Have you ever had a problem with your next door neighbor? If you are like most people, you probably have encountered some relatively minor issues with your neighbors. Whether it is a barking dog, playing music too loudly, or failing to maintain their yard, these are small problems that are usually resolved by calmly communicating with one another. Neighbors don’t often allow these small issues to become a big deal, as you do have to co-exist and live next door to each other.
Sometimes, though, the issues are too big to ignore or resolve on your own. Take, for example, the issue of child abuse. You hear your neighbor in their backyard yelling profanity at their three-year-old and then see her repeatedly whipping him with a belt while he helplessly screams. Perhaps there is domestic abuse occurring where you have heard and/or seen the husband degrading his wife, throwing things at her, and assaulting her. Maybe she has even confided in you or you’ve seen her visible injuries.
Even worse, what if you know that your neighbor owns a gun, but has been posting suicidal or homicidal thoughts on social media? I know these are extreme examples, but these things happen more than you might realize. It’s important to know what to do. Here are some tips:
- Don’t say anything in person unless you are very close friends. Even then, evaluate the situation for your own safety and tread lightly.
- Trust your gut. If something seems really off and you just think it’s not right, you are probably right. Don’t allow yourself to minimize or fall into the trap of denial.
- If and when you report anything to the authorities, try to do so anonymously. Be prepared, however, that there is a good chance your neighbors will either know or at least suspect that it was you. Be ready for that and have a safety plan.
Children are often voiceless and cannot seek help for themselves. If you know of or suspect that any child abuse is taking place, please report it. Even if your neighbors get upset with you, you cannot just ignore it and allow a child to be hurt. You will survive your neighbors being angry. The child might not survive without help.
The same is true of domestic violence. The victim becomes child-like in their inability or apprehension to take action against their perpetrator. Often, they are dependent on this person, isolated from others, and even brainwashed to believe it was their fault. They need a voice to help protect them. Always call 911 if you believe domestic violence or child abuse is happening.
Your personal safety is of the utmost importance. Current laws frequently allow guns into the hands of the mentally ill. They might be waving it around in a manic state, and the police might not even do anything about it. However; you should still always notify the police. This way, at least it is on the record that this person owns a gun and has had complaints about his mental status. They have been informed, so if there ever is an actual incident that they are responding to, the information is there. Unfortunately, the laws often don’t allow for action before a law has been broken.
There is an important exception to that. When someone is an imminent danger to himself or others, even if no laws have been broken, some action can be taken. The police, doctors, and mental health professionals can place someone who is a threat to self or others on a 72 hour hold. The police can also remove any weapons from their possession.
Basically, this is designed to allow time for a psychiatric evaluation. After that, it can sometimes be extended, but not indefinitely. Often, patients who ought to be hospitalized or treated are not, sometimes simply because there is a shortage of beds available in mental health facilities. Sometimes, the brief hold initiates getting help. Other times, people are released and just go back to doing the same thing over and over again.
It can be tough to get involved when the problems are happening right next door. Always have a safety plan and try to do the right thing. Once you’ve reported a situation to the appropriate authorities, there isn’t a whole lot more that you can do.