Growing up we had an alcoholic neighbor who used to beat his wife whenever he was drunk. His first wife left him, taking their five children with her. His second wife stuck with him until he died from liver failure. I remember many Saturday mornings when we heard him screaming and smashing dishes while his second wife was crying and begging him to stop beating her. He used to beat her for hours. On these days we used to close the shutters that faced their house and sit quietly until he would calm down. We were embarrassed by the fact that we knew what was going on there. Talking to them, we never mentioned the violence or screaming. Needless to say, we did nothing to help.
One morning a few weeks ago I watched a video on youtube that tested man’s willingness to help a suspected rape victim in a public restroom. It was really sad to see men hearing the screaming woman and run out of the place instead of helping out. The video was inspired by a story of a young girl who was raped in a public restroom (on her birthday, by her cousin) and despite her screaming, no one came to her aid.
That night, when I went to bed, around 11pm, I heard screaming coming from outside. I approached the window and saw at the corner of the street a man and a woman creaming at each other. I could not tell what the nature of the dispute was. I was standing there for a while thinking of what to do. I could just close the window and go to sleep. I could call 911 and let them deal with those people. The memory of the youtube movie was still fresh in my mind. I did not want to be one of those people who do nothing. I put my robe on and went downstairs to the home office, where my husband was still working. I asked him to go and check on the neighbors. Then I changed my mind. I didn’t want to be one of those women who hide behind a man, I wanted to go myself. So I did. I was not afraid, for some reason holding on to my cell phone in my pocket gave me a sense of security. “Is there a problem?” I approached the arguing people. The young man looked at me shocked. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be so loud.” He said. “Is everything all right?” I kept on asking. He looked at the older woman next to him then looked at me. “I was having an argument with my mother.” He explained. I asked to talk to his mother, to make sure that she was well. She seemed to be embarrassed from the attention. I introduced myself and pointed at my house. I told her not to hesitate to ask for help should she need any. She promised me that she was fine and hurried back in to the house. Her son followed her, not before apologizing again for the noise.
Ari, my husband, was behind me the whole time, but let me deal with the situation. We went back home and I told him about the video I saw in the morning. “Would you have gotten involved tonight had you not seen the video?” he asked. I had to consider his question for a while. “Probably not.” I answered.