Wolraich: Best 'O Dag: Vote for your favorites
Doc Cleveland: Police, Danger, and the Social Contract
This morning, as I was walking to the gym, I passed a small apartment building, nestled amongst the townhouses of West 10th street. From somewhere on the upper floors of the building I heard a woman shouting and finally screaming. First it was "Leave me alone!" Then it was "Get off of me! Get off of me!" This was punctuated by screams, but they sounding like shrieks of anger rather than terror or pain, though it takes a lot of assumptions to get to that judgment.
I stopped and listened. The argument ceased. There were plenty of conclusions to jump to. It sounded like an adult woman yelling and she sounded desperate, angry or afraid. But it's impossible to tell. Was it domestic violence? Or a brother and sister arguing over getting up to take a shower before they head to school? Or was it an intense but ultimately nonviolent argument. If a woman had just told her boyfriend to "get off of me," and he disembarked for the kitchen, what business of it was mine? Or did I just hear a fight that I chose to do nothing about.
I keep assuming that the person being told to "get off of me," was a husband or boyfriend. That could be entirely wrong. It could have been another woman. It could have been a parent or a sibling.
It presented something of a dilemma for me. I did have my cell phone in hand, and I waited awhile. If I had heard anything that convinced me of ongoing violence, I'd have called the police. I thought about yelling up to the apartment, to see if everyone was all right, or if they'd answer. It seemed possible that even jut knowing that their argument had carried out onto the street might have ended it. But it's also possible that an unwanted intrusion from the outside might have made things worse. Shame and embarrassment can be unpredictable motivators.
Besides, the person yelling was yelling at somebody inside the apartment. She was not calling for help. So I lingered a few moments and then I moved on. I hope that was the right decision. I think it was.