wouldn't press the specific issue too much unless you become super tight. It's worth mentioning that getting involved could have unpleasant repercussions for you depending on how aggressive this guy is, but I imagine you realize that. Lastly, good on you for caring so much. There are far too many people who would be in the same situation & would simply shrug it off as none of their business.
posted by katemcd at 11:46 PM on April 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

You're going to feel awful if you don't call and something horrible happens. Call. The police will let you know if you're overreacting or something.
posted by desjardins at 11:47 PM on April 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure what the content of your calls has been, but I would be sure to communicate to the cops that you believe that domestic violence is occurring (and the woman is the victim). This is not just a noise complaint -- you are alerting them to what you believe may be a crime in progress.

In a similar situation, I (a small woman, alone) have also pounded on a neighbor's door and yelled "is everything okay in here??" I don't know if that was a productive (or dangerous) thing to do, but I honesty couldn't stop myself from at least trying.

I'm so sorry for your neighbor. I don't see how eviction will help this situation in any way. I do recommend calling one of the DV hotlines listed above and asking what they recommend-- perhaps even an affidavit of what you've witnessed could ultimately prove helpful.
posted by argonauta at 12:13 AM on April 26, 2012

This page lists Ohio resources by county (scroll down for the list). Call.

I don't know the Ohio laws, but in many states Family and Marriage Counselors are mandated reporters of domestic abuse. If you happen to know any, call them -- they will know how to proceed. Good luck!
posted by trip and a half at 3:42 AM on April 26, 2012

Are one or both of the parties students at the university? And does the Uni have its own, independent police force, where they are real cops? If both are true, I would look up and call the campus emergency line next time. The university police may have different rules of engagement when it comes to domestic violence between students than the city police, and may also be able to bring university resources to bear on the situation.
posted by rockindata at 4:23 AM on April 26, 2012

If you feel comfortable doing this -- maybe reaching out to the woman sometime, when she's alone, and saying that she can come knock on your door and vist you any time for any reason (meaning, of course, "you can come to our place if you have to get the hell away from the guy for a couple hours and use our phone to call the police yourself"). She probably knows at some level who keeps calling the cops, but giving her the agency and space and protection to do that herself may escalate the police proceedings, and will also help her feel like she has some control. She also will feel like someone has her back.

True, she could also get all embarrassed and defensive, but I've a hunch if you couch your invitation as "you can hang out for whatever reason you want" and leave the "we want to save you from your boyfriend" as a subtext thing, it'll alleviate that change.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:24 AM on April 26, 2012 [6 favorites]

....alleviate that CHANCE.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:25 AM on April 26, 2012

Do call the police, every time. Do not get involved otherwise. Do not try to talk to either of them. You are risking your own safety if you do.
posted by myselfasme at 6:09 AM on April 26, 2012

We have called the police on our neighbors when we could hear them hitting each other, and like in your examples, the police came and left quickly after checking that no one was bleeding or otherwise hurt. We do not call the cops when all we hear is yelling/screaming/insults, etc. If you find living below them disruptive, I don't see why it would be terrible to complain to the landlord about what is going on. It would probably be good for them to know. And eviction might not help with their domestic problems but at least you won't have to listen to them all the time.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:47 AM on April 26, 2012

When I had a neighbor like this I began calling the police when I heard crashing/screaming. One time I called the cops, they came, there was a short conversation in which I could hear the guy telling them that the girl had left and he didn't know where she was. The door closed, the cops left, the banging and screaming began again. They were obviously both still in the apartment.

I immediately called back and told the operator what had happened, and a different set of police showed up again in 10 minutes. This time they talked to both neighbors, I heard the guy admitting that he had punched a hole in the wall but that he was "working on it," and they left. I honestly was not sure if this was a good idea or not, since I fear that getting police involved (esp. without an immediate result) might actually increase the immediate violence. This has been my personal experience, unfortunately. Still, I decided that it needed to be on record just in case, and that I would do what was in my power to do.
posted by celtalitha at 3:16 PM on April 26, 2012

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