How do you know if you would be a dating abuse rubbernecker?
What is it about an auto accident that makes so many people stare but so few stop to help? I bet spectators outweigh participants 100 to one…if not more. Human nature has a way of finding more reasons to stay out it instead of offering to help. Watch the video.
Think about the last time you saw an emergency situation like dating abuse and actually acted on the impulse to get involved. Maybe you someone who clearly needed help and you either made the call to the police or decided to help. What is the determining factor that puts the thought into action?
I have actually witnessed dating abuse and the shocking part was not the violence but the number of rubberneckers that were not willing to get involved. Somehow, we are able to rationalize our lack of involvement: “It’s none of my business,” “I don’t have time right now.” “I’m sure help is on the way.” “There’s nothing I can do.”
The reality is that dating violence is epidemic and often very evident as well as public. If we are only willing to watch but not get involved, aren’t we a part of the problem and not part of the solution? What action can we take to help the victim of dating abuse – even if that person is a complete stranger? Here are some thoughts to consider:
1. Assess the situation. Calmly take a good look at what’s going on. If you see someone who has lost his or her temper, this person probably won’t appreciate your intervention and might just as easily redirect his or her anger onto you. If this is the case, you need to use extreme caution. The action you take will depend on your careful assessment. Rule of thumb: if you are compelled to watch for more than 30 seconds, chances are, this is not just a “lover’s spat.” Look around for a security guard or call 911. Don’t assume someone else has already called. The dispatcher will let you know if that is the case.
2. Evaluate your options. Consider a “disruption” that will break the tension even momentarily. You can ask for directions or if they have seen your lost dog. Often interrupting dating abuse can shock a person back to reality or calm the situation.
3. Look for backup. Regardless of how you proceed, look around for another person who can be a witness to your efforts. It never hurts to have support; there is safety in numbers. Let your backup person or people know what you intend to do, and agree on a signal you will give if you want them to step up in a show of support or call 9-1-1. Ask them to otherwise stay quiet unless you ask for help; catcalls from the peanut gallery won’t help keep the situation calm and positive.
4. Carefully Intervene. Approach the couple with a non-threatening introduction; something like, “Excuse me, is everything ok?” Take note of the victim’s response to see if you can gauge the level of danger or fear.
5. Stay out of it and call the authorities. If you think it is reaching a level of prosecutable or near-prosecutable abuse, or the person seems dangerously angry, don’t even think of attempting to intervene. Still, make the 911 call and record the events with your phone from a safe distance for the police.
Next time you see a traffic accident, check your response. If you stop to help, thank you! If not, pay attention to what goes through your mind as you drive by. Then, imagine you are witnessing physical or verbal dating abuse. How did that change your reaction? Or did it?
Make the call.