When I was in the second grade, there was a guy who lived in the apartment next to ours. His name was Anthony, and he always had different women in and out of his unit. Some were white, some black, and all of them were usually dressed rather provocatively. Initially, I assumed that Anthony was just a young, single man who was enjoying his life and taking advantage of his ability to juggle multiple girlfriends. I also thought he must have been really cool to have all those beautiful women coming to his place all the time. But not long after, it became clear to me that he was a pimp, and the women who visited to his place regularly were his whores coming to hand in the money they’d made turning tricks for him.
One night my sister and I heard Anthony talking to a woman in his place, and since the walls in those lousy apartments were unbelievably thin, we could hear every word clearly as if we were sitting in the same room with them. It began with him asking the woman where his money was. Next was the sound of the woman’s voice explaining that the day had been a slow one for her, and that she didn’t have much to give him. Almost immediately Anthony yelled, “B---h, that’s all you got for me? I know you can do better than this! You better get your a-- back out there and get me some more money!” That was soon followed by the sound of what must have been slaps, the woman’s screams, cries, and the words “Anthony please! I’m gonna get you your money!” My sister and I couldn’t believe what we’d just heard. We just sat there with our mouths open in complete surprise. It was just like those 1970’s movies we’d seen where there were hookers getting slapped around by their pimps for being short with their earnings for the night.
Now as an adult (and a domestic violence worker) I know that what was happening right next door to us was a horrible thing. But back then I didn’t realize just how horrific of an event it was that I was witnessing. I blame it on the fact that I was so young at the time, combined with the fact that pimping had been introduced to me in the form of blacksploitation movies that were meant to be entertaining. At the time I was young and ignorant, and I thought it was funny. It's a lot like how kids record fight videos on their phones these days then post them on social media, and the comments section gets filled with a bunch of lols and laugh emojis instead of concern & sympathy for the person who got beat up. But I digress...
Once Anthony was finished beating the woman, my sister and I laughed about it. She and I made mean faces, pretended to hit each other, and mocked “Where’s my money at? Gimmie my money!” After that day whenever we would see him leaving his apartment or coming home from a long day of god-only-knows-what, we’d try our hardest not to laugh as he walked by. Then once he’d pass, she and I would smile at each other behind his back and mouth the words “gimmie my money”.
Night after night, Anthony and his hookers continued to provide entertainment for my sister and I. It became a regular thing for us in fact. I would even go as far as saying we actually looked forward to seeing which hooker would show up, what they would talk about, if she would have all of Anthony’s money, and whether or not said hooker would make it out of the apartment without getting her butt kicked. Our bunk beds were pushed against the thin wall that gave us a front row seat to eavesdrop on the drama. We’d lie in bed listening to the arguments, the pimp interrogating the woman, the woman’s explanations on why her money was short, the fights. We’d even make comments to each other about it, almost as if we were watching television together.
Now that I'm grown, there are things that come to mind that never crossed my mind as a second grader. Like why didn't our mom report it when we told her we heard him beating women in his apartment? Why didn't one of us pick up the phone and report it ourselves? How come the downstairs neighbors didn't call the cops (because I know my sister and I couldn't have been the only people in the building who heard the fighting night after night). I think the answer to all those questions is because when it comes to domestic violence, a lot of us can be such cowards. People often turn a blind eye to it because they're scared to get involved. Some feel like it's none of their business, and others think it's pointless to intervene because abuse victims often go back to their abusers. Whatever the case may be, I think people should at least report it if they know someone is being abused. We can assume that the victims don't want our help... but what if they do?