Spousal Abuse

Earlier tonight my friends and I were relaxing in our apartment when we began to hear a series of blood chilling screams. I had earphones on so, at first, I thought the screams were from the show I was watching. But then my friend walks in and says that they were coming from outside, he said “it sounds as if someone’s being slammed against a door.” Instantly I yanked the headphones off and stood up.

At the door, we saw several of our the neighbors outside, surrounding the apartment across from mine, where a couple lived with their two-or-three-year-old son and newborn baby. We realized that it was the wife screaming. At first, we thought she was screaming at her kid, but the screams were too guttural, they relayed pain and fear and made chills run down my entire body.

I saw the husband walk out, face down towards the ground, silent. He walked down the driveway towards the street and disappeared around the corner. That’s when my next door neighbor, a middle aged woman living with her own children and husband, rushed out of her apartment and into that of the adjacent couple’s. I watched her stoop down, wrap her arms around the woman laying on the ground next to the entrance. The other neighbors, a series of woman and children, rushed there too and the women took the beaten mother’s children, to give her room. Over and over I heard my next door neighbor tell the woman “I’ll help you, I’ll help you” and this strong shaking took over my body. The cold and fear I’d felt moments before was instantly replaced with a burning rage that made me want to chase the husband down and punch him in the face, break his arms and threaten him. But all I could do was stand there and watch for who knows how long, knowing that as much as I wanted to help I was useless. What could I do?

I asked the neighbors to the left, in Spanish because that was their native language, if the woman was alright, and where the man went. One of the woman that took the older child told me that the woman denied being hurt, but that she wanted them to go find the man and get him to return her money. She kept repeating this to them over and over, and I looked back into her apartment though her window and saw that my neighbor had managed to pick her up from the ground and had her sitting at the couch against their windows. She was trying to get her to breathe deeply, to relax. Again my hands shook, my body trembled and I looked out at the street where the husband had disappeared. I heard sirens but the ambulence went past, then two police cars. I thought that maybe no one had called the police, but then one of the male neighbors flagged them down and they came to investigate just as the husband returned. Everyone gave him dirty looks before retreating in to their apartments, including us.

From my friends’ bedroom window, I listened in on the police threatening the husband. They didn’t arrest him because the wife denied the abuse, but they told him that if they ever hand to return for sure he would go to jail. I wanted them to take him then and there.

They left after that, and an eerie silence settled over the apartments. Now, I’m more calm, drinking a glass of vodka, and listening to the sound track of Sweeney Todd (Tim Burton’s version). But still, I wish they’d taken him away. Witnessing this reminded me too much of my own childhood, too much of what I witnessed as a child. I feel bad for those children. For sure, they’ll have emotional scars.

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