Sunday 24 August 2008

The Bad Samaritan

Something happened the other day I can't QUITE shake from my mind.

I can't help feeling I failed a life test.

I was walking from Five Ways Island back up the Hagley Road. I was in a rush. I was ramming a sausage and bacon bap into my mouth and wiping the brown sauce from lips, at the same time reaching for my cigarettes.

And then I saw and heard it.

As no doubt, others had too. The bus stop was right there and no shortage of people standing there.

There they were. At the foot of the ramp. Right by the underpass leading under the road. Where it goes to, I don't know. I've never used that particular underpass.

She was cowering against the wall. A little thing she was, but pretty. Even with the terror written across her face, you could see she was pretty. An Asian girl of perhaps twenty two or so.
He was shouting. He had his face pressed in to hers. You could feel his attitude. She was 'his' woman, she WOULD listen.

He wasn't a big lad. Sure, he could throw his weight around at a woman, but I doubt he'd speak like that to a night club bouncer. A coward.

I stopped briefly and looked over the railing. She caught my eye. I could see the look she had in it. Fear. Terror. Had he hit her before?
She wanted me to intervene.

He saw her eye had caught something and turned, then gestured as if to say 'It's nothing mate, nothing really.'
Then he led her off, into the tunnel of the underpass.

I stood wondering whether to head off. Time was a premium and it was none of my business.
I could hear the shouting continue. His, not hers. Every so often a squeak would emerge which showed she was trying to speak, but he was not letting her.

Slowly I walked down the ramp and stood a few feet from the entrance to the tunnel.

He was accusing her of 'Fucking around'. Whether he meant that literally, I don't know. Or care. Even if she had, it wouldn't have justified what was going on- and worse- what I feared MIGHT go on.

She is a human being, not property.

I stood wondering what to do.

The voices appeared to be moving away. He was saying 'We're going to sort this out'.

And I played a mental trick on myself. I kidded myself that his voice had got less harsh. That he was cooling.
Maybe. Cooling because he knew she was safely on her way home with him for a good beating.

But let's be honest. I walked back up that ramp because I didn't want to walk into a dark underpass and say 'Oi, leave her alone'.

In case he had a knife on him.

And because I wanted to get back to the office.

And it gets worse.

At the top of the slope another guy was standing there. He'd probably seen me go down, and he too, was worried for her.

And we both eased our cowardly consciences here.

He said 'Everything OK?'

I said 'I think so. I just wanted to make sure he wasn't going to batter her'.

He nodded.
We both kidded ourselves it was OK.

But I hadn't even got back to the office when I knew that wasn't what I should have said.

He'd have come with me. Reluctantly, yes, but he'd have come. His standing there proves that.

We should both have walked back down that ramp and risked it.

Because sitting here, I can't lie to myself.

That guy beat the crap out of her later on, I'm sure.

And I just carried on with my business.

And actually, it would have been worth possibly getting knifed for.

As it is, I'm pretty ashamed of myself.


Anonymous said...

Well meaning or not, situations like that it never pays well to intervene.

You could only have made things worse for her.

As sad as it sounds, you probably did the best thing for her.

Anonymous said...

While intervening should be the thing to do, nowadays it is not so wise and she was not in imminent danger that you could tell.

But I think I would have probably called the police on my cell phone and assumed they might come. Maybe not. No easy answer is there?

Let's hope she can get herself out of what sounds like a not nice situation. There is help for this kind of thing but you have to want it badly enough to do something about it. That's the sad part, that women continue in these situations because somehow they do not think they deserve any better.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes we make the right decision but at the wrong time. Next time it happens, if it does, you'll be better prepared as to which course of action to take. One thing it proves, you have a conscience.

Anonymous said...

Chapeau, Crushed.

Anonymous said...

I don't think you failed a life test, I think the incident has taught you something. If it happens again, I am sure you will be more able to decide what is best in that situation.

Like Jmb I to would probably have called the police, but as she says they might not have come.

Anonymous said...

Never mind mate. Split second decisions can always go the wrong way. I guess you are right and it was really fucked up. But it is not your responsibility.

Anonymous said...

You did what anyone else in your situation would have done, Crushie..

Anonymous said...

Bunny- I don't know. I spent most of the afternoon brooding on it.

If we could have got her away from him, I'd have told her to go back to our offices.

At present, I still have no tenant, and I have one spare key left on the key ring, so short term, worst come to the worst, she needn't have been homeless, if that was the issue.

jmb- Calling the boys in blue is usually the last thing that springs to mind in my case. In my view they're only good for lurking behind hedges with speed cameras, breaking down your door to look for drugs, driving slowly round town centres at 3AM and standing round shopping centres looking menacing.

YOui call the Old Bill YOU will spend hours giving statements, the wifebeater now gets a good chance to know your name and find out where you live, he won't be prosecuted because he'll scare her intom not tesrifying and when the Old Bill check you routinely in the system they'll be reminded that you have a drugs convictuion and routinely break YOUR door down just for a laugh.

And sadly jmb, in that particular community, putting up in silence is more common.

Ginro- I think the chances of him having a knife were a minority. He could have done, but I'll put it as about one in five he did.

It was seeing the lok in her eyes. That is what sticks with me. when her eyes caught me. There was a glimpse of hope there that I would do something.
It's that that really sticks.

Sean- All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing, eh?

CherryPie- Next time it happens, I will simple go off and look for the nearest likely looking male and go back.

Mutley- I think it went the wrong way yes.

Responsibility. Then who's is it?

Social contract. We opt into a society making a series of agreements to eachother, and we agree to uphold them. Ok, we've been stupid enough to devolve the enforcing of that contact to a Fascist system, but maybe if we all took a bit more responsibility we wouldn't need to live under constant supervision by armed thugs and security cameras.

Kimba- The inactivity of the other deaf and blind bystanders suggests so, yes.

But you really had to see the look in her eyes. No one else saw that.

It was heartrending.

It really got me thinking about social ethos in general. Yes, it's what we all do. But that explains why things are the way they are.

Because we sit about and let it happen.

Anonymous said...

Assuming of course, that she actually wanted you to intervene. Worst comes to worst she stays at yours short term? But sooner of later she has to leave and sooner or later she'd go back to him...of he'd find her.

You can't do anything as an outsider. The will has to come from herself.

Anonymous said...

although I think you got my intention, just to make sure: My 'Chapeau' refered to the fact that - and how! - this post has been written.
It's difficult enough to question one's (lack of) civil courage in front of a mirror; more difficult it is to question it publicly and to describe one's feelings/one's dilemma.
You did, and that is why I wrote and repeat: Chapeau.

As for 'All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing, eh?':
It takes not 'all', but you are right: more civil courage, more 'good' people standing up to the 'evil' could change (society) quite a bit.

Anonymous said...

It's a horrible situation.

I was once being berated and screamed at by my ex-husband in a McDonalds carpark with three small children around my feet. It was 2pm on a Sat arvo and there was a young couple standing at the next car. Kevin was in my face, pointing and threatening going beserk. "Fucking fat pig! You fucking bitch! Give me those papers!! (court order papers)"

I just kept thinking WHY won't that young guy come up and interrupt? Why won't anyone come and speak in my aid? What is wrong with the world?!!?

Looking back I can see that I would not have intervened either, because Kevin was a big angry bloke and he was a young skinny guy out with his girlfriend. Who would want to take on somebody else's domestic fight?

It was a shit day and I drove back with my kids in the car shaking like a leaf and not one child said a word to me on the way home. I was so ashamed.

Bullies get away with so much - they are fucking arseholes with anger issues. You wouldn't have been able to change what he was doing Crushed - he would have got her later on.
I know she looked at you like she wanted you to intervene but she might have just gone back to him later anyways.

Anonymous said...

Don't know what it would of been like if someone had of intervened for me, she most likely as the others have stated, got it worse. Next time as much as you might not like to, call the police. Men who stand over women and berate them and/or beat them are lower than a snakes ass. The risk to yourself is not worth it tho, call in the law to handle it :)

Anonymous said...

I have a superstition about being the thirteenth comment...

Even on my on blog...

Bunny- I know, I guess you're right. But sometimes, just getting out can be all it takes.

It is about will, yes. I suppose many of us slog it out for so long, in so many ways.
Often the problem is, people still have genuine feelings for the abuser- when the abuser isn't being abusive. And they hope one day, the abusive side will go, they just need to work at it.

But it never works like that.

Sean- It kind of preyed on my mind a little.
I think it was the dichotomy between the WISH to do something and the actual failure TO do something.
In some ways I feel that by gping down the ramp, then back up it again, I was more culpable than those who did nothing from the start.

But yes, it really got me reflecting on social ethos. Perhaps it IS because such moral cowardice has been accepted as the way we live, that this veiled tyranny is allowed to flourish- it can justify itself by our lethergy.

Kate- I think it's the way we have becom accustomed to.

It's all linked. We avoid eye contact with the big issue seller, we pretend not to see the couple screaming at eachother, because we're encouraged to think like that.

And I do blame our culture. It's the values we live by. A culture which encourages you to be cheap goods made by the unpaid labour of people being worked to deatrh in Chinese labour camps, is a culture who's overall message is 'As long as you're ok, go for it, and just turn a blind eye'

We reap what we sow.

I think what's worse about what happened in your case, is that it was in front of the kids.

That's got affect their relations with both of you.

Nunyaa- There's something very threatening about that posture of having your face directly in someone elses.

It's what I define as 'hostile intimacy'.
Because the implied threat, is actually a headbutt.

The question is though- for a battered woman- does the law improve things, or make them worse?

Anonymous said...

No, Crushed. No use interfering, unless you can make a change. You wouldn't have made a change, 'cos unless you were to get togther with her, she wouldn't be able to leave him. At least, if it were me, I can imagine being grateful for a moment, but unless you also manage to convince her to leave him, not much else would have changed...

Anonymous said...

I feel I must disagree just a little with ostrebunny here. If it had been me down there with I would so have wanted someone to at least try to put a small word in for me, ease the situation, but not go steaming in or anything, unless the guy was a complete stranger.

I also know that if you made the guy look small he would probably have taken it out on her worse after, so it is a very fine line you have to tread with stuff like that.

…And to be truthful if I had been with you at the top looking down I would have worried about you if you were going to in case you got stabbed or something.

JMB is right saying there is no easy answer.

To be fair to you, you were suddenly trying to make up your mind about something pretty difficult you had maybe not had the chance to think about before. It is easy to be wise after the event, and maybe kick yourself, when you have time to go over it logically. Also maybe you say “well I could have done x or y” but that is how you imagine you could have done something. It might not have turned out how you imagined if you had done.

I do agree that we should help where we can, and be responsible, but the question is can we and do we make things worse if we try.

Maybe your looking down and meeting his eye made a difference.

Here is me being wise after the event. ;-) Maybe if you should ever need to intervene think about not going a too confrontational route, like guys are prone to. Don’t get too close. Just say something like;

“Look, it is probably just you two trying to sort out your differences, but it is enough to make me feel a bit uneasy, ‘cos you read stuff in the papers sometimes about women on their own and violence, so I would take it as a real favour if you could please see your way to discussing it in the street instead of the underpass. It would ease my mind, I bet you would feel the same too in my position.”

Like verbal judo. Or is that too girly?