The apartments were in the low-income part of town.
Open-air parking garages sat below the apartments, full of delapidated cars, boxes, cans, plastic bags, and debris. In one corner, an umber skid mark led to a discarded diaper, partially stuck to the cement wall.
It was dark.
My partner and I used our flashlights to creep past long shadows and children’s toys abandoned on the walkway. We found the stairs and ascended toward apartment 2B.
We’d been there twice before in the last month, for domestic disturbance calls. The young couple inside fought often, and when the screaming began and plates crashed, their neighbors called 9–1–1.
We learned from previous incidents that the husband had a drinking problem and was cheating on his wife. She wanted to leave the marriage but had no job and an infant daughter to care for. We discussed options and put her in touch with the county women’s crisis support.
And yet here we were again.
When I pounded on the door, faded paint flakes shook loose from the frame and cascaded like tears to the stained welcome mat below. It was as if the apartment mourned the sad affairs happening inside.
She came to the door, mascara running down her cheeks and her infant daughter cradled over her hip. “He’s drunk again, and he’s still seeing that bitch,” she said.
We came inside, separated them, and looked for any evidence of violence. Domestic violence laws evolved in California, and we were trained to arrest the “primary aggressor” to stop the cycle of violence. Absent evidence of an assault, our options were limited to keeping the peace and offering advice and professional referrals.
She told me that she met with a women’s crisis support representative after their last incident. She learned about halfway houses, career training, and other resources. But then she told me she couldn’t leave him.
“Why not?” I asked her.
“Because I need him,” she said.