My neighbour - yet another statistic
My neighbour is a statistic. I don't know her name or age, but what I do know is that her partner beats her up. Her screams keep me up at night.
Last year, when I first heard the screams, my immediate instinct was to call complex patrol. They came within five minutes but the guy was so out of control they had to call the police. He was taken away for the entire weekend. I was hoping she'd leave or lay charges against him but she didn't. He came back. He kept a low profile for a while and then the abuse started all over again.
This month, she was beaten three times in one week! By the way, once is too much and unacceptable. I was forced to listen to her begging him to stop at around 12am. This went on for what felt like an eternity.
As I lay in my bed, angry that they were disturbing my sleep, I realised I was also angry at her. I hate the fact that she's not seeking help. There are organisations that help people who are in abusive relationships. There's also the justice system.
I am angry at her for letting him "get away with it". She has the power to put an end to this but she isn't.
The next morning I told the guard at the gate that I couldn't sleep because my neighbours were fighting. He apologised and promised to talk to them. He also reminded me that I can call complex patrol whenever my neighbours are problematic as I have done before. I nodded and left for work.
The following evening they were at it again. It was the first time that the fights took place two days in a row. I could hear someone banging a door. I closed my eyes, put my pillow over my head, and tried to drown out their voices. I was unsuccessful. I could hear them shouting and soon after that the beating began. Her cries were very loud… I'm sure other people could hear them but no one came to her rescue. I was disappointed that no one did.
After some time, I got up and went over to their flat. I banged on the door with the intention to make it clear that I was gatvol of the violence. As I banged on the door, the screams continued. I realised they couldn't hear me or they were ignoring me. I left.
I thought about calling complex patrol but I didn't. They will only break up the fight and that won't be enough. I want to end the abuse. I want to help my neighbour but I don't know how. I thought of slipping a pamphlet on domestic abuse under their door for the victim but I quickly dismissed the idea. What if he sees it and not the intended recipient? I don't want to get her into trouble.
At around 6am, I was woken up by more screams. The fight had started afresh. She was crying and I could hear shoving and swearing. I was angry they had woken me up again. But I couldn't believe that no one called security or walked over to their flat to tell them they were disturbing the peace. When one plays music loudly, the neighbours are quick to call security, but when a woman is abused no one thinks to call security or the police.
I sat on my bed wondering about how to reach out to her? We've never spoken except to exchange greetings once in a while. How would I approach her? Anyway, it was time to get up.
As I prepared to go to work, I couldn't help but wonder if she was putting on too much make-up to hide the bruises. Why wasn't she seeking help?
Last week, as I was leaving for work, I saw the guy. I almost went to tell him exactly what I thought of him. But I didn't. I was fuming but I realised confronting him was not a good idea. This is a man (I use the term loosely) who beats the woman "he loves" - imagine what he'd do to someone who may come across as a nosey neighbour?
I haven't seen the woman since the fights. I wonder if she's OK. At night, I keep my fingers crossed that they won't fight as that means another sleepless night for me.
I want her to seek help and get out of the abusive relationship. But how do you help someone you don't even know?
Lindiwe Mlandu is a member of the Eyewitness News team in Cape Town. Follow her on Twitter: @LindiweMl