Another Side to D.C.

door_number“Heeelll No! What, what are you doing standing outside my door?” demands a woman to my husband. He’s innocently standing in the hall of our hotel waiting for me to grab my coat and join him.

“Uh, waiting for my wife.”

“Sorry,” I say flashing a smile as we walk by.

“It’s okay, you can’t be too careful in D.C.”

I thought the woman’s comment was odd, considering we were staying at an upscale suite style hotel. We could only afford it because of an amazing online deal I’d found.

The next day I noticed the same woman waiting in the hall while the housekeeper cleaned her room. However, I was too busy trying to get the housekeeper’s attention to beg for more coffee packets and wasn’t really paying attention.

I wish I had.

“HELP! AHHHH!!! AHHHHH!!!!”

“Bitch, get back in here!”

More screaming ensues across the hall.

I look at my husband. We’re about ready to leave our room for the evening. He goes to the door, peers through the keyhole at the open door across from ours.

“What should we do?” I ask. I know I should do something, but my brain has stopped functioning.

Andrew calls the front desk and reports the incident.

“AHHHH!!AHHH!!!!”

Andrew returns to the peep hole to see the woman trying to leave but being forcibly pushed back inside by the man and beaten HARD and repeatedly. Hotel security does not seem to be coming.

At this point we call the D.C. police.

We wait a few more minutes and it seems to quiet down and we head downstairs, stopping at the desk to see if they were able to help with the situation.

“Oh yes, sir, we’ve put a stop to it,” the man at the front desk assures us.

I don’t like it. “Put a stop to it?” What does that mean- told them to knock it off because they were annoying the other guests? Chased the man off? What about the woman? What about helping her?

As we leave the hotel we see the woman standing by the street in her pajamas, looking scared. Just then the police pull up. I’m not sure the hotel staff would have been pleased to have known we called. I hope the woman has enough courage to turn that jerk in, but I doubt it.

As we walk to the metro the pieces begin to fall into place. Her waiting outside the hotel room until it was cleaned and then going back in, being scared of meeting a random man in the hall (my husband), the abuse she faced. I can’t know for certain, but if she is caught in a cycle she can’t escape, it’s possibly related to the sex trade. It’s Washington D.C., a major metropolitan hub and our hotel is right by many of the embassies. I don’t think I’m making a stretch. D.C. even has a Human Traffic Task Force in the police department the problem is so rampant in the city.

We think this occurs only in “massage” parlors or seedy hotels, but women and girls around the world are caught up in this all the time. According to U.S. Department of Justice between 14,500 and 17,500 individuals are trafficked for either sex or forced labor into the U.S. each year; and I think those figures are remarkably low. It’s probably much higher; but how can you effectively measure something so covert?

Like me, we walk by and don’t connect the dots. I’m so glad we called the police. I don’t know what happened. I don’t know if it helped; but we gave her a chance. I will never again be that person who doesn’t seek action. Would you have called or let the incident go by without responding?

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2 thoughts on “Another Side to D.C.

  1. I have called the police several times over offenses like this…for some reason I have been in the ‘right place’ at the ‘right time’ or rather the ‘wrong place’…The first time it was at a just-above-poverty-line apartment I lived in during college. I called the police three times in order to re-iterate the severity of the beatings, finally after the third time they rushed over and removed the man from the apt. for the evening, as suspected she didn’t press charges but the police did come to my apt. afterward to explain what had happened and what they could do for her (very helpful, trustworthy and professional way of handling a very difficult and touchy issue).

    Interestingly enough, another time i called it was a woman beating up a man-her husband….another issue for feminists to address……

    Thanks for sharing –
    Julia D. Matallana
    Assistant Pastor
    Free Methodist Church of Santa Barbara

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