How Witnessing Domestic Violence Taught Me How Truly Common It Is

Abusive relationships are more common than we realize.

sad woman in bed Stokkete / Shutterstock

Domestic violence is real. We all hear the stories and see the pictures. 

But how many of us stop and think about how the things we see and hear in our everyday lives could be domestic violence? How many of us can fathom what happens in these traumatic situations?

I myself didn’t fully understand domestic violence until last October, on a day that I’ll remember forever.

RELATED: 11 Signs Of Emotional Abuse In Relationships — And How Abusers Try Using Them Against You If You Leave


In October, I turned 30, and to celebrate, I headed to Atlantic City.

After checking into our hotel, my friends and I went to the famous Boardwalk, shopped, ate dinner, and then returned to our hotel room. I enjoyed a macchiato and edited some of my photographs when I heard a loud thud like something fell to the floor.

However, the sound seemed to come from the room above mine. I ignored the noise at first, thinking that it was just someone who clumsily knocked into the lamp while putting their luggage down. 

A few seconds later, though, I heard a similar sound — and a scream. This time, I stopped what I was doing and listened to what was going on.


I heard yet another thud and an even louder scream, which seemed like it was coming from a woman.

At first, I couldn’t make out what the woman said, but it sounded like she was crying in agony. Then, I heard a man’s voice, sternly telling her to get up off the floor. I felt unsure of what I should do.

The people above me were quiet for a few minutes before I heard glass breaking and more screaming. This time, when the woman screamed, I could hear exactly what she said.

She was telling the man to stop hurting her and yelling that she was sorry. But he didn’t respond well to her apologies.

The man kept yelling derogatory words at the hurt woman, and she kept screaming out and crying. The screaming got louder and louder until it seemed like the man and woman were right in front of me.


It was clear that this was a domestic violence situation. 

RELATED: If You Feel Any Of These 8 Things, It May Be Silent Domestic Abuse

As I helplessly listened, my hands shook. I didn’t know what to do. It was hard to ignore what I heard, but there was no way that I could help this woman.

My friends suggested that I call security so that the woman could get the help she needed. But as I spoke on the phone, the woman screamed so loudly that hotel security hastily sent someone over.

I heard a man saying something I couldn’t quite make out and the sound of the door closing.

Then, everything stopped. No one screamed. Nothing thudded. No glass broke. At least for me, everything felt peaceful, but I had no idea what happened to the woman upstairs. 


In the United States alone, more than 12 million women per year survive domestic violence. One in 4 women are victims of severe domestic violence, and women ages 18 to 34 face domestic violence at the highest rates. It’s clear that domestic violence is not a joke

I don’t know what happened to that woman, and I never will. The only thing I know is that she is one of the 12 million yearly domestic violence survivors.

So, to the woman in the hotel room above me, I hope that you’re okay.

I hope that you were strong enough to walk away from the abuse you endured because no matter what, you don’t deserve violence.

And to the man who continuously hurt that woman that night, you are not a man.


Any man who lays their hands on a woman is a coward and doesn’t deserve a woman’s love. 

If you or someone you know is a domestic violence survivor, please reach out for help. You never deserved the abuse you faced — you deserve love, peace, and happiness.

Please call the National Domestic Abuse Hotline any time of day at 1−800−799−7233. Local organizations in your area, like Women Against Abuse in Philadelphia or Connections For Abused Women and Children in Chicago, as well as RAINN, are available to help you online or in person.

RELATED: Luckily, I Had This To Help Me Leave My Abuser —But Most Women Don't

Gina Matarazzo is a writer who focuses on relationships, dating, and health and wellness. For more of her relationship content, visit her author profile on Unwritten.