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Last week when I was walking home from work I heard a woman yell “get off me!” I turned around and saw behind me across the street a man pushing her towards a wall and she was pushing him away and yelling. I was waiting for a light to change so I could cross, so I watched trying to work out if I could help. She yelled at him again and eventually he walked away from her.

As far as I could tell it ended okay. But it got me thinking about what I could do. I wanted to help, but not only did I not know if she wanted help (she never yelled for help, just at the man) but I also knew I couldn’t help. I, a pretty weak female, would not have been able to help this woman fight off a large man. Would there even have been any point in helping?

When I got home I was still pondering the situation. It bothered me that I couldn’t have helped had the woman needed help, and I didn’t really know how to deal with the situation. I asked the boyfriend who suggested that I could have stopped a passerby and pointed out the situation to them and asked them to help. That is an option, but given that all the passersby were people leaving work, doing their best to ignore the fact that they were walking through downtown Baltimore, I don’t think anyone would have helped. No one even turned their heads when they heard a woman yelling at someone to get off her.

The problem is that I would have liked to be able to help in a situation where a person is in trouble. If I saw someone getting attacked I would want to be able to do something. Yes, I could call the police, but in most cases they would not arrive in time to help.
We tend to think that we would intervene if someone were in trouble. We hear stories about people being attacked in broad daylight and judge all the people who didn’t intervene, but would we actually behave any differently? What could we actually do in this situation?

What would you do if you saw a person being attacked in the street? Would you intervene? What would you do?

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