How To Respond If You Witness DV In Public
Does that title instill fear in your heart? Maybe you have experienced this in your own life.
Please… please… please DO NOT be just a bystander who does nothing to help the victim of abuse. In society we often think domestic abuse happens behind closed doors but what happens when it spills over into the streets? The very street you are on.
Victims of abuse typically do the best they can to hide and deny the abuse from those around them. Abusers will often engage in public acts of abuse to shame, punish and show the victim that no one cares enough to intervene. It is an act of power.
Witnessing acts of abuse can be uncomfortable and leave us unable to decide what we should do – if anything. Often, people may pass by thinking it’s not their business or that it isn’t their place to intervene. We may even walk by hoping or wrongly believing someone else will help. I don't know about you but that last sentence leaves me with a feeling of shame and disgust. Tell me if you witnessed an animal being abused in public would you still lower your head and just walk away hoping someone did something to help?
You should never assume that someone else will help. Doing so only increases risk of severe injury, escalation of abuse and death. Abusers often attack their victims at their place of work or other public spaces with severe injury or death to the victim occurring. The main thing 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.
So what can you do when you witness domestic violence?
Call the police. This does not require risking personal safety but will trigger response of officers who are better prepared to handle danger should violence escalate. We all have cellphones. You do not have to give your name, just make the call and let the police figure it out. Give them all the details you can about the abuse, the victim and the area they are in.
If for some reason you do not feel comfortable calling the police and you are in a place of business, approach the manager and notify them of the situation and ask them to call the police stand there until they do.
Many of us have cell phones on us most of the time. You can use your phone to video record the abuse so there is documentation available from a third party witness to provide to authorities as evidence after you’ve called the police.
If the abuser leaves, you could approach the victim and offer assistance. Use this as an opportunity to ensure the victim they are not at fault and the abuse is not OK. Offer to call police and stay with them until authorities arrive. If they do not want the authorities involved, you could also offer to call a friend or family member or allow the victim to use your phone. Should the victim respond that there is no one to call, you could give them your cell number and tell them to call/text if they change their mind. You can also tell the victim where they can get help if they refuse your offer.
If the abuser is within eyesight, and you still feel compelled to approach the victim, you could do so under the guise of running into an old friend from school. Smile at them, tell them how happy you are to see them, and once the abuser’s guard is down, you can offer to help them. This approach is potentially risky due to the proximity of the abuser, and it is not recommended for a man to attempt if the abuser is male with a female victim.
Do your best to slowly redirect yourself and the victim into a more public area with increased foot traffic. Not only will this provide additional bystanders to assist, there will be more witnesses should the abuser return and attempt to assault the victim.
Ensure that you speak only to the victim, as engaging with the abuser creates potential for the situation to spiral out of control.
If you suspect someone is being abused, you can create opportunities to approach them. You can begin conversation by asking your neighbor if you can borrow common cooking ingredients, if they are having issues with their phone or internet, for help finding a lost pet or by bringing them a piece of mail and telling them it was mixed in with yours.
When a man strangles his partner, it increases the odds that he will go on to kill her about seven-fold.
I want you to do something right now. I want you to pick up your phone and put this number in your phone right now… 1-800-799-7233. That number again is….1-800-799-7233.
This is the number for the National Domestic Abuse Hotline. If you witness abuse, give this number or our website address to the victim so they can reach out for help. When you do that, know that you are making it harder for an abuser to get away with it.
Have you ever witnesses a domestic abuse situation when you were out? What did you do?
Let me know in the comment section and give this post a like.
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