You can use this Quick Question Guide to get started and to take snapshots along the way. This asks some questions to start getting a clear picture of the problem.
- What is going on?
- Who is getting harmed?
- What kind of harm?
- Who is doing the harm?
- What is the effect of this harm?
- Who knows about what’s going on?
- What other people or dynamics have helped or made things better?
- What other people or dynamics have been harmful or made things worse?
- Any other important things to know?
- Are there any important changes?
- What’s the next step?
example Snapshot using example story
This example is based on ‘I hear yelling in my apartment building. What is going on?’
For this exercise, the person telling the story has filled out the Quick Question Guide by themselves. They might also go through it with the two sets of neighbours who shared what they knew about what is going on with Marcos and Maria.
What is going on?
Marcos has lived in the building for a while. Some of us know him but not so well. Maria moved in about 6 years ago. Nobody we know in the building knows much about her. She speaks Spanish and very little English. From the yelling and the noise reported from different neighbours, we know that there is violence happening. It seems that this started in the last few months.
Who is getting harmed?
Maria seems to be the one getting harmed. And so is their daughter, although it is not clear if she is directly getting hit. Their daughter is being harmed by watching this happen and hearing the yelling and insults against her mother.
What kind of harm?
There are the kind of fights where there is at least the emotional abuse of yelling. Things are being thrown, which is physically threatening. We think this could mean that there is also physical abuse or at least something that could lead to physical abuse. The reference to the police makes us wonder if there is physical abuse, too. There is the kind of abuse where the mother is being insulted for not speaking English. There is harm against the daughter who must witness the yelling, insults and things being thrown around.
Who is doing the harm?
The main person doing harm seems to be Marcos.
What is the effect of this harm?
I don’t know this family well so I have to guess at some of the effect of this harm right now. I know that Maria is upset during the times that the yelling is happening. Their daughter is clearly crying and upset. I know that the effects of violence can go way beyond being upset during times of violence–it can cause a whole cycle of violence for this family.
As a neighbour, I feel upset that this family is experiencing violence. When I see Maria or their daughter, I think about the violence. I don’t think that Marcos is benefiting from his violence. I feel like my own sense of peace is violated by violence in our building.
Who knows about what’s going on?
So far, the next door neighbours who first talked about the yelling know. The people upstairs from Marcos and Maria know, and I know. I’m not sure who else knows.
What other people or dynamics have helped or made things better?
The neighbours who I talked to seemed at least concerned. Even though we were gossiping and not necessarily talking about doing anything about it yet, this could be positive. I don’t have a strong relationship with either Marcos or Maria but we have a friendly relationship. This could be a positive dynamic. Even though it looks like Marcos is being abusive to both his wife and at least indirectly to his daughter, he also appears to be a loving father, which is another positive dynamic. He has lived in the building a long time and probably would like to keep his home and keep a friendly relationship with his neighbours, which is another positive dynamic.
What other people or dynamics have been harmful or made things worse?
So far, we don’t know much about the situation and what might be negative. But the fact that Maria seems to be a recent immigrant and we don’t see other family members around makes us wonder if she is isolated. We wonder about her immigration status, which would definitely make a difference if we decided to call the police. The police might report her to immigration authorities and the results could be her arrest and her separation from her US born daughter.
Any other important things to know?
There is definitely emotional abuse. And throwing things is a form of physical abuse. Is there also direct physical abuse? Has Maria been looking for anybody to help? Does she want help? Is Marcos open to get help? What resources are there for them? We’re not sure.
Are there any important changes?
The most important change that we know of is that some of us have started to notice and talk about what is going on.
What’s the next step?
At this point, my neighbours Tom and Grace seem to be concerned enough to take some sort of action if needed. I feel this way, as well. But we aren’t sure what to do. We just let each other know that we would keep each other informed and think about next steps. We want to try to keep it inside the building and not involve the police because that could make things worse. This is especially true because we don’t know if Maria is undocumented. We think that maybe our own actions can stop things at an early stage and at least we have each other for support.
The next step will be to talk to Tom and Grace and share this toolkit with them. Maybe I’ll just photocopy a couple of pages so they don’t get overwhelmed.