911 Won’t Make You Safe

A woman I’m friendly with is in the process of breaking up with her longtime, on-again/off-again boyfriend. I say “in the process” because they’ve already had The Talk; he knows it’s over, and she’s packing up her things to head back home in another state.

The other night, after spending several hours at a bar with his buddy, Soon-to-Be-Ex came home drunk and threatened my friend with a knife. She responded by backing slowly into a corner of the room where the phone was, ready to call 911. Fortunately, seeing just how terrified he had made her was enough for him. He put the knife down and left the house.

I listened quietly as she told me all this. Then, my concern for her got the better of me, and I blurted out, “You were gonna call 911 when he was threatening to cut your throat?? Why didn’t you run??”

Confused, she reiterated, “But I was going to call the police!”

I told her that, in that kind of emergency, she needs to get away from her attacker first. Then call for help. If he had followed through on his threat, 911 would have heard the entire, horrible scene play out. The operator would have immediately dispatched police and EMTs to the address. But he/she could do nothing to physically stop him from hurting, possibly killing, her.

If you ever find yourself in a domestic violence or abusive situation, don’t back yourself up against a wall, furniture, or anything else. You must be free to move in any direction to escape injury and get away.

Know where your exits are. Is the doorway leading to the hall, the stairs, and the front door on your right? Your left? Behind you? Keep yourself oriented. Is there a window with a screen you can kick out?

Also, think about what’s right there for you to use as a shield or weapon. A tall vase can block a slashing knife. One woman threw a small lamp at a decorative mirror, then grabbed a shard of glass and cut her attacker with it. (He fled.)

Yes, calling 911 is the right thing to do when you’re in a dangerous situation. The police will get there as fast as they can. But there’s no guarantee they’ll arrive in time to stop the attacker from injuring or killing you. Sometimes, you’ve got to get yourself away from the danger so they can help you.

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