Monday, 26 November 2012

Don’t be afraid to speak out

Waiting...and watching...for the inevitable pounce - photo courtesy of my brother (taken in Vietnam)
When I left school I had a job processing people’s social security entitlements. I came into contact with lots of women who were claiming benefits because they were fleeing domestic violence.  
After hearing story after story, I became quite cynical and would try and guess how many weeks it would take before they were back with their violent partners. I used to shake my head and wonder how women could be so stupid. I mean r-e-a-l-l-y, getting dragged into such an horrific situation was one thing but how hard could it really be to leave someone who was abusing you.

I was all of 18 and clearly didn’t know a damn thing about anything.
Many years later I got the lesson of my life when I found myself in the exact same situation as the women I was so judgemental about.
I was in another country thousands of miles away from family and friends. I finally realised the meaning of the words ‘trapped by circumstance’.  I was so terrified that I became paralysed with fear and incapable of protecting myself. Sometimes getting away from violent situations is not as easy as it would seem.
Yesterday, was the International Stop Violence Against Women Day or White Ribbon Day as it is called in Australia.

And I did not want the day to go past without acknowledging it.

However, rather than discuss the victims or perpetrators of violence I wanted to mention the important role that bystanders to such crimes have.

Simply because most people who see, hear and know that abuse is occurring (the bystanders), often turn away and choose to do nothing.

Do you know that a third of women (and some studies say up to a half) will experience physical or sexual violence by a man at some point in their lives?*  

White Ribbon Day is about encouraging people, particularly those of the male persuasion, to stand up and say enough is enough when it comes to violence against women.

And yes, let's not forget that men are victims of violence too. It is just that women are more likely to experience violence at the hands of men they know and in their own home. Men on the other hand, are more likely to experience violence in public places at the hands of strangers.

Turning a blind eye to any kind of abuse is apparently so common that it is known as the Bystander Effect.  We see it, hear it and yet we turn away because we don't want to get involved.
I've been guilty of it myself. I was on a Qantas plane a few years ago and a woman across from me was verbally abusing and smacking her toddler son. All the passengers literally held their breath, squirmed in their seats, made faces at each other and hoped that someone, the air hostesses or anyone, would come forward and do something. I spoke to one of the air hostesses and asked her if she could have a word to the lady or try and distract the baby. She said they were not allowed to intervene.

What, in abuse of a child?
Doing nothing is condoning what is happening, surely. 
We cannot assume that someone else will do something. We cannot assume that it is a lover's quarrel, teenage prank, innocent play acting, that someone deserves it or it's just none of our business.....

The impact of violence costs this Country billions each year. It is herefore everyone's business. 
If it is dangerous to intervene, then ring the police and report it. Eventually something will come of it even if not on that occasion. At least there is some record of a complaint.
Getting involved is hard I realise. You have to be brave. And very careful.

As a bystander, what would you do in the following situation?

This is a video of a French tourist being abused last week on a bus in Melbourne because she and her friends were singing a French song.
LANGUAGE WARNING: DO NOT PLAY AT WORK OR IN FRONT OF THE KIDS.

Would you have done anything to help, particularly given other passengers seemed to join in the abuse?
I am ashamed it happened in this city. Red necks live everywhere. There are You Tube videos such as this in cities all over the world.



What would I have done?

I think I might have directed my attention to the victim not the abusers. I may have asked her to stop singing and spoken to her and tried to calm it down that way. Or even got off the bus with her to diffuse the situation. I would not have engaged with the abusers though.

The police are apparently following this up given the abusers have now been identified from the video footage.

The bottom line is violence is wrong and we need to stand up and say so. Sometimes it will fall on a bystander to step up and do something. We need to be ready to make a difference.
 

36 comments:

  1. That is horrible. Imagine being on the receiving end to that tirade. I would have looked the other way and tried to get off the bus before it exploded.I agree we should be more vocal about things like this but not sure I have the guts. I saw a woman berating her old father in the supermarket the other day. It was elder abuse when all was said and done. I kept walking quickly. I still feel bad and wonder what kind of horrible life he may have no matter how frustrated she might get. It is a big cost to society as the impact of all this violence ends up somewhere. Hospitals, counsellors etc.

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    1. Apparently the impact of domestic violence costs tens of billions a year. And growing.

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  2. I haven't seen that video but was talking about it with friends the other night. It's hard to know what you would do in the same situation but I like to think I would do something, especially if it's one person doing the abusing. If it's a gang, then it would probably be a bit foolhardy to intervene.

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    1. True Jen. There were 3 of them abusing the women. I would not have said a word to them. The joys of public transport.

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  3. It is very scary and shocking ... I don't know what I would have done really . but if we can we must be brave and take a stand in a peaceful manner .

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  4. So sad what is happening in my Melbourne - l know these sort of things can happen everywhere, but the recent incidents of violence and that bus footage really makes me shake my head. Women should be able to walk where they want and live their lives without fear of violence. The crime where the woman was gunned down in broad daylight on a suburban street last week was right near where l grew up.

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    1. Oh dear, its when it happens in broad daylight that you start to wonder what is going on. It is such a beautiful city but like everywhere else violence is growing. You have to be alert not alarmed I guess. And then focus on all the great things this city offers, lol.

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  5. Your post helps increase the awareness and start a discussion. What would I do? Thinking bravely and acting on it are very different as you point out. People turn the other way but sometimes they get involve and help. It's not always easy to know the whole situation and police can tell stories of domestic violence where victims didn't let them help.

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    1. I dont think its a case that the victims dont want help its just that the victims are ashamed, they are terrified that they will get hurt even worse if the police intervene, they think its their fault (as that is what they are brainwashed by the abuser with) and there is also that connection to the abuser like Stockholm Syndrome. It is very hard to understand. It is sick really. Th epolice of course don't do much in these situation unless the victim is hurt badly. This means the victim is often left with the abuser when the police leave. And it starts all over again.

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  6. Engaging the idiots could have inflamed the situation further. I think helping the women off the bus might have been the better alternative as you say. It sure is hard when you see things happening to do the right thing because it's such a violent world these days.

    As for spousal abuse, it's hard. We had another couple we were friends with and the wife had a black eye one time (she said she walked into the door) and then with crutches another time (she said she fell down the stairs). We thought she was rather accident prone. A couple of years later she came for a visit with her baby son and said she was leaving her husband because contrary to what we were all led to believe, he had been abusing her horribly. That was such a shock. Now she had a son to protect and she had to leave the marriage. I couldn't believe she didn't leave earlier.

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    1. Oh that is a shocking story Kay. However, I know from personal experience your friend would have felt such shame and like she was the one to blame somehow. You have to be in her shoes to get it. It is very hard to explain. So glad she got out for the kids sake. It is a violent world these days and scary when you see this kind of thing in what is apparently the most liveable city in the world.

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  7. I really don't know what I would do.

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    1. Hey Lisa, can you comment on your blog?

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  8. shocking video Lilly. I am not one to get involved unfortunately. I suppose I would be thinking of my own safety.

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    1. I think you do have to think of your own safety. In situations like this I think I would more readily call the police myself and not assume someone else is going to do it.

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  9. I'm not one to get involved either, but I know that Greg would have said something, because he's the type who would want to help someone or try to diffuse the situation. I don't understand the violence in people. I've been in an abusive relationship, one that I had to carefully remove myself from. It's difficult sometimes for friends and family to understand why it took me so long, but it requires a great deal of inner strength and that requires time to tap into that particular reserve.
    Now you have me wondering what and how I can help and react in other situations such as this.

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  10. Bravely, beautifully said, Lilly.

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  11. They must have been drunk those guys on the bus. It is vile behaviour. Given the crowd was getting in a frenzy I would not have said anything to the abusers but I would have maybe gone up to the French lady and talked to her. Public transport seems to bring out the worst in people anywhere you go. That is why I avoid it.

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    1. Yes I think I saw a beer being passed around. I would hate to be a bus driver, what they must have to put up with.

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  12. Unfortunately I didn't understand anything being said, NOR, could I hear the singing---But, I certainly got that something bad was happening on that Bus! I'm not sure what I would have done---One must be careful with people who are out of control and dangerous because of that. Like you, I think I might have tried to help the person being abused---including getting off the bus.

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    1. You are lucky you couldn't hear it Naomi. It was not nice at all.

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  13. I am not sure how I would react but I think I would be way too chicken to say anything. Clearly she kept singing and I think that was a little stupid on her part. And as far as those guys. Neanderthals.

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    1. I am not sure as you do not actually get to hear her singing. She must have started and stopped but those guys kept on berating her. Its how they do it that is so apalling. The language and with small children around. Yuk!

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  14. I have been a victim of domestic violence when I was a young mother in my first marriage and I hid it from everyone for a while until I got brave enough, fed enough to do something.
    I have witnessed a parent abusing a child and done nothing and I've witnessed and intervened once successfully. Having a cell phone and being able to call for help more instantly made me more brave the 2nd time. I must say that in some situations it feels dangerous to intervene in the moment because you can become a victim yourself or escalate the situation - yet there are brave people who do so every day. This is such an important post. Thanks for sharing. I will continue to think about this and renew my commitment to being an active peace pusher and violence interrupter.

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    1. Yes you do have to be brave it is true. He he, violence interrupter, I like it. Harder to do when a crowd is getting violent like on that bus but perhaps there are some situations we can help out.

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  15. Oh Lilly... This is a tough one. First, I'm so very sorry you had that awful experience and I'm glad you are free and away from that hatefulness.

    I'd like to think I'd speak up if I was in a situation to help someone in need-- I'd LIKE to think so but sometimes in some situations, I'm sad to say I'm not so sure. Here in the safety of my home it would be a breeze to say, "Of course" I'd jump in but in reality it's not always so simple.

    You gave us a lot to think about here. Thank you for raising awareness on this issue with such an honest and frank post. xoxox jj

    PS Stop by, I'm having a Christmas Giveaway!

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    1. Christmas Giveaway, I will be over, lol. It is hard to know what to do except I hope someone would do something to help me if I was in that situation. Too much violence around these days.

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  16. There's been some horrendous events these last couple of months in Melbourne. Frustration, pent up anger and violence directed against women, foreigners, everyone and anyone in fact :(

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  17. True, I think I better start posting more positive things to justify why Melbourne is the most liveable city in the world. Doesn't seem like it lately does it?

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  18. I couldn't Quite understand what was happening in that video. But yes - it can be scary to intervene and soul-destroying not to.

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    1. There are a lot of bleeps given the swearing which says a lot in itself.

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  19. O.M.G sometimes I am ashamed to be an Australian. Disgusting behavior.

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    1. You can say that again. Horrible behaviour.

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  20. Such terrifying situations and there is no easy answers - so glad you are free from the experience and had the strength (? support) to leave Lilly.

    It is hard for bystanders to intervene but very important we try to do something.

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    1. There are no easy answers and the reality is what I think I would do and what I do when faced with such situations my be entirely different things. Thanks for dropping by Trish.

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Thanks for your comments.