One would think (well… I would think that one would think… anyway…) that since I write about, talk about hear about domestic violence 5-7 days out of the week that I would know what to do and how to react and how to feel when I witness violence in person. Well, I now know that I do not have any sort of magical words, actions or thoughts when faced with a violent situation.
My daughters and I were in a parking lot and after hearing a car alarm going off, I realized that a man in the car was hitting the woman. He was screaming at her. I pushed my daughters around the corner so that they would not see what was occurring, walked back and looked him in the eyes to let him know that I saw what he was doing… and he pulled her into the car and drove away with her pounding the window.
I called 911 and gave them a location, license plate and description. And then what?
My mind has been racing ever since. What else could I have done? If I were that scared, how on earth did that woman feel?
I tell myself that I did what I could — and my mind says “in this crazy age, he could have had a concealed weapon”, “I had two young girls to keep safe”, “I have to trust the system and believe that good will triumph”…. sadly, my mind cannot convince the rest of me.
So what should I have done? Well… exactly what I did. In general, the advice is to stop short of advising that you jump into the middle of the fray—it could trigger the abuser to become more dangerous to either his partner or to you. Call the police, or 911. And if you aren’t sure how to assess the situation, get help at the national domestic violence hotline: 1-800-799-7233.
Many advocates suggest that when you witness a violent couple, make some kind of noise to create a distraction, including going up to a neighbor’s house where you hear screams and ringing the bell. The idea is to let the abuser know you’ve noticed, thus, possibly intercepting an escalating rage. In addition, taking photos can out the person. Other advocates suggest that, where possible, you ask the victim if she needs help.
The main objective/goal is to do something. Because doing nothing is one more vote that, as a culture we accept that it’s OK to strangle your partner a little, even in public, and maybe hit her, punch her, break a bone.
Every time you take action, know that you are making it more difficult for an abuser to “get away with it”.