Domestic Violence

January 29, 2007 By: erik Category: Colindres, House, Musings, Spain 930 views

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About a week ago, we started hearing noises from a neighboring apartment that, up until now, was completely silent. The noises were in the form of voices at 2:00 AM (from the wall that our bed is up against), some loud music, and recently some coughing and nose blowing consistent with someone with a cold.

On Sunday morning, at 4:00 AM, we were awakened by some shouting. The “dialog” went something like this:

[man shouting angrily]

[whack!] [WHACK!]

[woman sobbing]

[some shuffling around the room]


[woman sobbing louder] Please no! Oh my god, stop! Don’t hit me again! Please, god no! NOO!!


[sobbing more quietly]

[more shuffling]


Marga and I were paralyzed with horror. Do you have any idea what it’s like to be two meters from someone who is desperately pleading for their life? It’s one thing if you’re in prison, maybe, but we were in our own home!

Clearly, we can’t just do nothing and pretend it didn’t happen. We have a moral obligation to society to, at the very least, report such violence to the authorities.

And here we have entered into the moral labyrinth that is Domestic Violence. Do we tell the police? What will the police do? From what I understand of the issue, there is a very high probability that the woman will deny that such violence occurs. Do the police tell a special domestic violence agency about it and they go to confront the woman? Or both of them? Marga’s pretty sure that she heard a small child enter the room and start crying during all the commotion. So we don’t have just the woman’s well-being to weigh upon us (not that that shouldn’t be enough).

Domestic violence is the second most advertised deadly societal problem on Spanish television (the first being highway deaths due to excessive speed). There are all kinds of commercials about centers to call and statistics about how many women have died each month from spousal abuse.

We haven’t yet reported this first incident. I think we’re definitely going to call the police every time it happens in the future. That’s as far as I think we should get ourselves into the situation. In the end, it’s the woman’s problem to overcome, not ours. We can’t fight that battle for her. She might need some counseling to overcome it, and I’m happy for my tax money to pay for that counseling, but I’m not about to go ring their doorbell thinking that I can solve things myself.

At the same time, I’m both annoyed and grateful for this. It’s annoying to be jerked from your ignorant bliss to have your empathetic heart suffer a vicarious beating and be morally obliged to take action. But I’m also grateful to be reminded what a great relationship we’ve got, where home is a peaceful sanctuary shielding us from the problems in the outside world, not a place to be afraid to enter.

Having thankfully never experienced this social phenomenon before, I don’t really understand all the psychological dynamics of the situation. Does anybody have any ideas or advice about how to handle this?

  • Uncle Steve

    Big mistake. See (hear) a crime; call in a crime. You’re not responsible for the content you hear. I don’t know the laws of either this country or yours, but morally you need to stand up. You put it on the woman, but I don’t think you know one-thousandth of the situation that she very probably might be in – and if kids see that as an everyday situation, then when they grow older, they *make* it an everyday situation. Sorry to suggest the more uncomfortable route, but you started this conversation.

  • Okay, but is it too late to call in the event we heard? Does the “see it –> call it in” have to happen in the moment? I guess better late than never. Even if they don’t investigate, they should at least flag the residence as having a domestic abuse report.

    I hadn’t thought of the damage to all their future descendants. Thanks for bringing that up.

  • Uncle Steve

    Yes, definitely, though it is likely that they already do, and this is merely corroborating.
    np, that’s part of the ‘uncle’ job description – – -> helping.

  • Betsy

    I think that you should not act retroactively on this incident but prepare to act quickly if it happens again. Find out the 24 hour hotline number of the local domestic violence report center. It may just be a 911 type call, but whatever, find it out. Determine the apartment # if possible or at least the street adress. As I recall some of the apartments in your building have an entrance on a completely different street. Acting quickly while the situation is volatile could be the woman and child’s best chance to be helped. Of course it is almost never as simple as someone telling the man to cut it out. She may not have any options, he may be wonderful 99% of the time, etc. I hope that this doesn’t happen again but if it does, maybe you can do something proactive (but not dangerous).

  • That’s exactly what we’ve decided to do. We’ve since acquired the number for the local police, committed their address to memory, and have resolved to not hesitate for a second next time it occurs. Having the cops show up when he’s still upset and she’s still crying or injured is the best way to reduce their deniability.

    Unfortunately, we’re pretty sure it will happen again. I just hope we’re there and awake to report it.

    Thanks for your input.

  • It seems like you have all the good advice you need. The only thing I would add is to keep a log of events in case it goes on and on. Recording(s) of what you hear might even be useful if it goes to court. They have some great legislation here in the UK where they can prosecute even if the victim doesnÂ’t press charges. Maybe there is something like that in Spain Â…

  • Heather

    OK so I came across this one for some reason and even though it’s nearly been a year I have to wonder what’s happened?

    And I’d also like to add that you are much nicer than I am Erik I would have handed that guy his rear end for breakfast if I were his neighbor………..