Domestic Violence Happens in Hotel Rooms

domestic violence
Domestic Violence behind hotel room doors

“Why would I want to marry you? You are a lazy piece of shit!” screamed the woman’s angry voice, penetrating my adjoining hotel room door like a knife.

I could hear him lunge toward her, as he reached for her face.

“You touch my face and I’ll scream,” yelled the woman as tempers flared and hands flew.

I experienced one of the most disturbing nights of my life last night, as a mother, public citizen and hotel reviewer. I was a silent witness to domestic violence in the hotel room next to me.

Alcohol-fueled domestic violence

I assume this was alcohol-fueled domestic violence, as the couple had recently returned from a nearby wedding. I could tell from both parties that this type of behavior was not new to them. She was screaming for him not to hit her, he was yelling and telling her to stop scratching his face. Foul language was flying back and forth, like a volleyball, across the room. Then I heard a young baby begin to cry.

My heart raced. My stomach dropped. They continued to fight. My first instinct was to step into the hall, pound on the hotel door and rescue that baby. Instead, I called to the hotel front desk for help.

End Domestic ViolenceDomestic violence intervention

The young receptionist who checked me in listened to my rush of words and politely said she would call to their hotel room. I said a phone call wouldn’t suffice as there was a baby at risk in the hotel room. Perhaps I should call 911? After my insistence, she said a manager would be sent to their room.

Verbal abuse

I waited for normalcy to return. Waves of verbal abuse continued between periods of him leaving the room and her talking, via telephone, with her mother in another room of the same hotel.
“Why should I have to leave the room and sleep in a chair with the baby when he keeps beating on me? That f@$ker should have to leave. He’s a worthless piece of shit!”

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Silent Witness Table, Michael Cawelti
Silent Witness Table

Hotel room domestic violence

I called to the front desk for assistance two additional times that evening. Finally, she went to sleep. I don’t think her boyfriend came back that night. The last time I looked at the clock it was 1:35 a.m.

The next morning, I wrote a note documenting the occurrence for the general manager. I told the front desk manager that I thought the young receptionist needed domestic violence response training and asked if there was a program in place at the hotel? Does a program regarding hotel room domestic violence even exist?

Hotel domestic violence policy

I reached out to numerous hotels to ask if they had any type of domestic violence policy. Needless to say, only one person responded to my request for an interview.

After speaking with the General Manager, he stated, “Our procedures are to first investigate any complaint.  We offer the guest one warning.  In most cases this resolves any conflicts.  If the behavior continues or escalates, we include the local police.”

STAND for Families Free of Violence

Domestic violence affects women

Domestic violence is a serious crime that affects one of four women at some point in her lifetime.

“As to what you should have done, let me first say that you did the right thing by following your intuition,” said Gloria J. Sandoval, Chief Executive Officer, STAND! For Families Free of Violence.

“I’m glad that you suppressed your urge to go next door to “rescue” the baby, although I’m sure with all your heart you wanted to do that! We do know that witnessing domestic violence or even being in a home where domestic violence occurs often has life-long and traumatic consequences for children, no matter how young they are.”

“On the other hand, intervening in domestic violence situations can be extremely delicate and sometimes lethal, which is one of the reasons that domestic violence agencies like STAND! are so important.  Centers are located across the country and the majority of them have 24/7 crisis lines.  In case you find yourself in a similar situation in your travels, you could look up the local Domestic Violence Agency and give them a call for advice or assistance. If you face this situation in the future, either in your travels or in your neighborhood, I would encourage you to call 911.”

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Do you have experience with domestic violence? What steps would you have taken in this situation? Please leave a comment below.

Photo credits: top photo Domestic Violence Doesn’t Discriminate by Danny Marchewka. Silent Witness Table photo by Michael Cawelti.

24 thoughts on “Domestic Violence Happens in Hotel Rooms”

  1. I haven’t experienced it at any hotel, but at home once – a neighbour had child screaming and I could tell it was no normal scream, not like the child didn’t want to sleep or something, it was heartbreaking! I called the police which luckily came and at the same moment they did ring on the door bell, the child stopped screaming! I never got to know what happened, but I was so happy that the screaming stopped!!!

  2. As someone who grew up surrounded by domestic violence and way too many bystanders or “annoyed” witnesses who did little more than judge, I thank you this and for being proactive with your experience to help spread the word. So sorry you had to experience that Nancy.

  3. Training and awareness are needed. I have not witnessed this but would probably want to do as you did Nancy. Thank you for covering this.

  4. Nancy, As an activist, I appreciate this posting the most of all of yours. You write with passion and caring and are pulling in your resources to make a change. I never thought of the need for front desk staff to have domestic violence training, or at least a clear and appropriate protocol for responses that protects potential victims, not just the hotel reputation. Please continue to research, advocate and write about this. I have certainly heard violent exchanges in hotels where I’ve stayed over the years (and was once across the way (motel) from a murder, though I heard nothing in that instance until the police were banging on doors).

  5. Dear Nancy- thanks for such a thought provoking piece- how scary for all involved….one idea that I wanted to point out is that domestic abuse also can happen to men- abuse knows no gender lines, though obviously, more prevalent male towards female…as in breast cancer, it can cross gender lines. All best- TR

  6. Agreed @Tracy
    In fact, with this couple arguing and fighting, it wasn’t clear who was the abuser. From the sounds of it, neither one of them were new to this type of situation. Sad.

  7. Wow – what an incredible story. I love that you wrote about this. I’ve never been in the situation but I can imagine it happens more than I would care to believe.
    Thanks for bringing awareness and advice on what to do if in the situation.

  8. Evocative piece, Nancy. How horrid. I think you did the right thing. Far too many would rather not get involved at all, I’m afraid.

  9. Thanks for a thoughtful post about a dark side of travel, witnessing abuse. We had a similar experience over the summer and I called the front desk and told them to call the police immediately. They did, and the situation seemed to be handled as well as could be expected under the circumstances.

  10. How common is domestic violence? Wisconsin loses an average of one person every week due to domestic violence. Every nine seconds a woman is abused in the United States.

  11. @Joe
    Indeed, domestic violence is a dark side of travel. I’m glad you knew to call the police immediately. I hope my first-hand experience helps others if they find themselves in this type of situation.

  12. I am so sorry to hear about this situation, and feel for both you and the child who is unfortunately trapped between warring parents. I hope that they will somehow gain awareness as to the impact that they are no doubt having on their child and in turn, that hotels will implement domestic violence training so that their employees are able to more effectively respond in the future. Thank you for bringing awareness to the situation!

  13. @Mary
    Thanks for taking the time to lend your support in spreading the word that domestic violence is not acceptable behavior. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if ANY hotel decided to implement domestic violence training programs for their employees?

  14. Glad you stepped up and did something to stop this. Sounds like the hotel would have rather not got involved though, which is a shame. Sounded like that couple needed to have law enforcement intervention and social services involved!

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