My neighbors had a fight and I called 911 — was that the right move?

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Kairu asks:

Photo by eflon. Used under Creative Commons license.
I had an unpleasant situation this weekend.

My apartment neighbors (a couple in their 20s) had a fight, complete with thuds, pained screams, and the woman screaming, "Let go of me! Stop!"

I called 911 since it seemed to be more than a lovers' quarrel. But since telling friends, some say I overstepped my boundaries and should have minded my own business.

I feel if I'd done nothing and the fight escalated to a crime scene I could never live with myself.

What would you do in this situation? How do you know when to intervene?

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  1. If it was just yelling/loud arguing, I wouldn't have done anything. But with thuds and "let go of me" screams, I totally think you did the right thing. You could have helped someone who didn't know how to help herself. And I would do it again if it didn't stop.

    175 agree
    • THIS. You wouldn't want to call the cops every time you hear arguing, but if someone sounds like they're in danger it's definitely the right thing to do.

      A few years ago I heard my upstairs neighbors having an argument, and I debated whether or not to call the cops. My air conditioner was too noisy for me to be sure what I was hearing, and I decided to err on the side of minding my own business. A few minutes later, I heard him slam the door and leave in a hurry, followed by her crying for several minutes. I considered going upstairs to see if she was okay, but I barely knew her and didn't want her to think I was eavesdropping. Fortunately he moved out shortly thereafter, but I think back on that day often and regret having done nothing. If I were in her situation, embarrassing as it may be, I think I would have appreciated a hug and a kind word, even from someone I hardly knew.

      23 agree
      • I had downstairs neighbors once who used to have loud fights (and loud make-up sex), but once there were some thuds involved and I, too, erred on the side of minding my own business–mostly because I felt vulnerable myself, living upstairs by myself and I could never get a good read on him, so I wasn't sure that he wouldn't retaliate somehow, especially since I was pretty much the only one who would've called the cops. Still, I was sorry afterward that I didn't, even though things seemed to be okay and there were never any more fights that sounded physical in the month or two I remained there.

        6 agree
    • Channeling my social worker family here–possibly consider leaving a number for an assistance program or shelter? Good idea?

      6 agree
      • I don't know if that would be a good idea or not. Could that make things worse if the abuser saw it?

        8 agree
        • I'm used to secret ninja sneak drops. Like, find a time when the intended person is home alone and just slip a number under the door with "shhh! if you need somebody, call this then destroy it."

          10 agree
    • AGREED, there is a difference between loud neighbors and dangerous neighbors.

      You did the right thing.

      24 agree
  2. I've done this before. We could actually see into their apartment from our kitchen window. You don't want to waste the cops time if it's not serious but then again it's better to be safe than sorry. Either way you did the right thing.

    11 agree
    • You could always call the non-emergency police number if you're not sure if it's a true emergency. It should be easy to find on your police department's website.

      48 agree
    • We had a similar situation a couple apartments back, except we could see into their living room from our living room if everyone had their blinds open (rare). This couple used to fight all the time, and while it never escalated into violence (that we heard it), would get out of hand. They fought over clothes, and once he apparently hid her purse so she couldn't leave.

      It was a relief when they moved out.

      3 agree
  3. It was certainly the right thing to do. Often people will not help because of something called the bystander effect ( ), and that can have tragic consequences. Look at what happened to Kitty Genovese in 1964 when no one called police, despite dozens of people hearing her screams.

    It's hard not to feel that you're invading someone's life by sending the police to intervene, and society does put pressure on us to behave a certain way, but if you hadn't called 911 and something serious had happened to this woman, how would you feel?

    72 agree
    • i'm very proud of you & quite disappointed with your friends for telling you to mind your own business. for one, in your case, it had OBVIOUSLY become physical. & THAT is NEVER okay. personally, i will call w/ just the screaming. i couldn't live w/ myself if i'd head screams down the hall, "minded my own business", & then later find out there's a dead woman or child in there. seriously, think that over. how would you feel?
      i've been abused before & sometimes that is exactly what it takes. sometimes it's also a bit of a wake up call that the situation is out of hand. you did the right thing & hopefully that woman will get out of the situation. if it keeps up, keep on calling. in some places, there are few laws to protect women unless the cops are called. if SHE does it, she is in far more danger. so, think of it as you doing her a favor in many more ways than one.

      46 agree
  4. Given how you explain the situation, I would have called the police, too. I don't think you overstepped any boundaries. In the past, I've had to call the police about neighbors fighting, too. Domestic abuse is very serious, and I feel like it's important to speak up when we feel it's occurring. For all you knew, it would have been dangerous to go knock, and it's completely reasonable to involve the police in a situation where they might be needed.

    28 agree
  5. Only you can say whether it was appropriate. With many decisions, there is no definite "right" or "wrong"…

    5 agree
  6. The tricky thing is that sometimes, if there was something going on but the cops couldn't do anything about it (due to lack of evidence or douchebaggery on the cops' part), that could leave the abused partner in the position of being in the house with a very, very angry abuser. I have no idea how often this actually happens but anecdotal evidence suggests it's a non-zero likelihood.

    That being said… I'd probably do the same.

    4 agree
    • We don't live in a perfect world unfortunately. So while it is a possibility that after the police leave the abuse will start again all that means is you should be calling them again.

      39 agree
      • In cases of domestic violence being reported, one of the people involved has to be taken away to try to stop the violence that was happening after cops left. Reporting fighting is not the same as domestic violence but if cops see that that may be what's going on, in my experience they'll typically err on the side of caution. Unfortunately, if a female that fights back is being abused, she's often the one taken because girls use their nails and bruises take a few hours to show up. I'd have done the same thing though.

        7 agree
  7. Don't question yourself on this – you absolutely did the right thing. You may even have saved this woman's life! Your actions are commendable, not reprimand-able. We are all that much safer when we have neighbours that look out for us.

    36 agree
  8. Domestic Assault is a crime, so if you have any reason to believe that the fight involved hitting (which is sounds like you did from the description) you did the right thing and you shouldn't hold any guilt.

    There are a lot of people out there that believe that they shouldn't violate the privacy of their neighbors no matter what and your friends sound like that – but ages ago we used to know our neighbors and call them friends. Would we let our friends get hit and yelled at and sit idly by? I doubt it.

    29 agree
    • Social worker and former sexual assault (and DV) prevention and awareness worker here:
      You absolutely did the right thing, as many people here have said. If ever you or anyone you know worries about making this sort of anonymous intervention, I would invite them to think about what if it was someone they know, someone they love- your mom, your sister, partner, friend- what if it was you? Personally, I would rather someone called the cops because they wanted to protect a person in danger and have to deal with the hassle of sorting it out later than have no one act like they care, and feel alone and ashamed without any resources. While not every state has supportive police presence or the best laws to protect women, I would like to encourage everyone who reads this to err on the side of caution when you think someone needs police intervention- you could be saving their life.

      Speaking of which:
      Here is the website for the Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network (RAINN):
      Here is the National Domestic Violence Hotline website:
      Both of these are great resources if you want to leave them on someone's door, hand it to them in a hall, or use them yourself. It's an awful and lonely thing to be the survivor of violence, continuing or in the past, but there are people who want to and can help.
      Be well.

      21 agree
  9. If it happens again, you should call the cops again. And again. And again. If nothing else, if not for concern for your neighbor, these people are interfering with your life. You have a right to make a noise complaint.

    You should also go to the housing office and explain that you'd like to report that they're violently fighting. It's a disturbance to members of the apartment community as well as a danger for everyone. (What if one of them has a gun and fires it?)
    If your community manager is reluctant to intervene, explain that you've seen the cops show up multiple times and you're hearing thuds, which sounds like possible damage to the property and appliances. That's usually enough to motivate them into action.

    24 agree
    • I actually disagree. If the male partner is abusing the female partner on an ongoing basis, destabilizing their housing situation is not going to make things better on either of them. Evictions and/or moving are disruptive and stressful, which would make an abuser more likely to abuse. Plus, what if they end up next to those neighbors who DON'T care or who aren't willing to do something the next time something is happening? I'm not saying the author should be responsible for this woman's safety for the duration of her life, but giving her a termination of tenancy on her record won't be good for her either.

      16 agree
      • Actually I was in the same situation a decade ago with my ex and my housing manager found out about the situation when I called the cops on him one night….hearing about the campus police and sheriff department coming out to my apartment more than once raised a red flag for us. However housing managers tend to watch for you despite what you may think of them. and will help you out. She worked things out in my favor and asked him to leave since he damage the place. For the most part, in some states and cities, the abuser is kicked out of the home if the landlord feels the person is violating their rental agreement or a danger to the other tenants. I just wish someone would have call the cops instead of me when I was going thru hell at that time of my life. It would have made me feel like someone in my apartment complex gave a damn if I was alive or dead.

        19 agree
  10. Nah… Don't worry about your naysaying friends. You did the right thing.

    It's not an easy decision to make and one that you have to make a call on, and you did. So don't worry.


    7 agree
  11. I wish my neighbors had called the police when I was in a terribly verbally and emotionally abusive relationship. While my partner never physically hurt me (beyond occasionally throwing things at me) she did a lot of slamming doors and punching walls so I can see why my neighbors assumed she was also hitting me. She would scream at me for hours. A visit from the police would have been something that I could not ignore, that I couldn't chalk up to everyone fights. Because she wasn't hitting me it was easy to make excuses for the terrible way she treated me. Abusive relationships are incredibly hard to leave and sometimes it takes the men in blue showing up for you to find the strength to say I need to get out this. If you ever think someone is in danger make that call, you could literally be saving someones life.

    43 agree
    • I'm so glad you were able to get out of that relationship safely! No one deserves to be treated like that. And punching walls and slamming doors is a classic way to control your partner through fear. I'm sorry you had to go through that.

      20 agree
    • My neighbor is verbally abusive to his girlfriend. He's so loud that the neighbors can hear him from inside their houses with the windows closed. I tried to lodge a complaint against him with the homeowners association, and the police department, but was told that nothing would be done unless he were actually hitting her. Perhaps your neighbors found themselves in the same situation.

      1 agrees
  12. Better safe than sorry… I've done it more than once, and with a dad as a 30-year cop, I can tell you he would say that's the right move, too. Many states also have a domestic abuse hotline, too, in case it feels weird to dial 911.

    13 agree
    • Agreed! I just finished an safety/emergency prep course through my work. And the officers we worked with assured us that if we think there *might* be an emergency situation– CALL. Even if we're not 100%sure. The police will never get mad at you for calling.

      9 agree
  13. You definitely did the right thing. Screw invading their privacy, if he something serious happens in the future to her, it is on record that the police have been called because of domestic disturbances. She is lucky to have a neighbor like you. Take it from someone who needed that push from a neighbor to seek help and get away.

    12 agree
  14. I think it's the right thing to do. There was an incident with the couple living in the condo above me, and the woman was screaming hysterically and crying. I had the phone in my hand and dialed the first number, and then I saw the police come in through the garden, so someone else had the thought long before I did.

    8 agree
  15. You did the right thing. My friend called me once and all i heard was her crying and screaming and her fiance telling her to shut the ef up… I called the cops because she lives 2 hours away and i couldnt help. Turns out they were just fighting, not physically. Unfortunatly she ended the friendship because i called the cops… I still wouldnt have changed a thing. I had the right intentions and thats all that matters.

    28 agree
    • I would have done the same thing! I'm sorry your friend couldn't recognize that you had her best interests at heart. It sounds to me like he might be verbally abusive to her. She was probably embarrassed, but that doesn't mean that violence doesn't take many forms. I hope she's ok.

      17 agree
    • I have called the cops for similar situations, and lost friends that way. It is sad that they don't see that it was a true act of concern and worth more than a stupid boy who doesn't know how to argue effectively anyways, but I would seriously hate myself for life if my own friend called for help and I didn't do anything.

      10 agree
  16. Hiya. You absolutely did the right thing. I'm a certified domestic violence peer counselor, and this is most likely not the first time this has happened between this couple. Police are often astonishingly lacking in any kind of knowledge as to how to support survivors of this type of violence, but having someone in the building who is listening and interested in her safety is an advantage to that woman, whether she knows it or not.

    If you know the woman, consider leaving a phone number – if you can, give it directly to her, rather than leaving a note. If her partner finds it, he might be inclined to become violent again, and will most likely blame her. You absolutely did the right thing. Please remember that domestic violence is characterized by isolation – reaching out to her while keeping her safety in mind is one of the best things you can do. She may be responsive, she may not be. Denial is a VERY powerful thing. But some part of her knows that what's happening to her is wrong. Please don't second-guess yourself.

    27 agree
  17. You did the right thing. Hearing raised voices is one thing, but thuds and "Let go of me!" are another. If nothing else, better to call and regret it for a little while, than to do nothing and perhaps REALLY regret it for the rest of your life.

    10 agree
  18. DEFINITELY the right thing – I didn't "wake up" to my abusive situation until a friend did the same for me. Then I got out, found another wonderful man and are as happy as can be.
    I think our move to an individualistic rather than community-like existence leaves some people alone and miserable, when there are people around them, friends, neighbors and strangers that can help them.
    Way to give some community love to your community. (and I agree with the above-the thuds would get me to call too).

    11 agree
  19. You definitely did the right thing. If it was a serious fight, you may have stopped it from getting worse. If the couple were just being drama queens (I have friends who fight that way just so they can have hot make-up sex, and it's weird) maybe it taught them a lesson about minding what your neighbors can hear and what it'll make them think. I was in the same situation once – from my apartment window I saw folks across the way having a fight, and I thought I saw the man raise an object to hit the woman. It was night and their curtain partially obstructed my view, but I called the cops anyway – better safe than sorry. And don't worry about wasting the cops' time; their job is to protect people.

    6 agree
  20. You did the right thing.
    Even if your actions do not immediately put and end to the situation, you have made a record of the incident, and that goes a long way. If they ever have to go to court, or if there is a child involved, or something happens to either of them, the information is important.
    I work in the legal system, and I have seen cases involving domestic abuse (including child abuse) at which my first thought is, "How did no one know this was happening?". I hate knowing that maybe someone did know and kept quiet.
    And you can tell your friends what you told us: What if you did nothing and then saw it on the news the next day? What if police showed up at your door and asked if you heard anything, and you had to say yes, you heard but chose not to act?

    10 agree
  21. You absolutely did the right thing, and I'm sorry you didn't find more support for your actions with your real world friends, but I'd say after seeing this thread it's clear that in this community it's better to potentially embarrass yourself and your neighbour (if the fight wasn't very serious and just sounded that way,) then to do nothing when someone needed intervention.

    It's hard to make those calls, but always, always, ALWAYS err on the side of too cautious. What's the worst that could happen if you do? Compare that to the worst that could happen if you didn't.

    I've been there-The cops can diffuse and give a wake up call to everyone involved, abuser and abused alike.

    Now that I've gotten out of that relationship I am more cautious and likely to intervene-at least with a phone call to the cops.

    2 agree
  22. I've had cops come by our house to search us owing to a 'concerned citizen'. they searched high and low and as long as they wanted… hey i wasn't about to tell them they were misinformed – they would find out themselves.

    not only was calling them malicious, it was also a waste of valuable police (and my own) time. we suspect it was a call made by a disgruntled neighbor we were pursuing legal action against at the time. THAT was an unhappy individual "overstepping their boundaries".

    on the other hand, hearing screams and a beating – you had no way of knowing if it was her husband, an intruder or an incredibly energetic play-fight bdsm-style. you did what you thought was right because whatever was going on was enough to disturb you and your family. period.

    you did right and from now on, i expect the racket is going to happen elsewhere or not at all. that was your only concern.

    if the protagonist was being abusive, well, the right people were involved. dont think more about it.

    4 agree
    • As someone who engages in active BDSM, I sort of accept that someday cops might show up at my house called by a concerned neighbor. I am prepared to explain the situation and deal with the consequences, though yes, it would probably be annoying and embarrassing. I would NOT be angry at that neighbor. I would understand that their actions were motivated out of concern. Now, if it was someone who just disapproved of my kinky lifestyle, that would be different of course. But someone who mistook play for abuse – it's an easy mistake to make and I would prefer concern to apathy.

      23 agree
  23. A young mother (early 20's) and her boyfriend moved in to the unit next to ours on a short term trial basis. All day and night we would hear screaming. The mother screamed at the child (3 or 4) almost non-stop. This was right when I just had my daughter and I couldn't imagine what the girl was doing to warrant such screaming all the time. Then one night I swear the walls and floor shook and I decided that was enough and I called the police. The landlord ended up not extending their lease as they were doing other things against our building agreements (smoking in building and such). When they left (right after the big fight I called on) we saw the inside of the apartment, they had left holes in the walls (punched through) and broken furniture strewn about. It was terrible.

    I still worry about that little girl to this day and wonder if I should have called child services instead. The grandparents were often over and it wasn't as bad then, but oish, that poor little girl.

    I guess I'm saying, there is a point when things get out of control. if you feel they have hit that point, call. It's better to call and it be nothing than not and have someone seriously injured or worse.

    7 agree
  24. You did the right thing. You intervene when you hear or see something that sounds like it might be a crime. There's no harm in being overly cautious but there can certainly be harm if we all collectively mind our business no matter what we hear or see.

    3 agree
  25. At the very least, they were disturbing the peace, and it was clearly upsetting you, so you justified in calling the police, and in the process you may have helped a woman in a bad domestic violence situation.

    Your friends are wrong for thinking we have no responsibility to other people. Ignoring domestic violence just gives it license to continue.

    2 agree
  26. We, as a people, have been conditioned to mind our own business and not get involved. If you feel that you were trying to help someone because you care about the wellbeing of people; then you did the right thing.

    I would have, and actually have done, the same thing.

    2 agree
  27. After reading all these replies, I'm so proud to be a member of this community! It is obvious that no matter what makes us offbeat, we obviously all care about our little worlds. That is so rare, and just so fantastic.

    Yay Offbeat Home!

    11 agree
  28. You did the right thing, for sure. Forty years ago, when I was about 10, my parents (and the rest of the neighborhood) listened nervously and did nothing while our neighbor's boyfriend loudly destroyed every bit of furniture in that family of five's house. I think of it with shame to this day and have vowed to always be the one who calls (thankfully, this has never happened). If my parents had called, I would have been proud of them. And I think the children next door would have known that someone out there thought that what this guy was doing wasn't right and shouldn't be tolerated.

    4 agree
  29. My husband is a police officer, and the official protocol is that if you are a fairly reasonable person and think "Maybe I should call the cops" then you should do so. They would rather be called to nothing than not be called to something. And there is no such thing as wasting their time, regardless of what they may tell you. They're paid for being in uniform and if they get a more important call while there they will go. So don't stress out that someone could be dying in a car wreck while you're taking to the police. In addition to the bystander effect we're still stuck in the 1950s in the idea that "a man's home is his castle" so anything that takes place inside is sacred, especially when it comes to spouses. While I agree to a certain extent, violent fighting certainly shouldn't be covered in that. I highly recommend the book The Meaning of Wife. They discuss this issue at length.

    9 agree
    • Thank you for posting that. There have been other times when I wondered if it was something worth calling the cops over, and erred on the side of not doing it. (Things like neighbors setting off fireworks too close to cars or houses or people or on unstable, crooked surfaces or other unsafe ways, among others.) Knowing that "official protocol" is that they'd rather people call than not, I feel better about doing it.

      3 agree
  30. Around where I live, we actually have a campaign run by the police and community groups jointly SPECIFICALLY saying to call 911 if you suspect there is any domestic abuse, regardless of intensity.

    There has been alot of domestic abuse in my area and no one ever stepped in. It took a case where the whole apartment complex heard the fight, no one called, and now he is forever hospitalized with permanent brain damaged.

    2 agree
  31. Thank you for stepping up and calling the police. I had a situation very similar last year and I wish someone would have called the police for me.

    4 agree
  32. You definitely did the right thing. It can be a hard judgement call but as everyone else here is saying- Better safe than sorry.

    A couple of years ago my friend and her husband were coming out of a grocery store when they saw and heard a couple getting into a fight. He was screaming at her and then started hitting and punching her in broad daylight. Everyone else just stood there and did absolutely nothing. No one called the cops, tried to break it up, nothing. Luckily she's a badass and called the cops before stepping in and confronting the guy. She chased him off and stayed with the girl until the cops came.

    That's not to say that anyone should bust in to anyone else's lives but you did do the right thing by calling the cops. Way too many people end up getting caught in the Bystander Effect.

    7 agree
  33. You did the right thing and I admire you for that. We lived in an apartment where we could hear fighting from our upstairs neighbors get rough. We'd all stop to listen and have phones in hand, but it was too vague. We knew they had a dog from the barking and just couldn't tell. Were the sounds the dog responding to the fight? Were they stomping around? Was it just slamming doors? The worst was one night when we heard loud thuds as though something heavy had fallen to the ground. Not furniture, something soft. Everyone jumped up, one of us (a guy) knocked on the door, but another man reasoned it could be the dog. No need to call the police.

    It wasn't until I ran into her later and saw the pint-sized dog that I realized we should have called the police immediately. I still regret not doing anything because I was afraid of being an inconvenience. Isn't that weird and kind of sick? That our concern would be an inconvenience?

    3 agree
  34. Ummm… Sometimes my boyfriend and can sound a little like this. 🙁

    I have anxiety/anger/etc type of issues, so things can get melodramatic REAL fast. There's never been any danger, just very exaggerated fights that we handle with a long conversation after we cool down. I would HATE for someone to call the police on us!

    BUT I think my case is a relative rarity, and the possible danger of the situation probably outweighs their right to privately handle their business.

    Also, I second Kim's comment!!

    "At the very least, they were disturbing the peace, and it was clearly upsetting you, so you justified in calling the police, and in the process you may have helped a woman in a bad domestic violence situation."

    Even if you take out the good-samaritan-intentions, they are definitely disturbing YOUR peace, which gives you the right to call the authorities.

    2 agree
    • I know how it is to suffer with anxiety disorders, and I definitely know how it can be to suddenly find yourself in the middle of a fight you didn't even mean to start.

      However, I'd like to encourage you to seek counseling if you're not already. Even just sitting down to agree on some discussion strategies for future situations can work miracles. For instance, the "I see you're upset, let's take a ten minute time out," and getting the heck out of eachother's faces tactic is awesommmme.

      Having some tactics in your back pocket to preventing the melodrama from happening can really save you some time and embarrassment. I always need to cool down before I can discuss ANYTHING, but I've learned how to make sure that the yelling and fighting doesn't happen before I can get there. I'm so much happier, and I feel more positive about myself and my relationships because I'm not accidentally unloading with hurtful words and abrupt, poorly-phrased statements that I can't take back. They're toxic to your relationship and even if you both apologize, you know that they stay with you.

      You also say that this sounds a little like your boyfriend. Your anxiety and anger issues aren't cause for him to yell or make thuds that might disturb or worry your neighbors. Perhaps he would benefit from counseling to help him understand how best to cope with the situation and where his reactions are coming from.

      Maybe this is me butting in where I shouldn't, but if this post is any indication, we're over-carers around here. 😉 We just want the best for everybody! :p

      10 agree
      • I meant "my boyfriend and I"!!! critical typo. our fights sound like that, with a majority of the melodrama coming from me.

        And yea, he's encouraging me to seek help with my anxiety. Our school offers good starter resources. I tried to go before, then it sortof stopped, and I'm just now trying again. It's a difficult process.

        1 agrees
      • I definitely agree with learning ways to figure out how to tell the other "Hey, we're getting too emotional and heated. Let's back off and address this in 15 minutes." And then also respecting it if the other calls a time out, even if you feel its unnecessary at that point.

        2 agree
  35. Based on what you heard, I agree that you did the right thing. I had a similar experience about a year ago that involved children to. My neighbors were screaming at eachother and the two little girls ( 3 and 5?) were crying for help. Their bedroom window was open and I went by and tried to ask them if they were ok. My boyfriend was with me. The little girls put their arms out and said they needed help. The mom them turned on the room light and I asked if she needed help. The guy couldn't see me or my boyfriend. The lady told me to go tue hell away and turned off the light. I told the little girls where my apartment was and went back and called the police. The cops came shortly after and ha to bust tue door in. The guy had warrants so he was arrested. The next day I called the landlady to see if she heard and she informed me that it wasn't the first time a tenant had called the police for their fighting. In Oregon, if the cops show up 3 times from complaints, the landlady can evict them. My landlady encouraged me too. I was also feeling encouraged to call child protection services but I never heard anything out of them again for the remainde of my living there. If I recall, the guy was in jail for most of it.

    1 agrees
    • Please excuse all of my typos! I'm sending from my iPhone and didn't go over the submission! Haha

  36. I wish someone would've called the police when I was screaming "let go of me" and getting hit and locked in the bathroom. You definately did the right thing. Even if it's "just an agument" I would still call the police, the worst that can happen is the police check up on them, maybe calm them down before it escalates. no harm no foul, but if no one calls and something were to happen that would be bad

    4 agree
  37. I train people in how to recognize and report abuse. Granted, in my field I am generally concerned with children, the elderly, and people with disabilities, but it can apply to anybody.

    First, it is your duty to report any suspected abuse. As long as you have reasonable cause to suspect the abuse, you will not be prosecuted. Meaning if abuse is happening, you just saved a life. If abuse isn't happening, well, nothing happens. It's a no lose situation.

    Educate yourself on the signs of abuse and neglect. I'll be honest, me and my fiance have had a couple of tickle fights that led to thumping and yelling "Get off of me!" and "Stop it!", but there was obviously no abuse transpiring. Keep an eye out, not just for your neighbor, but for all the people in your life.

    • So true! My sister gets in some RIDICULOUS tickle fights with her boyfriend. As her roommate, I find it simply irritating, but I can see how a bystander could find it concerning!!

    • Oh dear, I just realized how terrible my tickle fights with my fiance must sound xD Well it's more like he tries to give me raspberries on my stomach and I haaate it (yet like it?), so I try my damnedest to keep him off my stomach. I scream (but they're giggly screams!) and he laughs evilly…oh dear xD

      1 agrees
  38. Wow! I just got an ad for soundproofing on the mobile version of this site. Google fail!

    I agree that you did the right thing. This happened to my aunt a year ago. She hemmed and hawed and finally called the police. Turns out someone had broken into her upstairs neighbor's apartment and was brutally attacking and robbing her. The cops came and they ended up catching the guy after a high-speed pursuit. You could have saved her life. If anything you have a right to a quiet apartment.

    5 agree
  39. The one time I needed to call the cops it was on a couple in a neighboring building, I saw them come and check it out, and thankfully the abuser had left, but later that night the woman had packed up a pretty large bag and packed her young child into the car. I'd like to belive that because the police came in and interviened I had helped her get out of a potentialy more harmful situation. In most cases I'd say go with what your gut says. When you hear or see it get physical call the police. And the disbatch will always tell you if there was a call made already.

    2 agree
  40. "I feel if I'd done nothing and the fight escalated to a crime scene I could never live with myself."

    This is the clincher for me. If you feel this way – then call the police.

    I had a similar dilemma when I saw a load of young teenagers (in couples) breaking into a public garden late at night. I knew it was pitch-black in there, and there were large ponds. I debated it for a while – and then called the police (non-emergency number, though they actually put me through to 999).

    Because how would I have felt if I had read later that one of those kids had drowned? As it was, the police couldn't see any evidence of a break-in when they arrived (they texted me to tell me the result, which was kind of cool). But it was still the right thing to do.

    And in your case – there's often a problem with domestic abuse because the abused partner does not report it to the police, and then it's very hard to prove there was any violence at a later date. You calling the police could supply much-needed evidence of abuse another time, such as in a custody case. Of course, I would hope it doesn't come to that.

    2 agree
  41. I've been the one in desperate need of help. The neighbors just continued walking their dog while my exhusband punched me and I was bent over protecting our 2 year old son.If these callous people who lived two doors down turned around and called the cops, then maybe things would have been different.
    I think what you did was ABSOLUTELY the right and caring thing to do! Bravo! And I hope that your neighbor will get the help and support she needs.

    5 agree
  42. Can I just say that the honesty, courage, integrity, and support in this comment thread is seriously inspiring? You guys rock. <3

    5 agree
  43. You did the right thing. And if anyone tells you otherwise, use the stories you read above and mine to defend yourself.

    Almost two years ago, my best friend was murdered in her sleep. She was stabbed in the back and neck over 40 times. When the police questioned her neighbors, they said that they heard a 'disturbance' that night but didn't think anything of it.

    I don't know what happened that night. I don't even know if she woke up or not. But right now, I really wish she did live next to some asshole neighbors who called the cops over any sort of noise. It might not have saved her life, but it would have had police presence. Maybe they could have even caught the guy when he was leaving. Maybe her body wouldn't have been left in her room for over 36 hours.

    When these things happen, you change how you look at things. I would have done the same as you. So, don't let anyone make you feel bad about what you did. For all you know, someone might be thanking you right now.

    5 agree
    • Oh, this is so terrible to read. I'm so sorry for the loss of your friend's life. I can't even imagine having to live through that. I'm just so sorry.

      1 agrees
      • Thanks for that. 🙂 It was hard, and still is at times. I sometimes feel bad telling her story, feeling like I'm intruding on someone's happy little world, but if it can put some perspective into someone else's life, I feel like it's worth it. It may not save a life, but at the very least it can help someone appreciate theirs a little more.

        1 agrees
        • I know what you mean. I'm a rape survivor, and telling someone new about the experience, having to see their reaction of sadness and despair, can sometimes feel like I'm burdening them. But then other times, I'm glad to know that they give a shit! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

          • *patpat* I can totally relate. And honestly, that's why you tell people your story when you're able to. So it's made real for them. When things happen to people you don't know, you may feel the urge to mind your own business because it doesn't effect you. But when it happens to you or someone you know, it gives you the urge to stop it from ever happening to anyone else again. Or at least, that's how I feel.

            So, if sharing your story can help save another person from having to experience it, then that awkwardness is totally worth it.

            1 agrees
  44. You did absolutely the right thing. As a domestic abuse survivor, I wish someone had called the cops then. If there really is no problem (if she has a rape fantasy, etc.), they will have no problem proving that.
    Thank you.

    1 agrees
  45. O_O Google fail indeed!

    Thank you for choosing to NOT go that direction and taking the correct one 🙂 I visit a friend of mine on and almost weekly basis and at her old house, the first family that lived above them would thump and thump around and you could hear the kids upstairs crying–wailing, even. And here I am, a guest in my buddy's house, and even I feel bad about not calling someone.
    The even shitier part is that my friend DID call one day, and the abuseive bf found out, so he was an even bigger piss ant to my friend (and, undoubtedly, his family).

  46. There has been 2 occasions where I should have called the cops and have not done so because I was a young female home alone in a new neighborhood and scared for my own safety. In both cases I thought someone else would call and they never did. I was lucky in that no-one was hurt in either case, but I still feel guilty for not doing something and the next time I will.

    1 agrees
  47. I think you did the right thing — I was in an almost identical situation with downstairs neighbours a few years ago. Their lounge room was directly below my bedroom, and at about 2-3am after a party, while I could hear their friends in the same room, a fight escalated. I heard all the friends go silent – there's not a lot they could do – and I could hear him hitting her and her screaming to stop. I called the cops (VEEEERRRY quietly), but they took too long to get there. They moved out not long after – she wasn't even supposed to be living there (breach of the tenancy agreement he signed); due to his disrespect for the rest of us neighbours (regular parties til 4am on weekdays, setting off fire sirens for the whole building, etc). I'm glad I did; I think they broke up after that incident because she didn't visit anymore. I think he may have also lost a few friends from it.

    1 agrees
    • I should certainly hope he lost some friends. I can't understand how you wouldn't intervene, especially if you knew the couple.

      1 agrees
      • Same here. I don't care how good a friend I consider you. If you start hitting your SO in front of me, I'm going to intervene.

        1 agrees
  48. You absolutely did the right thing. Our society subconsciously (though consciously, many folk will insist they're more enlightened than that, thank you very much) likes to hang onto a general policy that what goes on between a couple or family behind closed doors is their business, and no-one else's. But this is the very attitude that makes it possible for openly abusive relationships to continue for years, and it is my firm belief that every fundamentally good person has a moral obligation, if they hear or see what they believe to be someone in genuine danger, to make a real effort to conquer the paralysing panic of "What if I'm wrong?" or, worse, the fear of, "What if [violent person] finds out and turns their aggression on *me*?" and inform the police. After all, they may well be saving someone's life.

    2 agree
  49. Calling 911 was the right thing to do. it accomplished many things.

    A) it told them that someone is watching out for them.
    B) it told them that you heard it, and you know. It also says to STFU for things like make up sex and TV volume.
    C) it lets the cops know whats going on with the couple. What if (heaven forbid) something worse happen a week from then? they have a log that gives them a direction to head in from your call.
    D) it gives you piece of mind that things are ok since the cops are on their way.

    not saying anything would only worry you, allow them to continue, and allow them to continue to be obnoxiously loud. so what if they get mad? it raises a flag for them that maybe they should look at whats going on and fix it.

    2 agree
  50. you ABSOLUTELY did the right thing. i'm a 911 operator and dv is, utterly? no.joke. generally the cops (*generally*) do a pretty decent job discerning what's going on…i guess it depends on the department, state laws, etc…but fer real "let go of me"? "STOP"? those are not ok, normal argument sounds. women die because people decide to "mind their own business." kudos to you for yer bravery.

    6 agree
    • I am a 911 operator, as well. *high five*

      It's really not that big of a deal if the cops go out there and it wasn't as reported. If it turns out to NOT be a domestic violence situation, hooray! If it turns it that it was, well, I guess also hooray because someone can get some help.

  51. My feeling is ALWAYS go with your gut and call emergency services.
    I lived next to an alcoholic abusive couple for a year and a half- they would take turns drinking and initiating fights. I never actually called the cops myself, but police came out four times in the time they lived there.

    I was mostly shocked and worried the night that the woman's 12 year old daughter knocked on my door, sobbing, and asked to borrow my cell phone to call the police. Two days later, child services knocked on my door and asked me to recount what i've heard.

    I rarely got involved because from what i could hear (it was a duplex) they were both equally responsible for the fight- but a few times I did should through the wall "shut the fuck up". it worked- but i wish i had called the cops more instead. I feel guilty that I didn't do more to help her children. They weren't physically abused, but verbally for sure.

  52. I don't know how often (if ever) you see your neighbour, but some advice I was once given was if you suspect a person is being battered, say these two things to them:

    1) I am concerned about you.

    2) There are places you can go.

    1 agrees
  53. I think you did the right thing, there aren't enough people who do get involved. For whatever reason our society has adopted this " I'm only looking our for me" mentality and it's really turned us into callous cowards. Even if the fight wasn't as bad as it sounded, what's the harm in making a phone call? Sure your neighbors may have been irritated by it but that's the worst the could have happened. And if the fight was as bad as it sounded then perhaps you have now opened a door for these people to get the help they needed. Kudos.

    1 agrees
  54. I am very disappointed in your friends who said that you should have "stayed out of it." They should think of it as….If 'you' had called them in a panic, would they have cared enough to call the police for you?

    You could be the one who saves her life.

    And – even if it was 'not' an instance of domestic violence, I would have just called for a noise disturbance anyway! No one deserves to feel unsafe, or to "even" have to listen to neighbors screaming at each other. I pay my rent the same as you, yet 'I' manage to not scream….so I WILL make a noise complaint if you're loud!!

    1 agrees
  55. You definitely did the right thing. I am a dv survivor and many times I needed the police no one called and I had no way to call them myself. My phone would be taken away and I would have been beaten worse if I tried (and was multiple times). I used to run outside to the parking lot of my apartment complex if I could and my ex would follow me sometimes standing outside my car with a baseball bat threatening to smash my windows and me and no one ever called the police to help me. Thankfully, I was able to get my phone one night and he was arrested.

    Sometimes even if dv victims want to call for help they just cant.

    You did the right thing! I wish the rest of society would change their outlook!

    2 agree
  56. I don't know about the laws where you are, but where I live, domestic abuse isn't just classified as physical fights; if the person being abused feels fear from the abuser's actions or words, it's considered domestic abuse in the courts. So even if the fight that you overheard hadn't become physical (although it sounded like it had), it could still have been deemed domestic abuse and the abuser could be sentenced accordingly. All of this to say: you did the right thing. Supporting your neighbor by calling the boys in blue was absolutely right, but as many people have already said, supporting her emotionally is also important. So many domestic violence cases never go anywhere because the abused party decides they don't want to press charges—the abuser threatened them, they tell themselves it's the last time (when it's not), they don't think it'll make a difference, etc. If this is a situation where papers need to be filed and charges pressed, she could need some serious support to do it. You might just be her greatest advocate.

  57. No one called when I needed help. Thankfully, I was strong enough to run when I could and call on the way out.

    I remember once years ago hearing a woman screaming in spanish in a very panicked manner. I ran out side to find a young lady holding her son at a full out run down my complex corridor. I didn't think twice, I opened my door and pulled her in.

    Luckily at the time my roommate spoke spanish, we found out her husband was beating her, we hid her for an hour or so to be safe and then called the cops. I watched her pack her and her sons things and leave. I was so proud of her, I never saw her again.

    Long story short, you absolutely did the right thing. And thank you for doing so.

    6 agree
  58. Honestly I believe you did the right thing. I saw this video once with people playing loud music vs screaming of that sort and the neighbors called the cops for the loud music but not for the domestic violence. I recently got out of an abusive relationship and not once in the year that i lived with him did the police come to our door. The neighbors would bang on our walls to signal us to stop but that was it. I have personal called in situations like this…when you hear someone screaming in that way, you cant just sit there and put your tv up to drown out the fighting.

    To the post above me:
    GOOD! thats another thing too. people dont want to open their doors to strangers anymore even if you see the panic in them. My sister was in a car accident and didnt have a phone. She went to a few houses and even with blood falling down her face and limping they turned her down and let her walk in the street to wave down a police car.

  59. As someone who was once screaming for help, I believe you made the right choice. In my situation, no one intervened. I have been scarred for life from that experience. If you hear someone screaming to "Let go" or "Stop" you need to call the police. It's the safer option than letting someone get raped or die.

    2 agree
  60. Hi. Just another person chiming in to say you did the right thing.

    My ex was abusive in every possible way. We had screaming matches that ended in me sobbing hysterically and being forced to stay in his bedroom – he would physically block me from leaving. If I tried to get away anyway, he'd start with physical and sexual abuse.
    We didn't live together, but we were always at his parents' house. I'm shocked that they never called the cops on him, though they threatened to a few times. I know he was their son and all, but there was no way they could have mistaken what he was doing. NO WAY. I get angry every time I think about it, because he did similar things to his parents and siblings, minus the sexual abuse, and they put up with it for longer than I did, even with a baby in the house.
    You absolutely did the right thing. I could never get to the phone to call the cops on my ex myself; he'd take it away if I tried. Once he threw it outside into the snow and almost ruined it just to keep me from calling anyone.
    Please, if it happens again, keep calling. They'll either have to stop their fighting if it isn't abuse, or she'll hopefully get some kind of wake-up call. Please don't stop caring.

    1 agrees
  61. I think you did the right thing. Obviously if what you heard concerned you enough to make you think about calling the police then it warranted a call to the authorities.

  62. Absolutely, you did the right thing. I can still hear my father's voice and picture the sneer on his face exactly every time he told me "I'll break your arm before you get to the phone" in the middle of screaming at my mother, sister, and me and slapping us around. People knew what was going on; the neighborhood kids used to cross the street to avoid him. I wish someone had been brave enough to "butt in" and rescue us when we were helpless.

  63. A few years ago I was living in a semi detached house with a flat mate, and our neighbours were known for having domestics and unless they were really bothering us, we kept to ourselves. One night, however, it was about 2am and they were still going at it, we heard bags which to us sounded like gun shots, and both of them were threatening to kill themselves. It took us THREE phone calls to 000 (emergency) to get the police to come out.
    Once they did it got worse, with each of the couple blaming the other for the police visit, so we called again and from what we could hear, the male was removed from the house.

    You most definitely did the right thing. You very much had reason to believe there was a physical fight going on at the same time. It's better to call the police when they're not needed, than to not call them when they are.

  64. You did the right thing.

    I wish someone had called each time my ex-stepfather would beat my mom and destroy the inside of the house. He even had a gun once and was outside shooting into the air while my little sister and I hid, fearing for our lives. Nobody called the police.

  65. I am a domestic abuse survivor. There were times when I couldn't scream for help, but someone called. If they hadn't, I wouldn't be commenting here. Minding your own business is for when someone has quirks you don't like, not for when someone could need your help just to survive.

    3 agree
  66. You did exactly the right thing- ignore anyone who says otherwise. You had a serious concern that someone was being physically assaulted and acted appropriately. Good for you!

    My last house was in a quite noisy area- lots of screaming kids and teenagers and parents. Screaming wasn't unusual, neither was shouting. I learnt to filter out the "normal" argument or temper tantrum screaming. One time though I was sitting chatting with my friend and we both became aware of some truly blood-curdling screams. I called the police immediately, and was glad I did- the poor woman who was screaming had been badly beaten by her partner who'd then run off when the police arrived. Thankfully she made a full physical recovery relatively quickly. I got a few dirty looks from the neighbours who were of the "a man's home is his castle, who're you to interfere" mindset. I ignored them. Safety first.

    Another time my then-boyfriend (now husband- yay!) and I were over at his house and were woken up to the sound of smashing glass. We looked out of his window that overlooked the back alley between two rows of houses and saw a man with a hammer smashing the kitchen window of the house opposite then going inside. We called the police who arrived within minutes and arrested the man. Turns out his on-off girlfriend lived there, he didn't have a key and wanted to get in to see her (with no malicious intent) so decided to smash the kitchen window with the hammer he happened to have to effect an entry (!!!). The police were pleasantly surprised that we'd bothered to call- apparently most people aren't civic-minded enough to bother.

    Bottom line- well done for caring about your fellow human-beings. 🙂

    1 agrees
  67. If you saw someone wearing a black ski mask crawling through their window and you called the cops to report it no one would tell you to mind your own business. Domestic abuse is a crime and you absolutely did the right thing.

  68. You did the right thing. Someone (i still don't know who) called 911 when my ex was beating the hell out of me. I think if the cops had not shown up, he probably would have killed me. So thank you for possibly saving someone else's life.

  69. You did the right thing. I've called the cops twice on the same couple (who lived above us at the time) and after the second visit, the man moved out while his female partner stayed. I was so glad to see that I had maybe helped her. (I say her because it always sounded like she was on the receiving end of the abuse.)

    In times of doubt, call the cops.

  70. I was coming home from the airport once and my cab driver tried to kidnap me. I shouted out the window for help and caught the attention of some guys in suits who saw/heard me, acknowledged my cries and ignored me. In fact, the people who finally came to my aid were two petite ladies who worked in a bodega down the street. I'm still bitter towards those guys who did nothing when I explicitly asked them for help—even if I were joking, it wouldn't have taken too much effort on their part to walk over and assess the situation. Or at least call 911. (In fact, the police didn't do a damn thing about it either…)

    A few months later, I heard my upstairs neighbors fighting and heard screams and several crashes. I immediately dialed 911. I don't know if they sent someone over, I don't know if the issue was resolved, but I do know I put the responsibility of the situation into professional hands. And I know that I was at least making a good faith attempt to aid my neighbor rather than ignoring the issue. And if they weren't fighting, then at least they got a gentle reminder about noise pollution.

    1 agrees
  71. I agree with every single person who said you did the right thing. YOU DID THE RIGHT THING. Go with your gut in situations like these — better to be spurred into action by the fear of future remorse than to sit passively by and later have to live with that remorse because you took no action.

  72. You absolutely did the right thing. As someone who used to work in the domestic violence field, there's many women who told me that they used to pray and wish that someone would intervene on their behalf. And, if it turns out that you just called the cops to nothing more than a loud lover's quarrel, than what's the worst that could happen? The cops talk to the people for five mintues and everyone's a little bit abashed, but it's much, much better than the alternative.

  73. I agree that you totally did the right thing. My husband and I had to do the same thing recently with the neighbors in the apartment beneath ours. They woke us up @ like 5 am on a Saturday with their fighting, the husband was yelling and she was crying and sobbing, asking him to stop. So we called the non-emergency police phone number and reported it as a domestic disturbance. They still have fights but not to that degree. Or at least if they do it is when we aren't home. But if I was ever in the same situation I would absolutely do the same thing again. Better to do so than for someone to be seriously harmed or lose their life … how guilty I would feel if that happened and I did nothing!

  74. You did the right thing.
    In fact, I stumbled onto this website because I dialed 911 two hours ago. Best decision I've ever made, but I wish my reaction time was quicker because I waited until I heard the women yell, "LET HER GO!" to the abusing guy. It was obviously a nasty argument in the very beginning that could have gone wrong in a matter of minutes, but I was trying to "mind my own business." There comes a time where you REALLY HAVE TO step in. Physically stepping into an argument or a fight is scary and not only dangerous, but the very least everyone can do is call. Remember, EVERY second counts.

  75. It makes me sad reading this story and these comments. I have recently been involved in a fight with a boyfriend where I was held down and choked. This is the second time that it has escalated to the level of choking. The first time I screamed for help and the person in the apartment above called 911. Sigh, it was really horrible. Awful to think that it is actually my life that I'm talking about. I thought I was going to die. I covered for him that time and said that we had only been verbally fighting. I have been terrified of police involvement and external involvement because well it can be scary not having control over your life but clearly I haven't had enough control over my own life. This last time I called the police after the incident. It was very very difficult to do and I only did so after significant prodding by two sisters. Sigh, it's a very miserable situation to be in. I have never been in a violent relationship before this. I just became isolated very quickly by this guy and was in a new place far away from friends and family.

  76. Coming from a women who was abused by her husband, I think you did the right thing! I wish one of my neighbors would have called the cops when they heard my screams! If they had maybe it would have not taken two years of abuse for me to come to my senses an leave him!

  77. I wish someone had done that for me. I lived with a violent abuser for one year where he would physically abuse me every 2-3 weeks. We lived in an apartment and nobody ever called the police. I couldn't call them for obvious fear or repercussions but it's still painful to think that my cries and screams sometimes throughout the whole night went ignored. It's like nobody cared and what he was doing to me was ok. And another thing to consider… when I left the relationship and he continued stalking me, but not abusing me because I wouldn't give him the opportunity, I couldn't get a restraining order. It would have helped if something was on file. I wish more scared women had neighbors like you!

    1 agrees
  78. I know this is an old old post but I just wanted to throw in my two cents (which may be worth about five cents since I've had experience here)

    I was babysitting once, and after coming home, the parents stayed out on the porch a while. I didn't mind, since the kid was asleep. Talking escalated to yelling. A lot. Then after a while of "No/get off of me/let go"'s I called 911. Apparently another neighbor was out there trying to pull him off her as well (he couldn't call since he was mid-drama). Apparently he had been having control issues (read: fighting) in the relationship for a while, and police involvement was the breaking point. They got a divorce after that night, and years later she still thanks me.

    You did the right thing.

    1 agrees

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