Sorted! How I fixed... my abusive neighbour
Sorted! is a feature run by Newsful to help promote the idea of getting involved and solving the problems South Africans face everyday.
By Wendy T
It's no surprise that through my own experience, I am able to identify others who are abused. My commitment, after the help I received, is to approach every victim of abuse and ask if they are okay and if there was something I could do in that present moment to take them away from their situation. The risk of offending someone with my question is far less than the risk of leaving them to battle their abusive partner alone.
First, I heard the muffled sounds of items hitting the walls. I heard his baritone voice shouting at her and I saw the curtains move violently against their bedroom window. When I approached her later that day, she said things were fine. I let her know (even though she dismissed it at first) that I was only a few steps away if she needed help.
A week later, I was there when she kicked him out. I saw him try to break open the security gate and cut his hand in the process. I saw him leave. He played the victim. I went to tell her that I was present if she needed help. Through tears, she said she was fine. Then, a day later, he was back.
Two weeks later, the same thing. And then a month later. Each time, my response was the same. I politely went to her and let her know that she was not alone.
Then came the day she called the police. Having been through the process of protection orders and laying charges myself, I went to her to ask if I could help her. She ran into my arms and sobbed into my shoulder. Police took her statement and said the same thing I would have told her. Partners are too forgiving in instances of repeat abuse. They lay charges only to withdraw it later. They call the cops to their homes, only to send them away. Not only does it waste valuable State resources, but it doesn't help build a case history for when one does decide to get legal protection.
After the cops left, I spoke to the victim, telling her everything she needed to know about the queue she would have to stand in at court, to the forms she would need to fill out and the interview she would have with the magistrate. I let her know that her concern over not having the 'time" to sit in court was no excuse for exposing herself and her children to this kind of abusive behaviour. I let her know her responsibilities as a parent and that her place of employment would have a lot to account for if they couldn't show support in a time of life-threatening need. A two hour talk later and she followed through, attaining her protection order and then explaining her situation to her employers.
It was a while later when I received a knock at my door. A considerably healthier looking woman stood bearing flowers and a box of chocolates. She said her life had changed for the better. The protection order made her feel safe again and that her story was believed made all the difference. Her charismatic partner couldn't fool the judge. She thanked me for taking the time to talk to her, without judgement but with love and understanding.
And that's how I sorted out my abusive neighbour. I helped empower the victim of his illegal behaviour until she took the steps to get rid of him. There's much than can be accomplished though gentle reassurance.
I am a survivor of domestic abuse that took me eight years to overcome. Being the outgoing person that I am, I struggled to understand how it came to be that I was a victim. And of course, because I was an extrovert, my social circle did not expect that I would be in the grips of an abusive relationship that took the form of physical and emotional violence.
Through a process of therapy with a psychologist, I have latched on to the only statement that sums up why what happened, happened to ME. Abuse is insidious. Like the slow drip of water erodes the rock, abuse starts off with one person trying to control the other with requests (don't wear this, don't say that) and escalates to control with actions (hitting, silent treatment, etc). Simply put, I was the frog in the pot of water that had been set to boil. The frog adapts the rising temperature of the water without knowing he is slowly dying. Similarly, I didn't know I was in an abusive relationship until I felt the pain from punch after punch. It wasn't something I did or something I could have prevented.
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