Neighbor in potential abusive relationship
February 10, 2017 12:38 PM   Subscribe

How can I assist someone I don't know and rarely see who may be in a domestic violence situation? Secondarily, how can I deal with the effects of this situation on my own household?

I am a woman in the US. I rent half a duplex and a man lives alone downstairs. His entrance is on the other side of the building. We have spoken only a handful of times. We do not share a language. His girlfriend does not live there but visits a few times a week. I have seen her twice, but see her car fairly often.

We've had two interactions with the girlfriend. the first time, she entered my home acting bizarrely asking questions about the utilities and aggressively picked up my cat. It was weird and we just decided she was someone we didn't like.

In the 6 months we have all lived here, twice a month or so we've heard her shrieking and crying for hours. It's one house, so it's loud enough to wake us up.

I considered calling the police but did not for three reasons: I don't know anyone's documentation status, they smoke pot which I don't care about but isn't legal here, and they would absolutely know it was me that called. It's a freestanding house. No one else hears this.

The second time I spoke to her was the day after a night of screaming downstairs. She approached me outside and told me her boyfriend was beating her, and asking me not to call the police because he would kill her. She said she was breaking up with him. I asked her if she needed help, and she said she was getting her stuff that day and wouldn't be back.

I called an IPV hotline and was advised to leave it alone, to offer resources if I saw her alone but that she knew best about her own safety.

That was two months ago. She still comes by. There have been three more fights that we've heard. We don't hear him, just her screaming and crying. Also, once we heard her screaming when he wasn't home, but I don't know whether anyone else was there. That, coupled with her behavior when we first met, has me unsure what's going on.

I don't ever run into her. I don't stop by downstairs to chat. I say hello to the guy downstairs when he's in the driveway, and he smiles and waves back.

I think the fact that I don't like her is unfairly coloring my view of the situation, but whether she's being abused or dealing with her own issues, she's suffering and I don't want get to be hurt. I also am struggling with my own anxiety and dread when we hear her screaming in the night. I get up, shoes on, worried I'll hear him yelling or banging sounds or gunshots. A couple times a month.

If I can't get catch her walking up from her car - and again, I've only seen her twice in six months - I don't know how to get her resources or offer help. I also really want whatever is going on to stop so I can relax. I feel awful adding that part of the question, but it's real.

What to do?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Call the police. The yelling is enough that other neighbors may hear and you have plausabile deniability.

Call the police. I wish my neighbors had done so for me.
posted by sockermom at 12:48 PM on February 10, 2017 [22 favorites]

Also do not feel awful for wanting it to stop. You have every right to a peaceful home. It's OK.
Do not talk to her or attempt to involve or engage yourself. Trust me when I say this is way above your pay grade.
Take care.
posted by sockermom at 12:49 PM on February 10, 2017 [7 favorites]

Call NAMI and get advice. National Alliance on Mental Illness. Number is here: 1-800-950-6264.

I'm going to assume mental illness and/or some kind of drug abuse, probably as self-medication? Stay far far away for your own safety. Move. Talk to your landlord if that is safe? Call the police anonymously in the middle of the night when the screaming is bad (use phrases from NAMI so hopefully officers understand this maybe includes a mental health crisis?)

Get professional advice. Follow that, not your best intentions. These are dangerous waters, you're not even certain what is going on.
posted by jbenben at 12:53 PM on February 10, 2017 [4 favorites]


I was going to say "call the police" just for her. I've always done so for neighbors screaming etc. The plausible deniability is very easy: "I was worried someone might be hurt."

And gunshots??? Good lord, a stray bullet could reach you. Call the police. Tell them you suspect domestic violence so they know to provide help along those lines as needed.
posted by fraula at 2:35 PM on February 10, 2017 [8 favorites]

Call the police. The yelling is enough that other neighbors may hear and you have plausabile deniability.

Yeah, so I was a kid raised in a household like this, and if your state is anything like Texas, there are limitations on what the police are willing to do. My siblings and I called the police a couple times when parent A was threatening and harming parent B, the cops showed up, and basically shrugged at us when parent A put their poker face on. I remember one cop saying, "Well, a man's home is his castle." K.

Try to document the screaming when you can, and be sure the file has a timestamp.
posted by erattacorrige at 4:44 PM on February 10, 2017 [2 favorites]

>I get up, shoes on, worried I'll hear him yelling or banging sounds or gunshots.

I don't think the OP has ever heard gunshots. I think they are saying they get very nervous while listening for the sounds of what's happening, and experience anxiety while waiting for ominous loud sounds like banging or gunshots that might mean escalated violence.
posted by spraypaint at 7:59 PM on February 10, 2017 [4 favorites]

Yeah, I wouldn't approach her. For all you know, he'd punish her for talking to outsiders. But I would gather together resources (e.g., a DV hotline in their language) maybe even on a notecard in your wallet, in case she ever approaches you.

Can you move?
posted by salvia at 8:56 PM on February 10, 2017

I would call the police. This woman actually reminds me of the girlfriend of a former neighbor -- they lived in the other half of a duplex, so we shared a wall. I thought she was the victim of potential abuse for a month of so, because I would hear the same things you're hearing -- screaming and crying, banging around, etc. It turned out that she was the aggressor, which I found out after she innocently asked me to lend her a screwdriver... which she proceeded to use to break into his apartment, while telling me how he thought he could break up with her and lock her out, but no way, she wasn't going to let him do THAT, because he was her soul mate and they were going to be together forever!! (He was home at the time, and called the police himself before I got a chance to. I did NOT want her to know that I wasn't on her side, because who knows what she would have done to me?)

I'm just saying, things might not be as they seem, and she might not be the one in danger.
posted by sarcasticah at 4:39 PM on February 11, 2017

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