The day I described in my last installment of this series, and the citation I received, were not the end of my former neighbors’ abuse and harassment. But let us rewind a bit.
I had managed to get the male neighbor cited once by a nice young officer who was very sensitive and well trained. The neighbors were outside doing this elaborate, loud play acting…about me. They mocked my disability, accused me of being a “Welfare Queen” — thanks for that Ronald McDonald Reagan. It went on for a while, so I called the police.
I had gotten mostly the same responses from the other officers I met. “He’s got free speech.” 🙄 Yes, freedom of speech. The First Amendment, and the least understood. Folks are fond of saying “Freedom ain’t free.” And I suppose they imagine bravely standing up to tyranny. To me it is basic causality. Sure, you are free to holler insults at your neighbor from your yard, but it does not mean that speech is free of consequences.
We all know there are exceptions to free speech. Usually when words can cause harm: a panic, violence, lies about others, etc. So this bright young cop was fantastic! Finally, right? He came, talked to them, then left but told me to call again if they said anything about race, or threatened me.
Oh, my neighbor obliged. As soon as the cop left, he helpfully shouted at one of my security cams “she’ll wish she were [ducking] dead.” Bam. Harassment and Terroristic Threats.
The day I described last time, with my loud mouth and criminally awesome dance moves, was a week before his hearing on that charge. He had pleaded not guilty. So, when the cops came, the female neighbor and pals went to work!
The next evening, Stanman and I were sitting on our couch, around 10ish. Watching Star Trek: TNG on Netflix. Again in my pajamas. And then this knock. The one you hear in every crime show. The “It’s the police, open up!” knock. I went out onto the porch to talk to them. It all seemed wrong. There were four cops on my stairs. They looked like the SS. Black outfits, all holstered up. One particular future Einsatzgruppen member did the identification thing and told me I had to come with them on a 302 Emergency Commitment Order.
That is when I knew the whole thing was Baloney Sandwich. A 302 is a court order that allows a person who is a physical threat to themselves or others, or cannot take care of themselves to be committed to a mental institution against their will. They are difficult to obtain for the obvious reason that it is a power that could be abused (eh-hem). Normally, a social worker, someone from CRISIS, or a therapist/psychiatrist would initiate or weigh in on this. My therapist was not contacted. Often they are requested by family. And you cannot break into someone’s residence for a 302 unless there is an emergent situation, such as screaming or fighting. We were watching Trek. Mox nix, right?
I had been 302’d once before. I attempted suicide by taking a ton of NyQuil and Benadryl. My Mom and sister found me and took me to the hospital. I came around. I was still free. Not in restraints. But I was so angry, I hissed “I wish you let me die!” at my Mom. My Mom was a social worker, who worked with probation or parolees with mental health, drug/alcohol, or developmental disabilities. All minor offenders, but she knew the system.
Mom looked at the ER doctor and nodded, and then I was restrained. The place I went was more One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest than Girl, Interrupted. But basically, you have 3-5 days to be seen by a doctor and case worker, and have a meeting to judge whether you are still a threat or not. If you are calm, do what they say, and stick to yourself, it is not hard to get out of. You have to be very badly off to be committed in the long term.
So I knew how it worked as well. I knew the mental health system in general. I had been in it since about 19. My female neighbor wrote up something that basically said I had mental health issues and broke things on her lawn. (Because she called our house “the tenants’ house,” remember?)
It was delivered by Officer Einsatzgruppen to a Crisis worker, with access to all of my health records including my current treatment, whom I had never seen before or spoken with, and was a prison secretary to sign. And then the head of the County’s mental health board signed it without seeing or speaking to me either. (I see you Angie Krepps Alvarez! Sharon Harlacher! mwah!😘)
After hemming and hawing for an hour, and mentioning my neighbors on the darned Ring cam in plain sight (shrewd!). Then they broke down our door. Stan had already called 911 because he didn’t think they were real police either. They cuffed Stan, cuffed me, almost let our dog and cat out, and took me to a cruiser. Or some kind of car, it was dark. And I just resolved to stay calm. Losing my temper, being cranky, anything could have led to my actually being committed or jailed.
It is one of the odd consequences of PTSD that in the worst moments I don’t feel much. It seems like I am not me. I am somewhere floating above, or buried deep inside, or watching a movie of a life. So it was with this. I began to go down a thought hole of what may have happened to Stan. I pulled hard out of that downward trajectory. I could not think of anything else but breathing and remaining calm.
The doctors were confused from the beginning as to why I was there. They asked about my neighbors, and I said we had an ongoing dispute but I had no idea why I was in the hospital. And neither did the doctors. They couldn’t even find the legal order to commit me. From the hospital where the thing was written. Why they did not ask for it when I arrived is a question. But by 6am I was in the jeep back home with Stan, who they uncuffed and left to call every hospital looking for me.
We were home as the sun came up, we had a beer and went to bed. When we woke up it had sunk in. The extent of the violation. The broken door. The fact that four cops could be spared to take me to the hospital on a vendetta. But that night our neighbors effectively said, “We can touch you anywhere.” The same chill, creepy, skeevy feeling crept over me as other times with them.
We realized we were not safe in our own house. We couldn’t even call the police. So we packed a few important things, got our dog and cat, and drove to my Great Grandma’s house where family still lived, across the bridge in Lancaster County.
I took a selfie that next day.
The male neighbor changed his plea to guilty (freedom is wasted on him), so I couldn’t give this information as testimony that next Monday. He was fined $50.
So, yeah, that is my story of how far my neighbors and my community went in their hatred of I do not know what. Stan and I spent the next month and half packing and cleaning for dear life. He started looking for new jobs far away. We looked at a couple of states before we decided. But he had to empty his retirement fund to finance this move, start a new job, find a new house, and sell the old.
The funny thing this whole time is that the male neighbor used to sit up by his garage (the better to see me from) and listen to John Denver’s “Thank God I’m a Country Boy.” I love that song! Who doesn’t like John Denver? He hung out with muppets!
The irony is that I AM from the country. My sister and I mainly grew up on two different farms in New Jersey. We had lots of acres, and would ramble about with our big white Lab, playing pretend. I collected the eggs. My sister tossed in scratch. We had turkeys. At one point we had a goat. I am a country girl, who spent a chunk of time in cities and abroad, but I am still as outdoorsy as ever.
They hated a phantom of their own imaginings. An idea of me. Not me as I am. And they would have gotten around to hating us for something if their Rottweiler had not have killed my duck.
They took nearly everything I loved: my chicken ladies, my ducks, my gardening, my peace, and they reached right in that house and tried to take my freedom.
So, we left that house at 6pm on New Year’s Eve to the booming of fireworks. Hours later, we checked into this hotel. And here I have been. But it will not be for much longer. I have had some time to process, through these blogs partly.
The harassment continued until we left, with gems like this:
But here is the actual tragedy. While those four cops were busy sending me to the hospital, a bare week later they let a mother of two’s Emergency Protected from Abuse order wait 24 hrs before acting on it. And that night her ex-husband (and ex-cop) kidnapped those little girls. He eventually shot them and himself in a ditch on the side of the road. And that mother has not received any response or justice that I know of since. They had officers enough for me, but not to enough to save that woman’s babies.
I had that sign down after some phone calls. My life has sucked for so long. But things are happening. Soonish. I should have the tools by now to heal and reframe the stories I tell myself, question the words and names used to describe me, maybe that is why I made it out. That same mechanism that kicked in when I was being cuffed and taken to the hospital. Or maybe I am finally letting it sink in that it was them not us. Not me.
– JL ✌🏼💚🖖🏼💐💪🏼🕺🏻🎸🦀
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