This story contains graphic content. Discretion is advised.
A Halifax man says police aren’t doing enough to keep him safe after he says he was violently attacked by his neighbour for reporting him for domestic abuse.
Stephen Wentzell says on Aug. 31, he reported what he believed to be spousal abuse next door to Halifax Regional Police.
“The police didn’t really do anything,” the 23-year-old told Global News on Thursday. “They came by and left without incident.”
Wentzell isn’t sure how, but says last week his neighbour caught wind of Wentzell’s report and attacked him.
“He just drunkenly stumbled up those steps, and next thing you know it was just closed fists left and right to my temples,” said Wentzell.
“It all happened so fast. There’s no response time.”
Wentzell says as soon as knew he could be in danger, he pulled out his phone and started recording.
Wentzell says he received a concussion and still isn’t feeling 100 per cent.
The suspect was taken into custody and later released, right back to his home in Wentzell’s neighbourhood. The 57-year-old man – whose identity has not been released – is facing charges of assault, uttering threats and intimidation.
He was not charged in relation to the domestic abuse allegation.
Halifax Regional Police declined an interview, but in a statement said “it is important to remember that the police do not have the ability or authority to evict residents from their homes in these circumstances.”
“Having said that, we have continued to maintain contact to ensure the victim is fully aware of what would constitute breaching those conditions, and what steps are involved to report such information,” said Halifax Regional Police spokesperson John MacLeod in the statement.
“We appreciate the public’s concern in this matter, and we want to assure everyone that our investigators continue to monitor and respond as appropriate, and we will continue to bring forward any new information that comes to light in this matter as part of our consultations with the Crown.”
The response is providing little comfort to Wentzell, who remains fearful of waking up every day with the alleged attacker in his neighbourhood.
“It’s just really uncomfortable know that there’s somebody who can hang out in the back yard with their dog, but I can’t have company over without worrying,” said Wentzell.
Linda MacDonald and Jeanne Sarson, co-founders of Persons Against Non-State Torture and members of Nova Scotia Feminists Fighting Femicide, commend Wentzell for having the wherewithal to begin filming.
“That’s the only way we’re going to really start dealing with this,” said MacDonald, “The more we tape everything. Women are going to have to taping when their husbands are beating them. That’s the only way people are going to believe what the perpetrators are really like.”
MacDonald also says the allegations speak to situations victims of domestic violence find themselves in every day.
“This is messy for Stephen and it shows how messy it is for women all the time. Because women tell us that their perpetrator is living two doors down from them,” said MacDonald.
Wentzell, who is a member of the LGBTQ+ community, he’s calling for the attack to be deemed a hate crime.
“I don’t have much faith that they’ll follow through with it. But I’m going to keep advocating for it anyway,” Wentzell said.
In order for that to happen, MacDonald and Sarson say it will take systematic change.
“If this man is not called for the fact that he has homophobic hate, then he’s not going to be held for account,” said Sarson, “and as a society we’re not going to get to the underlying root issues of beliefs.
As for Wentzell, he doesn’t want this incident to deter other young members of the LGBTQ+ community from being their true selves.
“For young folks who saw that and now they think they should not come out of the closet … it’s the queer community who have supported me through this,” said Wentzell.
“Lean into it. Be who you are. He can’t kick the faggot out of me.”