[TRIGGER WARNING: DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, POLICE BRUTALITY]
Early Saturday morning, I became one of the many people in the U.S. who will witness either or both a domestic violence situation and/or police fuckery. I am still feeling incredibly troubled by what I saw, and "troubled" is really an understatement. I can't accurately describe this awful feeling in my gut. I honestly think this experience might have been traumatizing. Not exaggerating.
I wrote down every detail I can remember from the night. Buckle up.
Saturday morning, around 2 am, I was startled out of a dead sleep by the sound of a woman screaming “help” at the top of her lungs. It took a second to figure out that I was not dreaming, and at the same time my significant other woke and said “did you hear that?” We scrambled out of bed and threw pajamas on. I ran out into the apartment parking lot (we live in an outside-access apartment building) to try and find the source of the screaming, but it had gone quiet. I’ll never forget the feeling of panic and horror, wondering if a woman was being murdered or already dead while I stood frozen in place. I was disoriented from sleep and the sound had come through our open bedroom window. I had no way to determine which apartment it came from.
My SO ran down the length of the building and finally heard commotion coming from a couple apartments down from ours. That’s how loud the screaming was. They were inside a couple apartments down and it woke us both up from dead sleep at 2 am. My SO ran to call the police. He wasn’t the only one to do so, but still, a mistake, and my mistake for not stopping him.
Probably less than a minute later, a man comes out of the apartment from where the screaming originated, soon followed by a very angry and upset woman yelling at him. She was wearing a pretty revealing negligee or nighty or whatever you call it, no real pants. The man repeatedly apologized to us and other bystanders who had gathered outside at this point, and appeared to try and calm her down. There was arguing, she was demanding her phone from him and he claimed not to have it, she demanded her purse from him and he said it was inside.
It took 5-10 minutes for the police to arrive from the point my SO called. I now know that the man called the police before they went outside, perhaps before my SO called. Other people called, too. I heard no sirens, but three cops walked up into the parking lot from the apartment complex entrance. They approached the couple and the woman turned and stormed back toward her apartment. The cops placed their hands on their holstered guns and demanded she sit on the ground. I don’t know what exactly they were afraid of from this small woman in negligee. She could not have hid a weapon on that outfit.
She sat on the ground as ordered. The cops spent maybe five minutes talking to each individual separately. And I don’t mean five minutes each, but total. After this, they approached the woman, forced her hands behind her back and handcuffed her. She started sobbing and saying “I’m sorry” and when they tried to lift her up, I heard her say “wait, wait, I have a bad hip.”
At this point, my apartment manager, whom I fucking love, yelled loudly out of his window: “What are you doing??” followed by something I can’t remember precisely, but the message was “you’re arresting HER and not HIM??” My SO shouted at the woman to say nothing and get a lawyer. A cop started to ask her a question and my SO interrupted, repeating the advice. I tell my SO to get out his camera and film, and he does. Then another man approaches, also angry and shouting at the cops, saying that he lives in a separate building in the complex but could still hear the woman scream.
Through all the chaos, I notice the cops leading the woman away. Their cars are out of sight and I start to feel panicky, and I follow, even though I’m terrified because cops scare me and guns scare me and these cops putting their hands on their guns in a very obviously threatening manner. All I can think is that this woman only has a revealing negligee on and cops are taking her out of sight, and I know what cops do to women. My SO yells at me to come back because he’s terrified for my safety, and I hesitate, and I don’t know what the fuck to do. There’s still yelling going on.
I wish I had had the presence of mind to demand she be given clothing, or to take off the zip-up hoodie I had grabbed for myself and offer it to this woman. Fuck, I wish I would have offered her my pants. I wasn’t wearing underwear, but the cops can look at my bare ass and hairy cooch for all I care. But I don’t, I’m stunned and paralyzed and I turn back at my SO’s urging. At this point I’m crying. My apartment manager has come out to talk to the cops even though he did not want to, another cop is talking to the guy from the other building.
I don’t know how much time passed during all of this. At some point the cop who led the woman away, who was also a woman, approaches us, and I ask, crying, if the arrested woman was given a jacket or something. She doesn’t respond, instead turning her attention to my SO, who is starting to rant but also clearly afraid. I ask again if the woman was given a jacket or something because she was hardly wearing anything, my voice shaking and strained from trying not to break down sobbing, and I don’t remember exactly what she said, but it was basically “yeah, she’ll be given something,” which if you pay attention is a “no” to my actual question.
She may have told us to go inside at this point, and we refused, it’s hard to remember because I was so beyond upset. The cop then left us and we stayed outside for a while longer. I wanted to out of concern for my apartment manager, who was still talking to the cops. The man who was the other half of the domestic violence call is still outside, still free. My SO and I are talking about how fucked up it all is, and he’s like staring at us and starts saying something to us from a distance. My SO accurately responds that he’s not even listening to what the guy is saying and starts ranting about how fucked up the police are again (rightly). This is when I finally go inside. My SO soon follows as I’m shakily trying to drink some water. At one point I wonder aloud if anyone got names and badge numbers, and my SO volunteers to do so, a little too enthusiastically, and I get cold feet and tell him not to, because I am afraid he’ll be arrested or worse.
I felt so powerless and was still terrified for the woman who was arrested. Somehow we landed on the idea of bringing her clothes because we didn’t trust the cops to give her any. We actually drove in the middle of the night to the local jail, only to be told that she had been booked at the county jail. I still don’t know why.
We returned home and I crawled into bed, not because I thought I could sleep but because I felt a powerful urge to huddle under the covers. I stared into space for I don’t know how long, going over and over the whole thing in my head, as my SO paced the apartment. I finally fell into a fitful sleep, got up a couple hours later, and went to work.
My SO drove me to work, actually, and on the way there, I got a call from the Bothell Police Department. I had practically forgotten that in my shocked, angry, horrified state in the middle of the night I had filed a complaint online about the whole incident, which unfortunately requires giving them a lot of information about yourself, and they actually called me about it. That was when I learned that they arrested her on domestic violence charges, finding her to be the “primary instigator” of the violence. My SO later learned that they did this because the man called the police, dispatch heard the woman yelling over the phone, and the man had blood on his pants when the police arrived. The police claimed they had no choice but to arrest her because of this. She will be there until she can see a judge on Monday.
I asked the guy who called me about them not letting her put on clothes before or after arresting her, and he said she “would have” been given some at the county jail. When exactly this “would have” happened, I don’t know.
Like I said before, I am completely fucked up over this. I’ll never forget the horror and panic of being woken up by screams for help and not knowing if something terrible is happening to someone, and not knowing where to find them. I’ll never get over seeing police arrest the one who screamed for help and hauling her off in fucking negligee, having heard many horror stories of cops sexually assaulting/raping detained women. I hate how scared and paralyzed I felt. I hate that there are these people who get to run around and make bad situations a thousand times worse and we’re supposed to be grateful for it.
I don’t know what happened between this couple last night before I was yanked out of sleep by a scream for help. I know a woman screamed for help, and that same woman was arrested while the man walked free. I know cops spent barely any time at all talking to the pair before deciding to arrest a woman in negligee without letting her dress. I know they treated her and the rest of us as hostile, and at times like a threat. I knew I was afraid for the woman and for my and my SO’s safety. I know I feel traumatized by what happened. I know others have witnessed so much worse, without whiteness to protect them.
We are going to keep following up with police and demanding answers. On Monday, my day off, I’m going to contact my city council, my mayor, and I am going to keep asking why a woman was hauled off in a police car in negligee, without pants, without shoes, after five minutes of gathering information. I am going to keep asking why the cops had to threaten to shoot a small woman in nothing but negligee and make me feel afraid for my safety. The cops kept talking about our and their safety, but I have never felt so unsafe. There was no threat to the police from a woman in negligee and a couple sleep-addled people in pajamas.
Today, I plan to go down to the police department and file a formal complaint about how the police handled this. I'm also going to be writing to my city council and the Mayor of Bothell asking why this is acceptable police procedure and why there was not a domestic violence advocate there with them. We'll also be calling to find out the results of the young woman's arraignment, and offering ourselves to her as witnesses.
It's one thing to write about this kind of shit every goddamn weekday. It's quite another to be woken up by it at two in the morning and then have it play out before my very eyes. I can't imagine how traumatizing it must be to witness much worse police conduct, including murder.
This is all cops do anymore. They don't protect and serve. They come, they make things worse, they threaten, they harm, they traumatize. I hate that there are just these people out there among us who get to terrorize us and make us miserable and if we don't totally roll over and take it, we're liable to end up in jail or dead. That's the reality of it. Even if the police used to be better, this was always how they were going to end up. The police as an institution needs to be abolished. Nothing less is acceptable.