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Should neighbors watch for abuse?


amny Credit: dnainfo/Ben Fractenberg

What do you do when you hear the screams down the hall?

The brutal murder of 23-year-old Sarah Coit on the Lower East Side, allegedly by her boyfriend, has refocused the public conversation about how apartment dwellers should respond to the curse heard behind the closed door, the grab glimpsed at the mailbox or the ultimatum overheard in the elevator.

Indeed, life in this cramped metropolis makes us oddly privy to fragments of intimate violence, but the urban reluctance to get involved can be hard to overcome.

On Sunday, neighbors called 911 after hearing Coit’s screams as she argued with her boyfriend, Raul Barrera, 33, but neighbors had reportedly heard arguments before the fatal night.

Coit’s death is a reminder that it is our collective duty to look out for each other and hold each other accountable for how we treat others, domestic-violence experts said.

Almost 42 percent of female murder victims 16 and older in New York City were killed by an intimate partner in 2009, according to state data.

“It’s very rare for the homicide to be the first thing that happens,” said Amy Barasch, executive director of the New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence.

For neighbors, knowing what to do requires care. Calling 911 is obvious if someone seems to be in immediate danger. In murkier situations, though, experts advise talking to the person you suspect is being victimized.

Also, have something to offer: Ascertain if the victim has a trustworthy confidant and provide a hotline number, suggested Su Lim, a Los Angeles psychotherapist with domestic-violence expertise.

Experts differ over when to confront an abuser, but Lim said it may be appropriate to say, “ ‘I heard a lot of shouting and noise coming from your apartment.’ That lets him know he’s being watched.”

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