I Saw My Neighbor Hit His Wife

What should I have done?

Shefali O'Hara


Photo by Sneha Sivarajan on Unsplash

I was in my front garden, hidden by my roses. I was caring for my plants.

It was a peaceful, sunny morning. The birds had been singing, and I’d spotted a tiny butterfly playing in the perennials.

The peace was broken by shouts.

My neighbors across the street were yelling at each other. I paused for a second. I’d never heard them do that before. I glanced in their direction.

I saw him hit her.

I heard the sound of it. I heard her yelp of pain, the beginning of a sob. Then the door slammed as she ran into the house.

He walked to sit on the couch in his garage. He looked at his cell phone.

I was glad he couldn’t see me.

What should I do? I wasn’t sure.

If he had been beating her up, I would have called the police. I’d done that before. No hesitation.

But this was a one-time occurrence. And I didn’t know them.

If I offered to help her, would she accept?

One of my neighbors had recently divorced her husband. He used to beat her. My husband and I didn’t know about it for years. Finally, one day, the dam burst and she showed up crying. We were in shock.

I asked her if she wanted to spend the night. I asked her if she wanted me to call the police for her.

She refused strongly.

If I had called the police on her husband, she would have ended our friendship. She would not have testified against him. She would have denied it. And he would have beat her up for talking to us, I believe.

There may be cultural factors involved.

Both she and the woman who was slapped today are Muslim. Like my parents and many Asians, they come from shame based cultures. To admit that there are marital problems causes shame.

This is not to target these cultures or Muslims, but an attempt to understand how I could help this woman in an effective way. Culture plays a role in knowing how to help someone.

Because let’s be real — every culture, every religion, every tribe has domestic



Shefali O'Hara

Cancer survivor, writer, engineer. BSEE from MIT, MSEE, and MA in history. Love nature, animals, books, art, and interesting discussions.