Why Do We Close the Door on Domestic Violence?

By Jessen, Rebecca | Hecate, May-November 2015 | Go to article overview

Why Do We Close the Door on Domestic Violence?


Jessen, Rebecca, Hecate


It's a Monday evening, the sky is gracefully passing through its twilight phase and I've spent the last hour in the kitchen, baking melting moments. My girlfriend comes out of the study, exhausted from marking, just as I'm taking the cookies out of the oven.

'Gilmore hour?' she says with a question mark, but it's more of a suggestion.

'Definitely,' I reply.

We settle on to the couch for our nightly pre-dinner ritual; a Gilmore Girls re-run. We are nearing the end of the last season. We don't talk about how we will fill this hour when the series finishes.

Five, maybe ten minutes into the episode, we hear shouting coming from outside the house. We look at each other, shrug and continue watching. The shouting continues, gets louder, closer. My girlfriend pauses the episode and we can hear better now. A man is shouting, and then, a woman. My girlfriend walks to the front door and opens it.

'Don't go out there,' I call after her.

As she opens the door, we see a young man and woman--presumably a couple--walking past our house. The man looks in our direction, briefly. None of their words make sense to us, looking in on their life.

'Corey has gone home,' the man shouts.

'Just leave me alone,' the woman replies.

They carry on like this, back and forth, walking down the middle of our street. Soon they have passed our house, and my girlfriend walks further out on to the front deck. I remain inside the house, in the hallway, leaning against the bedroom door. I can still hear the couple.

'Oh no, he's hitting her,' my girlfriend says, 'can you call the police?'

'Can't you?' I reply. She fumbles in her pocket for her phone. I don't move. I realise my whole body is shaking.

After a pause, I hear my girlfriend talking to the police. I watch her venture further out on the deck. The couple's shouting echoes back through the quiet street.

'A young couple having a domestic in our street,' my girlfriend says. 'Verbal and physical. It's too dark to tell. He's wearing a white shirt, I think. They've left our street now, walking down Hume.'

I move away from the bedroom and stand at the front door, motioning to my girlfriend to come back inside. I want to close the door. I want to feel safe, even though I know the couple have left. They are walking down another street now, into the night and away from our lives. I don't know if that woman is safe, if the police can or will do anything. If they will even find them.

In these moments, I feel ashamed at my response. I didn't want to open the door and put a face to the shouting voices. I didn't want to be forced back to that place. I admire my girlfriend, I know it is the right thing to do, but I keep thinking what if we hadn't paused the TV? …

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