Sense & Sensitivity

Couple's Fights Worry Next-Door Neighbor

DEAR HARRIETTE: My next-door neighbors have a volatile relationship. I often hear them arguing late at night. Sometimes it sounds like it gets violent, too. I am so worried for them, but I’m not quite sure what to do. We live in an apartment building with fairly thin walls, which is why I can hear so much. I wonder if I should knock on their door when the arguments escalate. Or should I call the police? I hesitate to do that as I don’t want to get anybody in trouble. I go back and forth; I would be sick if either of them got hurt and I could have helped to prevent it. What do you recommend? -- Violent Neighbors, Seattle

DEAR VIOLENT NEIGHBORS: The worst thing you can do is be a silent bystander and allow your neighbors’ violent behavior to go unchecked. You can call their house phone, if they have one, when you hear things escalating. Sometimes the phone can work as a distraction to stop the fight from growing. You can knock on the door to ask if they need help. You should not go in. If they are in the midst of a fight, your presence will only make things worse. You should call the police. As conflicted as you may feel, this is the safest course of action. You are not equipped to handle any repercussions that come from approaching the abuser. The person may turn on you or make it harder on the victim. Ask for professional help. For more ideas, go to:

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