Stephen Kahn

A meditation on violence (part 1)

In Uncategorized on July 6, 2011 at 3:37 am

About 40 years ago, there was a frantic pounding on one of our two front doors late one night. (As we lived on a corner, we had two front doors.) I opened one of the doors and encountered a sobbing, screaming, hysterical woman, who fell into our house more than she entered it. Amidst all her hysteria (probably the worst I have ever encountered), I managed to decipher that her brother-in-law had beaten her up. My wife appeared, followed by our (then) four-year-old daughter.

As my wife tried to calm down the woman, who indeed did have bruises on her face, and who was sobbing, throwing herself on the floor, and occasionally screaming, I called 911 and asked for ambulance and police (actually Sheriff’s Department in the then unincorporated area north of Seattle known as “Shoreline”). As we awaited for them to arrive, put a blanket around the sobbing woman and offered her some tea to drink, and tried to convince our curious child to go back to bed, I heard some furious pounding on our other front door.

Thinking this was the villain pursuing his victim, I refused to open the door. A man called, “I need help! A man attacked my friend with a knife.” No you don’t [need me to open the door] I thought. Through the locked door I called, “You will have wait. The Sheriff is on the way.”

Eventually an ambulance and a Sheriff’s car arrived, each vehicle bearing two people. The aid workers checked the woman for vital signs and began to put her on a stretcher. The deputies briefly questioned her. She lived in a house about four or five houses up the street from our rental house, one of those houses where an odd assortment of young people (who may or may not be related to each other in any formal way such as blood or marriage) lived together.

The deputies asked whether her husband was involved in the assault. In an unconvincing way, she sobbed that her husband had been present but had not participated in the assault.

As the ambulance attendants carried her out to the aid vehicle, the deputies told us that they were well acquainted with the alleged perpetrator, indicating he was a well known criminal in the area. “If we don’t catch him tonight, it will only be a few days before we pick him up,” they assured us.

The deputies went out to check on the outside victims, one of whom was also being transported to the hospital in the ambulance. We got a bit of the story from the other person, who fortunately was uninjured.

After I had let the woman in the house, two servicemen (not in uniform) driving down the street observed the perp pursuing her toward our house. They stopped to see what was going on. When the driver asked the perp why he was chasing the woman, he responded by slashing the driver in the face with a knife. Fortunately, while there was a lot of blood, the attacker missed his eyes and other vital parts.

[to be continued]

  1. On the one hand, my policy of never answering the door is looking better and better, but that doesn’t diminish my curiosity as to what happened next.

  2. Sometimes it doesn’t matter whether you answer the door or not. Once, while we lived in Portland, while I was sitting peacefully in our study, a van (left parked up the “hill”–our front lawn which sloped down–rolled through the wall and into our house).

    Where we live now in the woods (a mile from the ocean) my wife and I keep a “fish bonker” hanging from a hook by the front door. In the unlikely event a rabid fish or crab from Puget Sound (or even a scumbag human as in the true tale I related) tries to enter, I will club it. Perhaps that is why I work out at the gym every other day.

  3. I’m with David on the ‘never answer the door’ policy.

    And thank god for mobile phones because at least now, people who have been attacked don’t need to pound on the door of their neighbour’s house to use the phone to call the police.

  4. Mobile phones are a indeed a benefit to our safety, except ….

    1. If (like us) there is no working mobile phone servicewhere we live and we are too stuck in elderly mud to change our provider to another provider who might get bought out tomorrow.

    2. If your attacker lives in the same abode with you, and is beating you with your mobile phone. (Or, if you are living in Las Vegas–a nonstarter right there–beating you with your crutches. )

    3. Or if the police arrive and start beating you.

    In fairness, I confess that while I have on occasion been stopped and warned and occasionally cited, neither I nor the officer involved have ever assaulted each other or even spoken harshly to each other.

    Though, in a fairness footnote, I confess that when my wife and I were both less than twenty years old, and were parked in our car, and were (ahem…) courting, shall I say, a police officer pounded on the roof of our vehicle with his flashlight.

    Perhaps that was applause…yes, that was it… That was long before mobile phones, anyway.

  5. This is certainly a shocking story. I tend not to answer the door unless I know the person who is knocking. However, I have not expereinced a sobbing, hysterical woman knocking at my door. I am not sure how I would handle that. I imagine I would call the police.

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