‘Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.’ [Proverbs 27.6]

i preached on this verse on Sunday. i got this email from a good friend in Americaland on Monday.

I did not want to call you out in public, but remember when we met her at the subway?  I don’t think either one of us handled that very well–I don’t remember that argument being violent when we were there but I know I need to develop a plan for being in a situation like this in the future–having a plan before hand could be the difference between life and death.

And a link to this article and video from the Huffington Post, titled, Social Experiment Reveals How People React When Domestic Violence Happens In Public.


Now i’m really not a huge fan of pretend situations and imagine i might have been a bit pissed off if this happened and turned out to be fake. But that’s not really the point here. This is an area i know i am completely useless at and it bums me out so much.

The incident my friend was referring to was when he and i went to pick up his wife at a train station in Oakland and as we got there this dude was hassling this girl who it seemed like was his girlfriend ad we did nothing.

Sure i have excuses, it was an awkward and badly timed moment [cos moments when i need to intervene should fit into my schedule, right?] There was this thing happening and it wasn’t quite violent so very much on the edge of ‘Do we need to do something or not?’ Logistically we were parked in front of a gate in the hopes of a quick in and out and so i was conscious of that. We were there to meet my friend’s wife in not the safest of stations and so the focus on that. And i was looking to my friend for the moment of confirmation of, ‘Hey we need to do something here’ hoping he would step in [and i would have totally backed him up] and perhaps he was looking at me for the same reason.

But none of those are good enough. The only thing from the article that was close to being a good enough reason for not intervening in any way was the idea of possibly making it worse for the lady later on:

Although it’s shocking that only one person attempted to stop the abuse, Kim Gandy, President and CEO of the National Network to End Domestic Violence, told The Huffington Post in an email that she would not recommend physical intervention for a bystander, woman or man, “as it may place the victim in greater jeopardy.”

The truth is i was paralysed by the fear of not knowing what to do and “What if i get this wrong?” Knowing who my friend is, i was in the best possible company to intervene and together we hopefully could have dealt with it in a positive way. But the circumstances coupled with the idea of ‘I don’t know what is going to be helpful here’ are what kept me from doing anything. And it is the same as burying your head in the sand and pretending nothing is happening. Might as well throw out a “Good luck to you, lady” as we walk off and head home for coffee and snacks.

The end of that article was the most helpful for me:

“Nonetheless, intervention is extremely important,” Gandy said. “And you have to make your own determination of safety and level of intervention (for example, you might do something different if you are alone than you would if your children were with you), whether it is disrupting what is happening (asking for directions, asking what time it is), telling the abuser ‘I see what you are doing and it is wrong,’ or simply calling 911 right away. Any of these could save a life.”

So there are some possible responses. I would love to hear from anyone who has witnessed something like this in public and done something and whether you felt it ended up being the right or the wrong thing to do. Or if anyone else has any ideas of ways to act and respond when you are confronted by a situation where a domestic is getting a little bit out of hand in front of you.