Friday, January 24, 2014

The Sexual Violence in the Upstairs Apartment

I live in an old apartment building with many quirks and charms. One of the less fortunate aspects is that you can hear everything from the apartment above you; walking, vacuuming, TV voices, blowing their nose, EVERYTHING. The new couple that moved in recently has been a bit rowdy. In addition to the normal everyday noises we hear, they also have bumpin’ parties any day of the week (usually 3 or more nights of the week and not always on weekends). I’m pretty sure that during the parties they have one of those dance video games or really hilarious break dancing competitions…hard to tell which. These social gatherings are extremely annoying, particularly if I have to wake up in the morning for work. That being said, I don’t like to be a nosy neighbor, and as long as it’s on a weekend, I’m not going to try to stop them. I figure it’s all part of living in an old apartment building, no big deal.

 But last night, shit got real. When I say we can hear everything, I do mean everything, including activities in the bedroom, which they probably would not want other people to hear. I was laying bed, trying to sleep, when I could hear them begin to argue. It didn’t seem like anything unusual but then I started to hear the woman cry. The boyfriend started telling her to “shut up” and “open your mouth”. This was followed by more crying and sounds of gagging/choking/vomiting(?). Not cool. It continued on like that for quite a while and at one point it sounded like she was trying to stop, saying she needed to use the bathroom, but he wouldn’t let her. More things were said that I would rather not repeat. I didn’t want to get involved. I was scared, shaking with anger. I felt so completely unsure and helpless, and tried to make excuses for the situation happening above me. Maybe they do this sort of thing a lot and she’s ok with it? Maybe my imagination is getting the better of me and it’s not as bad as it sounds? Maybe she’s not really crying and he didn’t really say those things? What could I do? Knock on their door and risk my own personal safety? Bang on the ceiling to let them know I could hear?

I called 911. I couldn’t lie there in bed, pretending that everything was ok and perfectly normal. It was not normal. It was not ok. Those were not sounds of pleasure. The police arrived maybe 5 or 10 minutes later. The noises stopped, nobody was arrested, the woman did not leave or ask for help. The police drove away a minute later. Later in the hour, they resumed their activities in a quieter, more normal sounding manner (from what I could tell). No one was rescued. No one was punished. Life went on. But what else could I expect to happen? I don’t know these people, I don’t know their situation. I don’t know the woman. Does she want to be rescued? Does she know how to save herself? Will things get worse for her because I intervened? I don’t know.

The only thing I know is that if it were me, I would hope that someone would call the police. And I know that if I had done nothing, I would live with that guilt forever. What if that were the chance she had needed to get away but I did not give it her? I am constantly posting on Facebook about women’s rights and the culture of violence and harassment against women. If I had not called 911, I would be part of that problem. Silence and apathy do not equal neutrality. They perpetuate and give power to the violence in a way that is nearly equal to the crime itself. I did not want to be a part of that crime. I may not have made much of a difference with my call to 911 but at least I did SOMETHING. And the girl upstairs may not leave her boyfriend but at least she can know that someone is looking out for her, and maybe eventually, that will make all the difference.

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