An extremely wise person once said, “There are two kinds of evil people in this world. Those who do evil stuff and those who see evil stuff being done and don’t try to stop it.” And even though this ‘extremely wise person’ is just Janis Ian from Mean Girls, this sassbot made an exceptionally valid point. I’m not saying that you witnessing an armed robbery is an appropriate time to test your Taekwondo skills because you’ll more likely than not get shot in the face, but it’s your obligation as a decent human being to call for help, to do something.
I’m sure most people have heard of the bystander effect/apathy, and even though you may not know of the incident that made this social psychological phenomenon popular by name (The Murder of Kitty Genovese), you’ve probably heard of the details of the event. Long, sad story short, Kitty was killed while a handful of her neighbors did nothing. The newspaper that reported the crime argued that there were 38 witnesses of her attack-turned-murder and not one of them went to her rescue. Whether or not it was actually 38 or just one person, the point is that it was obvious that this woman was in dire need of help and disturbingly so, no one cared enough to offer it.
I’m a firm believer in things happening for a reason, so last weekend when I became a witness of domestic violence in a Dairy Queen, I found it a little too relevant to events that had been going on in my life recently. A couple weeks prior to the incident, I had to attend this thing for work about bullying. During this 6-hour, post-work, bane of my existence workshop, we watched a video, which was set on a college campus, where a guy drags a peer around, shoves him on the ground and repeatedly threatens him verbally because he hadn’t finished a paper in time that he was presumably forced to write. To show that this was a clear case of bullying aka repetitive abuse, the ‘bullier’ used the phrase “you want me to do to you what I did last time?”
Even when this was taking place literally at the feet of unknowing videotaped witnesses, many of them just looked on, as if a man wasn’t being battered in front of their very eyes. To wrap up the experiment, the ‘bullier’ would go up to each person who ignored the abuse and ask why they didn’t help and all their responses didn’t stray very far from “it’s none of my business”. Granted, there’s a bit of truth to that; other peoples business is sometimes just that, but there’s also a time and place for everything and you cannot see terrible things happening and not do anything to stop them.
Fast forward to Dairy Queen. It was my first time at this establishment, but I’m a huge fan of frozen mint-chip treats so I was a bit excited for this experience. About seven minutes into my milkshake, two people sitting two booths away from my friends and I started screaming at each other. After a couple seconds, the screaming abated and we thought it was over, only for a few minutes to pass and the girl, who I originally assumed was a woman because of her demeanor and the way the man was speaking to her, jumps on the counter as the man begins to threaten to drag her by her hair if she didn’t hand her cellphone over.
At this point my friends and I were completely stunned. Was he really going to do it? Was it an empty threat? Well this was a person of his word because before we could blink she was on the floor, basically mopping it after having been yanked by her hair off the table. He then ordered, “That’s it, lets go outside!” and for a brief second all I could think was, “Is this another experiment? Are there cameras all over this restaurant? Because there’s no way this can be real life. People don’t really pummel the crap out of people in public like this, do they?”
After I let my wave of naivety pass I realized that the time to intervene was now or never and I ran outside to see the man pushing the girl against a car with his fist in her face screaming at her. I ran a little closer, not sure where this sudden courage in me was coming from because I’m a complete punk who jumps if anything whizzes by my ear. I screamed “HEY!” and unlocked my iPhone to show him that I was a tenth of a second from calling the police.
He backed up and kept repeating: “Everything is okay! She’s my daughter! She’s 11! Everything is okay!” as if that justified his behavior in any way. That’s when a huge pick-up truck pulled up between us and a man jumped out, ran straight up to the abuser and said that he needed to get off the girl and that the employees of DQ had called the police. I don’t know where this man even came from or if what he was saying was true but I was grateful that another person had the courage to step in. Within minutes everyone was calm and the abuser left with his daughter.
Was this the first time this had happened between these two? No. Will this happen again? Probably. Do I think my efforts were pointless because they left and he probably finished what he started at home? Absolutely not, because not only is there a lot to say about the one who’s doing the horrible thing, but also about the one who sees it and does nothing about it, and I told myself I would never be that person.
The point of sharing this story is to challenge each person reading this to become an upstander. If you see/hear/read something, do something. If it were your friend, sibling, or child who became the victim of this crime and someone witnessed it, wouldn’t you want them to step in and help them? Well, these are people’s actual friends, siblings and children who we are diverting our eyes from because we believe it’s “not our business”. But guess what, it is. I’m not saying to put your own life at risk, but a simple act of support may help save the life of another. You never know.