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Don't be a bystander, don't just stand by

Posted 16/5/2021

I had always lived in a house with my parents so living in a block of flats was all new to me.  you could virtually hear every noise going, the lift doors opening and shutting, people walking across the corridor, the people who lived in the flat below us and above us.  After listening to all those different sounds around me, I never really took into consideration the noises other people could hear from the flat I live in with my abuser.

Whenever he came back from the pub at ridiculous times of the night playing his music loudly for hours afterwards, my screams and my cries echoing around the flat.

These things were all a regular occurrence during our 3 year relationship and whenever I saw our neighbours the following day, nothing was ever said about the night before.  It was as though I was invisible to them, that I didn’t even exist.  They would say hello and be off, carrying on with their daily business.

I don’t even know what I was expecting them to say to me, let along how they could help me, but before they went I would just stare at them intensely hoping they would give me a hug and tell me everything would be okay.

One rare afternoon when I was in the pub with him, we sat together at the table by the window facing the bar, the lady who lived below us was the bar maid.  She was leaning on the bar and looking at both of us.  My ex had just taken a sip of his pint when she said, I hear her last night…My stomach started doing somersaults, my face felt hot, everything fell silent as I tried quickly to remember what had happened last night.  You were having sex, she replied.  I remember my ex abuser, spitting his beer out and with a huge grin on his face he said, well that’s the effect I have on women.

I felt so humiliated.

But if she heard that, she must have heard everything else too and why would she only mention that?  If she heard my screams why didn’t she do something about it?

One particular night, he came back drunk, well we went back to our neighbours flat and we were watching a film when everything suddenly turned into an uproar for some reason with my ex abuser turning over a chair and completely smashing the lightbulb in the living room and I can just remember our neighbour inhaling a deep gasp of breath and exhaling with, not tonight please.  The smashing of the glass made me feel sick inside as I had no idea what was going to happen next.  I sat on the settee next to my neighbour when a knock at the front door stopped everything.  A voice said, it’s me, and instantly I recognised it to be the man from the flat above us.  My ex said, what do you want, I’ve brought your DVDs back man.  I squinted and looked at the clock on the wall in front me of me, it was 2.30am.

He opened the door and in cam the man from upstairs, he pushed some DVDs into my ex’s arms and proceeded to walk over to the settee where he squeezed next to me and the neighbour, whose flat we were at.

My instant reaction was oh ffs why have you sat next to me, now I’m going to have to face the consequences.  I felt him tap me in my ribs but neither of us made eye contact and out of the corner of his mouth he whispered, I’ve only come to see if you are okay.  Tears stung my eyes as I slowly nodded.

Looking back, I think he only came to see if there were any physical injuries and as soon as he arrived he left.

I was so broken inside and out, I didn’t know how to ask for help, I just thought someone would come over to me and fix all my missing pieces.  He had brainwashed and manipulated me into believing it was all my fault and if I did tell anyone they wouldn’t believe me.  So I didn’t tell anyone.

Years after I had left him, it was a nice sunny day, I had my bedroom window open when I heard someone shouting, help he’s going to kill me.  For a few moments I froze but then I reached for my mobile phone from my back pocked at I dialled 999.

I spoke to male officer and I started the conversation with, I didn’t want to give my name for safety reasons and proceeded to tell him what I had heard.  When I had finished the call, reality struck, years ago that was me but the only difference was everyone stood by and watched when it was happening to me.

I started to shake and panic so I went for a walk to clear my head, I couldn’t sop thinking about what I had heard, what had happened and what could have been.  As I walked back down the road back home, I saw an ambulance outside the house I had heard the screaming coming from.  I felt sick, I felt angry and upset but deep down I knew I did the right thing.

I didn’t get involved, I reported the incident anonymously and I didn’t stand by but I did help save a life.