By now we’ve all heard stories of or seen videos of a “Karen”. A self-entitled person that needlessly involves themselves in the personal business of others when it’s not warranted. But what do you do when you are an average neighbor? One with reason to believe that others in your community are being abused, mistreated or assaulted behind closed doors?
The sad reality is domestic violence is still a reality for many people. As we near the end of the year, tensions rise, anxieties build and bad things can happen to people we care about. So, how can you make a difference without being a Karen?
Your first inclination may be to contact the police and demand a “wellness check”. In this scenario, a police officer (usually wearing a uniform) will attend the residence in question. They will assess for obvious injuries, areas of concern. However, this can be a dangerous route to start out on. If domestic violence is occurring, the attendance by police may escalate the abusive situation after the police have departed the area. Additionally, this may embarrass or interfere with the abused party’s plans to leave the situation or place the abused party in harm’s way.
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A much better route to take would be to contact your local police department. Ask if they have a domestic violence unit or resources for dealing with concerns of this nature. Most police departments will have trained staff to assist. They should be able to offer access to resources in the community such as counselling, guidance and protective services.
You might think that as the neighbor of the person you think is a victim of abuse, that you have a natural entitlement to directly contact your neighbors and offer advice or give the aggressor a piece of your mind…you don’t. In many cases this can cause an altercation, increase stress, embarrassment or guilt. It can even escalate the violence or abuse that may be occurring.
That’s not to say that you should have no contact with the suspected victim. But any contact should be done with maximum discretion, as an equal and in the least judgmental way possible. If you’re going to attempt such a contact, you should prepare the key information on a small piece of paper. One that the alleged victim can easily accept, hide and secure for a future time when they are not in immediate danger.
Not Your Job to Convince Them
Remember that it is not your right or duty to convince the alleged victim to trust in you or to force that person to leave the situation. In many cases, leaving a domestic violence scenario requires planning and consideration of what comes next. In some cases, it requires the collection of evidence to carry them or their legal position forward.
The best way to avoid being a “Karen” and to show that you truly care, is to provide blanket support. Let the person know that you are there to support them in whatever capacity they need you. That you will not judge them either way, and if they ever need you, you have resources. Like the contact information of a family lawyer. Then walk that walk. Simply letting the person know that you care about them and their safety (and/or the safety of any other impacted party) may be just what they’re looking for to help them move beyond the current predicament.
Some Warning Signs
Do you find the alleged victim is becoming more elusive or unavailable? It may be that the person is legitimately busy or they could be trying to hide an injury. Things like increased mail pile up when you know your neighbor is home can be a sign that something is amiss. Do you frequently hear lots of fighting or yelling? Lots of people argue, but if the volume and frequency are increasing, you may want to address the matter in a quiet and respectful manner.
Above all you must accept that the most reasonable expectation is that your neighbor or the abused party might consider or might act on the options you’ve provided. But at the end of the day the decision, the timing, and the willingness to change the situation is NOT in your control.
One last word of caution. While your intentions may be good and you may think you’re being helpful, in some situations the person that you’re trying to help may lash out, become violent or retaliate against the person that attempts to bring their issues to light. Be careful, considerate and prepared to step back (physically and emotionally) as needed. You can care, and not be a Karen. Thank you for reading.