Trigger warning. This post deals with issues of domestic violence, which some readers might find triggering.
To the woman over the road.
I’m sorry I had to call the cops to your house yesterday. I heard you tell them you were embarrassed.
Domestic violence in Australia is real. And when I heard you and your partner arguing and screaming out on our street, I panicked.
I bet you wouldn’t believe this, but I cried. In fact, my heart was racing so fast.
I raced out the front of my house and stood behind the shrub peering out to see if you were going to be OK. I saw your partner trying to leave in his car and you were trying to stop him by leaning into his car window.
He tried to drag you along, but you kept screaming at him.
I heard you say, “I love you, don’t leave us.”
Then I heard you say, “Don’t punch me in the throat!”
You then said something that really scared me. You said, “If you leave I am going to do something really stupid!”
I heard your darling little girl crying and I wasn’t sure if she was in the car or in the house.
I did not hesitate. I raced inside to phone the police.
There were more screams and thumps while I picked up the phone; my hands were trembling.
Thoughts swirled through my head as the emergency dispatcher asked me for descriptions of you and your partner.
“What if she dies right now before the cops get here?” I wondered as I gave muddled descriptions.
I told them you were wearing a blue dressing gown with white spots. When I saw you after I had hung up the phone I realised it was actually purple. When your partner came back to drop off some of your things later, I realised his car was pale green. I said silver.
I also told them you were in your 20s. But when your partner returned, I heard you scream, “You don’t know what it’s like to be 17 and bringing up a baby on your own!”
I didn’t realise you were so young. And I’m sorry I got some of those important details wrong, I wasn’t thinking straight, because I too was scared.
I just want you to know, I was on your side. I really was.
You don’t know how much I wanted to come over and give you a cup of tea. I wanted to ask you over to sit in my back yard, under our huge trees, and talk and let our kids play.
I also heard you yell to your partner that you didn’t want your daughter to be placed in child care and have the same upbringing as you did.
I gather if your partner left you, you would be forced to return to work and your darling girl would be cared for by others.
You seem like a good woman. You really do.
Raising children is not an easy feat. And even the most capable of us find it terribly hard most of the time.
According to White Ribbon, one woman dies every week as a result of intimate partner violence, and is most likely to be killed by her male partner in her home. It is also the leading contributor to death, disability and ill-health in Australian women aged 15-44.
Thankfully, I grew up in a non-violent household, but we’ve had neighbours throughout our life caught up in domestic disputes.
You may not know this, but I had to call the police just months ago when another woman was being threatened just two doors down from you.
Who would have thought our idyllic, leafy, blue-chip suburb would be subjected to such violent outbursts on the streets?
Sadly, domestic violence doesn’t discriminate.
It can be in any household, anywhere and at anytime.
So, please know, neighbour, that your neighbours aren’t furious with you for causing a scene on the street.
We aren’t judging you for being too noisy, unsavoury, crude, rude or vulgar.
Nope, none of that.
We are batting for you. Your safety is paramount and we are so worried about you.
Because domestic violence is deadly serious.
If you or someone you know has experienced domestic violence or sexual assault phone the 24 hour, National Sexual Assault, Family & Domestic Violence Counselling Line on 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732).
White Ribbon is the world’s largest male-led movement to end men’s violence against women. White Ribbon Day, on November 25, aims to shine the spotlight on violence against women; their mission being for all women to live safely, free from all forms of men’s violence. Visit www.whiteribbon.org.au
Penny Shipway has more than 10 years’ experience as a journalist in newspapers, magazines and online. She climbed the ranks at News Corp, editing many of the Quest Newspapers in Brisbane, and broke news stories for Australian Associated Press (AAP). Now a mother of two, Penny has shed the fast-paced city life to dip her toes in the ocean, settling on the Sunshine Coast to raise her beautiful girls. As a freelance journalist, Penny contributes to many leading lifestyle magazines and websites. Some snippets of her crazy, coastal, mummy life can be found at www.pennyinparadise.