Domestic-violence incident hits close to home

I thought I was pretty familiar with domestic violence. I had read my share of court files that retraced the blows exchanged between partners in crushing play-by-play detail. I’ve sat with victims who recalled the numerous ways they had been abused — physically, sexually, mentally and emotionally. More than a few times I gathered statistics about domestic violence to bolster a story, the staggering numbers of victims weaving their own tales of despair.

None of this could have prepared me for the vicious, brief incident at a neighbor’s house that carried through my open bedroom window a few weeks ago on a brisk evening.

My ears perked when I heard a woman’s bloodcurdling screams. I thought it must just be revelers whooping it up while strolling home from a downtown bar.

But that’s not what it was. My jaw dropped and I stood motionless as my brain started to process the scene. It was a woman wailing, pleading for someone to stop, that she didn’t mean it. The screams were met with a furious man’s voice and followed by what sounded like wood being slammed down and splintering. The woman’s loud, painful sobs continued for just a minute more. Then, a diesel truck started up with a grumble and retreated quickly down the alley. I watched a man at the house lower a garage door and disappear inside.

It was over as quickly as it started.

The crickets continued cranking out their nighttime tunes. The half-moon still hung low and brightly in the sky.

For a moment more I felt paralyzed, nauseous.

Shakily, I exited the back fence and checked to see if the woman whose voice I heard so clearly a minute before was lying somewhere injured in the alley. There was no one there.

I called the police non-emergency dispatch line and reported what I had heard and where it took place. A dispatcher promised police would do a welfare check.

Sleep didn’t come easily that night and I shot up out of bed several times when headlights from passing cars grazed the back alley. I wondered where the woman had gone. Did she get help? Would she come back? What would I do if I saw her? Or him?

“I’m so glad we don’t have an abusive relationship,” I said to my husband, still in some sort of shock.

“That wouldn’t be a relationship,” he replied.


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