Witnessing cruelty and violence

Tonight was a really rough one. Rose and I were witnesses to a serious assault, where one of our neighbours stabbed another neighbour. We ran out of the unit with our dog Zoe to investigate screams, and found a third neighbour wrestling with the attacker while the bloodied victim escaped back to her unit. (each of these neighbours live in their own unit in my street) Rose called the police and ambulance and Zoe and I stood between the attacker and victim and helped keep things calm while we waited for backup.

The victim was taken to hospital and we were told she is now in a stable condition. The rest of us were separated and spent considerable time giving detailed victim statements. That part is hard because things happen so quickly and you are very focused on certain details but not at all on others. We’ve both agreed to appear in court should it be needed, but the attacker stayed in a highly agitated state throughout he was clearly stating that he had intended to kill her and was upset that he had only wounded her, and said this to me, the ambulance officers, and I think also the police. So hopefully we will not be needed. He has been arrested which is a huge relief to all involved. I don’t know what the process is but things could be very difficult here for us if he is released any time soon.

There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that our brave neighbour saved the victim from severe injury if not her life. He was deeply shaken particularly to see such cruel and callous behaviour from a neighbour he had otherwise got along with reasonably well – as had I. I’ve always found this street difficult, there’s a surprising amount of drug use and dealing, and various petty feuds that run for years and involve a stupid amount of hostility. This particular act of violence was revenge for the woman frequently allowing her guests to park in an unused parking spot that was not hers. It boggles the mind. I’ve lived in considerably lower socio economic areas that were more peaceful and friendly.

So, we’re rattled. Neither of us is a stranger to blood or violence and we acted quickly, as a team, and handled the situation well. The aftermath is disorienting, full of anxiety and distress about raising children in a place that feels so unsafe. Today was a ‘high fertility’ day, we had planned a meet with our donor this evening but cancelled as we were giving statements to the police instead. We then went round and checked in with the other two neighbours to say thankyou and well done and make sure they were holding up okay. There’s a lot of ‘would it have turned out differently if’ to work through after something like this.

Rose and I have talked through our options – stay here, sleep at a friends for the night, stay up and distract ourselves with movies, sleep the dog indoors tonight, and so on. We’ve talked a little about memories of other stabbings we’ve each witnessed, the sense of being trapped, the restlessness of adrenaline washing out. We’ve gone online to look for fun board games to play and hopefully we’ll find some time this week. We’ve ordered Ghost Blitz which we played with friends a few months back and really enjoyed. We’ve checked out Pandemic and Ticket to Ride and decided the purse won’t stretch to that yet. Maybe next week! Creating room for all the reactions is important so we’ll do that tonight, however we need to.

Only this afternoon I was ducking to the shops, feeling terribly low, and found a woman in a scooter weeping alone in the carpark. We stopped and reached out and she shared about how distressing she found it that she couldn’t walk anymore, that a car had frightened her on the road and yelled at her, and then a woman in the store in the line behind her had pushed past her and been rude. She was just so demoralised. I was able to share about my own time in a scooter and how embarrassing I found it to take up so much space, especially in shopping centre aisles and she was so glad to talk with someone who ‘got it’. I told her it helps a lot to know other people in the same situation and feel less alone. When I bought my items at the store her chips had been left on the bench so I paid for them too and took them to her. She told me I had no idea how much my kindness meant to her – I told her I knew exactly how much it meant because I had experienced it myself in dark moments and bad days, and that I bet she had been the person lucky enough to be kind to others before. She shared some of those times and lit up remembering them. It was so striking how used to being invisible and irrelevant she was. I thought about how people in her place are so rarely touched and gave her a hug.

Such a little kindness, and such a contrast with the rest of my night. How easily we lose sight of each other as human, how difficult we find it simply to be kind. I’m terribly sad. A man who once loaned me sheers to prune my roses is probably going to jail for a long while. A woman who waved to me while watering her garden is in hospital. We throw away what we have so quickly and over so little. A primal sense of threat about territory, a fear, a need to control. And the selfless act of courage, wrestling a man with a knife! That unthinking instinct to protect, to intervene, to prevent harm. In a street of many vulnerable elderly people, there were several of us out there with the screaming, calling police, doing our best to stop what was happening. Kindness and courage, such powerful forces. We didn’t just witness darkness tonight, we also saw light.

4 thoughts on “Witnessing cruelty and violence

  1. I’m so sorry to hear this happened to you and Rose. How incredibly awful. I hope you’re able to regain a sense of security in your surroundings soon. I’m not sure why but this blog touched on something for me because it made me tear up. Maybe it’s just the truth of it. Human beings can be amazing or terrifying creatures and some generally are a mix of both. Be well Sarah.

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  2. I’m so glad that you and Rose are both physically safe, just make sure you take care of yourselves mentally. I hope that you enjoy your board games- my friends have both Pandemic and Ticket to Ride, and i’ve played Pandemic. So fun! Hope the rest of your week gets better from here on in xx

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