Witnessing Domestic Violence in Colombia

Witnessing Domestic Violence in Colombia

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, or have read through a couple of my posts, you’ll know that I don’t really write anything negative about Colombia. There isn’t a lot to complain about.

But a couple of weeks ago I had a very troubling experience and I haven’t been able to get my mind off of it since.

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On New Year’s Day, I’m cleaning up around my apartment. A strange noise breaks up the silence of the afternoon. At first, I shrug it off.

Then I hear it again. It’s louder. I walk out on my balcony, trying to identify the sound and its location. Then I realize it’s a woman screaming.

The sound can be heard loudest from my bathroom. My shower’s window is set just inches from my neighbors’ window. The screams coming from inside the apartment are echoing into mine.

They aren’t just any kind of screams. They’re blood curdling. A kind I’ve never heard before. The screams of someone who fears for her life.

I quickly run to my apartment’s phone and call my doorman. I describe what I’m hearing, and he says he’ll be right up.

I can hear more sounds now. A baby is crying. Someone is being hit.

The elevator door opens and the doorman comes out. We listen outside of the apartment as the sounds continue. He rings the doorbell – no answer.

I insist we call the police. He agrees. We call from my house phone. He says there is a woman screaming and a baby crying.

I call my boyfriend and tell him what’s happening. He’s on his way.

The police motorcycle pulls up a few minutes later, lights flashing. I hold my breath outside of my peep hole as the elevator door opens again. They walk out, guns drawn, and burst into the apartment.

Another pair of police show up and enter. Everything goes quiet. There is no more screaming, or hitting, or crying.

My boyfriend arrives. We wait.

The police leave. The man stays.

I call my doorman and ask him what the police said. He reports that when they arrived, she told them to leave. That it was a problem between them and didn’t concern the police.

But what about the hitting? Would nothing happen to him – not even a night in jail?

I pack up a few things and head over to my boyfriend’s house. I don’t feel safe sleeping in an apartment next to a wife beater. I ask my doorman to call me when they move out – they’re temporary guests.

I come back to my apartment a few days later. The couple and their baby had packed up the same day and left. Crisis is over.

But I can’t help but wonder: Is this the first time they’ve had to leave some place? Was she punished further in a different apartment out of earshot of others like me? Will he eventually kill her? What about the baby? 

Did I do the right thing?

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