Turning Your Back When Your Neighbor is Being Physically Abused

It is 8 a.m. in the morning and all of a sudden you hear horrible screams and screams from an apartment upstairs.  Windows are crashing, thumping is heard on the ceiling and screams of pain are everywhere.  Do you remain silent or get involved?

Your first thoughts are of fear; what will he do to me if he finds out and then your thoughts may be of anger.  Do you get involved or do you just turn a blind eye to the entire process?  The truth is the wife or husband that is being abused will in most cases refuse to cooperate with the police, if you do call.  So are you the Good Samaritan and do what is ethical and honorable or do you just go back to sleep?

Domestic Violence Comes in Many Forms

Domestic violence comes in many forms and not just physical abuse.  It can also be mental abuse and neglect.  Once an abuser, always an abuser.  Statistics have shown that sons of fathers who abused their mothers will be abusers and few ever change. Although counseling is available, the don't tell rule is often seen by many abused spouses, both male and female.

With the economy in bad repair, tempers rise and abuse increases.  The once patient father who could tolerate nagging, no sex and no peace and quiet, now becomes a raging bull in a china shop.

According to Cathy Malchiodi, PhD, author for Psychology Today states, "While I have no explanation for the psychology behind the current financial crisis, as a therapist I am certain of one psychological effect of an economic turndown -- an increase in domestic violence. In this time of economic uncertainty, job loss, home foreclosures, and increased costs of living, pressures mount in families and frayed tempers inevitably will give way to an increase in battering and abuse." 

Excuses People Use Not to Get Involved

Let's be practical here, you could get killed right? Well, the chance is there that you would be a victim from the abuser, but in most cases, no you would not die over helping someone in need.  Although the intention is good, there are a few reasons people use to "turn a blind eye."

1.  It none of my business.  The truth is it is better not to get involved in your neighbors business when it comes to money, shopping, having babies and even buying that ugly couch you saw at K-Mart, but it is your business if someone is being seriously harmed and you sit back and do nothing.

How many people have turned their backs when they saw a gang or a thief committing a crime? Does it really take so much effort to call the police or 911 immediately? Is a teenager being raped on the street any different than your neighbor's wife being abused continually?

2.  If she wanted help, she could have called the police herself.  Wives who report abuse are abused worse when the husband is free.  Generally the spouse will be in custody no longer than 48 hours and when they are free, well you get the picture.  Most police when called about a domestic violence case will warn the wife to think long and hard about pressing charges.

3.  FEAR.  Many neighbors would call for help if they knew they were totally protected, but that is not usually the case.  If the spouse abuser found out you had called the police, would he in turn cause harm for you? Does calling the police stop the abuse?

4.  I have called in the past and she goes back to him every time and I end up being the bad guy. Remember the boy who cried wolf once too often and when he was really in trouble, no one was around to help.  If you have called the police many times and the wife goes running back to her husband, do you have the right to call again? Yes you do.  It all comes down to ethics, good will and practicality.  If you are doing what is morally correct then hopefully your neighbor will either move or change. You stopped the abuse temporarily anyway and this may have saved someone's life.

No See - No Tell Concept

If you have decided to close your eyes to the violent behavior of your neighbors and just turn the music up louder or put on some ear phones can you be legally held responsible in case of death or severe disability of the person that is being abused? Legally you can be held responsible, if it can be proven you did nothing and had full knowledge that a crime was being committed. 

Proving you had knowledge to the crime is the first question the police would ask and most witnesses to a crime will lie their teeth off and swear on their first born child they knew nothing.

If your neighbor does die, did you do everything to save her life? Would you not question your actions for the rest of your life and if you had gotten involved, could you have made a difference?  These are questions you must ask and then make the decision based on your moral responsibility to society.

If on the other hand, you did pick up the phone and call the police and you are able to see your neighbor again, even with that black eye, won't you feel just a slight bit like jumping up and down and saying, "Yay, I did something good today?"

If you are a Victim of Spousal Abuse

If you are a victim of abuse, make the call, find a new home, and look for help with a support group and leave.  Abusers do not change and unless you are prepared to suffer for the rest of your life, you must leave.  The longer you take the abuse, the worse the beatings will get. At first he beats you because the house is not clean, but the next time it is because the dog is not bathed.  He is angry if the TV is not working properly or if the car is stuck in the snow.  He wants an excuse to harm you and you are the closest person to him, so you are the victim.  It never changes and even when you leave it will take years before you and your children can recover from the psychological damage he did to you.

You do deserve to live.  You do deserve to have someone treat you good and you are loved.

For free and confidential counseling, you can contact (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network): 1-800.656.HOPE or National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE.

For additional information on abuse and violence contact the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence: 1-800-537-2238 TTY: 1-800-553-2508


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