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To have not said/done anything when witnessing an abusive relationship playing out in public?

(61 Posts)
Badtasteflump Wed 05-Oct-11 09:51:13

Because it's been playing on my mind since it happened yesterday.

I went into a garden centre yesterday lunchtime and was wandering around outside looking at the plants. In the distance I heard a man very loudly shout 'hurry up you f'cking stupid cow'. I looked over and saw the man shouting angrily at a woman who was rushing over to him, saying nothing. When she got to him he got in her face (not touching her) and started shouting a tirade of abuse - how she was 'f'ing useless, f'ing making him come to this f'ing shop again, better f'ng hurry up or she'd 'get it' when they get home....'

There were lots of people around - including a man working there and a few other men in couples, and me on my own. None of us did anything, and all simultaneously seemed to be deaf and blind. Most people walked away - some had children with them & I would have probably done the same if I had too.

Anyway, I was still there and she got quite close to me, not making eye contact. He came over, grabbed her roughly by the arm and said 'right, you're taking the f'ing piss - move - NOW!'. She just kept her head down and started walking away with him. Still nobody, including me, did anything.

I went back to work and felt like shit all afternoon. I wish wish wish I had said something to her, although I don't know if I could have said anything to help at all. And the truth is, I felt very intimidated and scared of this horrible man myself. But now I feel really guilty and keep wondering what the hell he must be like when they haven't got an audience and what kind of punishment she probably ended up getting. I feel really crap about this now sad

biddysmama Wed 05-Oct-11 09:58:14

ive been that woman, once it was at a bus stop and there was a bus full of people and not one person tried to help me and he was physically attacking me and i was trying to get away from him (i got out of the bus stop and the cctv saw and the police came)

but on the other hand helping might have made i worse,she may have been accused of embarrasing him because 'her behaviour' made someone say something to him, so it was her fault

dont feel bad tho, its not your fault

JEMISMYNAME Wed 05-Oct-11 09:58:31

Realistically there is probably not much you could have done to help her but you could have contacted the police as you were witnessing domestic violence taking place. Its always risky getting involved in an altercation taking place in front of you as normally the angry person turns on the person trying to help and that can result in them being injured.

There is nothing you can do now but if you do see something like that again instead of trying to intervene if you are alone, call the police on the emergency number and have them attend. Give them descriptions etc. Domestic incidents are high priority in all force areas. If they had a car with them you could have noted the registration mark and then reported it later.

Pakdooik Wed 05-Oct-11 09:59:34

Would that we had the courage to intervene. I bet that was what the poor woman wanted - if nothing else just an acknowledgement from someone else of what she was going through

I suspect, however, that I too would have turned deaf and blind.

Badtasteflump Wed 05-Oct-11 10:01:31

If he had started to physically abuse her I definitely would have called the police - but they I started thinking afterwards 'hang on, he did start to pull her along - so why didn't I call them then?'

I left the garden centre just after them (at enough of a distance for them not to think I was watching) but couldn't see them in the car park (without looking obvious).

I just think it's very sad that me (and a whole shop full of people, including men working there) all chose to ignore. That's really shit.

Badtasteflump Wed 05-Oct-11 10:02:00

sorry for typo

aldiwhore Wed 05-Oct-11 10:02:51

Been on both sides. Its horrible.

I promised myself after I was the deaf/blind person that if nothing else I'd go grab a manager if I could.

Self protection DOES kick in, and that leads us towards inaction. I won't say "Don't feel bad" because we all should really, but I will say "Don't feel too bad" because you're not alone.

JEMISMYNAME Wed 05-Oct-11 10:08:29

It is bad that no one did anything but at the same time why would you only wait until someone is physically assaulted before calling the police? Is that because it appears to make the situation worse? What you did witness STILL is domestic abuse.

There is no point on you dwelling on what you could or could not have done. All you can do now is report things like this you see in the future, then you will have done your part and you will feel much better for it and possibly have helped someone in a vulnerable situation.

StrandedBear Wed 05-Oct-11 10:08:40

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

akaemmafrost Wed 05-Oct-11 10:08:55

I would and have called the police when witnessing physical abuse but it is hard to intervene in the kind of situation you describe. Once though when seeing something similiar, I just stared at the guy until he looked at me and said "What's your problem?" and I said "Just thinking what a prick you are". I was shaking and the adrenaline was going but nothing further went on and they just left. My ex said I was nuts for doing it but I can't help it. When my neighbour was being attacked by her ex I went and let myself into their flat, had a key and pulled him off her, he had her by the hair at the time. He didn't do anything to me, just ran off shouting into the night, the wanker and my ex H went after him. We were all friends again the next day hmm.

I never get involved when I have my kids with me though.

tiktok Wed 05-Oct-11 10:09:06

I intervened once a few years ago when I saw a man angrily threaten a woman in the street - he was in her face screaming abuse at her; she was arguing back a bit but she was cowed. This was broad daylight.

I stopped and said, 'are you all right, do you need help?' and both of them stopped what they were doing and turned on me...I was told to mind my own business and keep my nose out and fuck the fuck off, posh cow etc etc etc.

I was scared. And I did, indeed, fuck the fuck off.

I have often thought about this. But what could I have done?

And I don't know that there is anything you could have done, OP.

havinhoops1974 Wed 05-Oct-11 10:09:35

dont feel as a woman its ver dangerous to confront an obvioulsy abusive man.

Badtasteflump Wed 05-Oct-11 10:11:58

Jem I'm not saying at all that the way he was shouting at her wasn't domestic abuse - I know it was. But it was just going through my head that I would be calling 999 and saying 'theres a man in a shop shouting at a woman'. And yes, I admit, there was also the fact that I didn't want to get involved. He was clearly a nasty shit and I didn't want to put myself and my family/home on his list of enemies. Pathetic I know.

Grumpla Wed 05-Oct-11 10:12:49

I think you should have intervened. But at the same time I couldn't say for certain that I would have (though I hope so.)

I can certainly understand why you were scared. He sounds like a horrible, scary man. None of us knows for certain how we would react in a situation like that, and the 'bystander effect' is well documented - the more other people are around, the less likely any individual is to step up.

I think that the best thing you can do now is think about what you could have done differently. For example, could you have asked the shop if they had CCTV of the incident (might this still be worth doing? Then you could report it to non-emergency number - he may well be known to them already)

Followed them more quickly to the car park to get their number plate? Could you have turned to someone else and said "I think we should tell him to stop."

Having strategies in place might help you to feel more able to act next time.

Unfortunately if none of us ever put ourselves in danger to help someone else, a lot of people who need help won't get it.

queenrollo Wed 05-Oct-11 10:13:40

I've intervened in the past, with differing responses. Been threatened with physical violence (to which i stupidly/bravely responded 'go on, she might not press charges but i will'), had to remove my then neighbours baby from her arms while her OH hit her.....and more.
I supported my friend through 5 years of DA. My husband suffered it at the hands of his ex. I have zero tolerance for it.
Now though I'm not as hot-headed as I used to be, and a lot more aware of the consequences for the abused party when someone intervenes.
In the past I asked the man to behave as there were children around and it was unfair to expose them to the behaviour.
I may have tried to quietly ask if she was ok, but then the situation doesn't always allow for that.

Try not to feel too bad that you didn't do anything. It's an unsettling and scary thing to witness, and so hard to gauge in that moment whether trying to help her was the right thing or not.

abendbrot Wed 05-Oct-11 10:15:34

As JEM said, call the police and make a report, even if you don't know who it was. There is probably CCTV of the car with a number plate. It will be kept on file as an incident that could be used against this man and give this woman her freedom.

Absolutely don't intervene directly - she may have had kids at home that she would have to go back to.

I have intervened in a situation but they were young people. A crowd had gathered watching, nobody did anything, but the moment I told the bloke to 'pick on someone his own size' quite a few men waded in from nowhere and sorted it out. The girl left.

hester Wed 05-Oct-11 10:19:09

It is easy to know what you should do when witnessing physical abuse.

Much less easy when it is verbal abuse and threats.

Or 'jokes': last one for me was in a pub garden, big group sitting around a table with their kids. As we talked past, man was telling a story which ended with him going 'bad-a-bing!' and smacking his dp hard in the face. (No, I don't know how the story necessitated that ending.) She just sat with her hands over her face as he laughed at her and a made a move as if to do it again. The friends were laughing. She didn't laugh - she looked close to tears - but she didn't protest either.

I'm usually first one in to get involved, but found it really hard to read that one and know what to do.

rogersmellyonthetelly Wed 05-Oct-11 10:20:37

The trouble is with domestic abuse that at the end of the day the abused partner has to go home and deal with the after effects. So if someone does say something, the mans (or woman's)anger will be taken out on their partner when they get home. It's not like pouring oil on troubled waters, it's like pouring petrol on a bonfire.
Until the abused partner is ready to say "enough" and wants to leave, and is in a safe situation to effect that, it's very dangerous for any member of public to intervene, both for them and for the person being abused.

BruciesDollyDealer Wed 05-Oct-11 10:24:51

how many would have intervened if it was a 'mother' speaking to her child like that, swearing at it and pulling it along

not many i bet

why is it worse for a grown woman to be treated like that than a child?

Badtasteflump Wed 05-Oct-11 10:27:00

I have been thinking that too roger. I couldn't wave a magic wand and give her a new life to leave him for - so whatever I had said she probably would have still ended up going home with him - with him probably in an even worse 'mood' by then.

CogitoErgoSometimes Wed 05-Oct-11 10:28:41

YANBU to feel upset at what you witnessed but, when confronted with naked aggression, there are a lot of very good reasons for not getting into the middle of it. And that applies to the other people in the shop as well. There are too many examples of well-meaning bystanders getting involved in violent situations, wanting to help, and coming off worse.

Badtasteflump Wed 05-Oct-11 10:28:52

Brucies I did once intervene when I saw a woman being really nasty to a child. I found it much easier to be 'brave' when the person I was confronting was another woman and not an aggressive 6ft + man sad

welliesandpyjamas Wed 05-Oct-11 10:33:58

I understand how you felt, OP. I have seen shouty aggressive men having a go at women in the street, and could only assume it was normal for them, and that it was worse behind closed doors. But the men were, if you'll excuse a bit of judgeypants here, extremely rough and looked/smelt like drug users. Definitely not the type I want to confront while walking home from school with my kids. A couple of times I havementioned it to the front desk staff at the police station if I then pass it, but that, I know, isn't worth too much. They can go out for a look but no highh likelihood of finding them ten minutes later.

On my ex-copper DH's advice though, I will now always call the police (non-emergency or emergency depending on severity) once out of earshot and let them decide what to do about it. DH was incredibly frustrated last week when he saw a man shouting aggressively in (probably) his wife's face, frightening her and the little girl with her, BUT had a flat battery on his mobile. He was shouting in another language but the tone and the fear were very clear. sad

YANBU to have not felt sure what to do about the garden centre incident. YANBU to come on here to discuss it and seek advice. Next time, you have ideas for what to do.

TLD2 Wed 05-Oct-11 10:39:44

When I was little, my mum intervened when a man was slapping his girlfriend in the street. My mum's a teacher and shouted "OI, what the hell do you think you're doing? What kind of a big man does that make you?" I was scared cos he came over and said he was going to give her some of the same. Mum's only little but stood her ground and said "Go on, I dare you. It'll be the last thing you do, sunshine". Luckily he backed off, being a coward and his girlfriend was thanking my mum but saying it's nothing, don't worry.

As some have said, it's very difficult and it's easier to think that you may make it worse. How it can get any worse for the victim, I'm not sure though. I have intervened myself, once, but then I'm a big bloke and not worried that I'll get hurt.

TheRhubarb Wed 05-Oct-11 10:47:18

I've intervened and been threatened for my troubles - whilst I had the kids with me too. This man was right in his girlfriend's face, swearing at her and threatening her. I stopped and he came right up to me and said "and what the fuck do you think you are fucking looking at?" To which I replied "An idiot and if you carry on swearing at me you'll be an arrested idiot."

He just fumed off dragging his girlfriend behind him.

What you can do now is to call the police and give a description of him and his girlfriend and what happened. Chances are that he is known and the police are piling evidence against him.

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