Sunday, August 26, 2012

Conflicted on Domestic Violence Intervention

You never know when you will have to face a life test. Whether you'll pass and do the "right thing". Whether it even is the right thing.

I had that situation this weekend. I'm conflicted about what happened. I'm going to work it out with myself by telling the story here.

So, I'm enjoying a memory-making moment with my sons at the library. Precious time together. I let them browse and use the computer search to find books of interest while I sit and read. Ironically, I chose to sit and skim a book that I had just bought for my Kindle - Glenn Beck's "Cowards", which is about people being too timid to speak up.

Over the top of my book, I see an argument blow up. A young woman is being loudly pursued by a young man. He's grabbing her arm aggressively and saying heatedly "you're going to listen to me". She's trying to put a newspaper away, and get away from him, and he keeps after her. Swearing at her, inappropriately. "You F*ing B*tch. You N-lover!" Based on that, the bald head, and the tats up his neck, I"m going to call him a skinhead.

I look at the two guys sitting around me. Do they see this? Yes, and they are turning away from the awkward situation.

She flees the library. He chases after her. Grabbing at her. Cussing at her. In the library.

I made a decision, put down my book, and went out of the library after them - leaving my sons in there.

I pass two ladies coming down the ramp into the library. They have screwed up faces, like "oh, that's unpleasant".

I go out into the parking lot and scan the area. There she is, running down the middle of the street frantically with him in pursuit. I lose them as they round a building.

I run too. Around the building. There they are, across the street from me - and across the street from our police station. Wrong place to pick a fight in public.

He has her by the arm, yanking her aggressively. "You're going to come with me, and listen to me!"

"Hey", I yell across the distance. "Take your hands off of her!"

Mad guy yells at me. He is way out of control. F-bombs are flying in my direction. "This is none of your business!"

The action moves around a parking lot. She gets up and flees. He catches her. I pursue. "Take your hands off of her". More F-bombs coming at me. I'm yelling back, but keep a distance.

A car sees what happens and pulls in paralleling me. Watching. Gauging the situation. Eventually, he gets out of his car and mad guy recognizes him. He's an off duty cop. Cop asks me to stand down but stay, and engages mad guy in a calm and professional manner. I stand down.

Two squad cars race up to a stop near us. Cops get out with pizza that they were taking to the police station, and intervene to back up the off duty guy. They separate mad guy and his "old lady". She starts going into "He didn't do anything" mode. I don't speak to her, but turn away from them and stay out of it. Uniformed cop comes and gets my story. They arrest mad guy. I go back to the library and get my sons to leave.

That's the story. Here's why I'm conflicted.

I didn't intend to get the guy arrested. I just wanted him to stop grabbing her. He made the poor decision to have a public fight in front of the police station, and ended up inside it.

Does the woman think that I did her a favor? I doubt it.

When I got my sons in the car to go home, I passed her again. She was walking down the street, away from the cop cars, looking lost and crying.

My heart went out to her again.

I know the pain of an arrest of a family member. It's not a momentary thing. It ripples through your life for months, years even. There are court costs and lawyer's fees to face. There is lost time in court appearances. There is stigma and turmoil. There is time served or probation. There is much family pain to come.

Again, does she think that I did here any favors? I sincerely doubt it.

I modelled for my sons that it's not alright to put your hands aggressively on a woman. Even "my old lady". Especially your wife. And that you can't look the other way. That is important to me. Yes.

I am conflicted tonight as I go to sleep. Did I do her any favor? I will never know.


  1. Hi Randy,

    Thanks for sharing this. I reflected on your post for a bit today and decided to share some thoughts with you. I hope they are encouraging and not condemning.

    You asked the question "Did I do her any favors?", to which you already know the answer..."I will never know". And you're right, you will never really know. You also asked the same question with a subtle difference "Does she think that I did her any favors?". Again, you're right to doubt the answer would be yes. Perhaps someday she will appreciate your actions, but you'll likely never know if she does. So, why be conflicted about how she may or may not feel? Why even speculate?

    I grew up a witness to domestic violence in my home. I witnessed family arrests and have been arrested myself. You are right about the aftermath. There is not only lingering emotional pain, but financial and legal issues that result in anger, bitterness. It becomes very easy to place one's self in the role of victim. I remember clinging to family and friends who would simply enable my "victim" mindset, and I would become enraged by people I considered to be part of the "problem"….police and other authority figures, the middle-class folks with seemingly perfect lives, etc. After all, I didn't ask for my family problems, I inherited them. It wasn't my fault. (Pretty common language). I resented many who tried to "help" me. I remember athletic coaches in school offering "tough love" and giving me advice along the lines of "Pull yourself up by your bootstraps". I understand now that they may have been sincerely trying to help, but at the time, I hated those coaches. I wanted to be a victim because it was cheap love and felt good (if only temporarily), and I didn't want to let that go. My heart was damaged, broken.

    Today, I think the gap has widened between the "victim-class" and the middle-class. Racism is more prevalent than ever, and the distance between our political ideologies is increasing daily. I've done a considerable amount of social work with the "poor and needy" both as a volunteer and in a leadership position. In my experience their are three different types of people who volunteer their time and energy to "serve" the poor and needy. 1) The guilty - these are people who generally feel guilt as they consider their own fortunate lives and privileges, and they serve mainly to assuage their guilt. These people are using service to the poor as a means to justify their excess, and they give (time & resources) only to that end. The poor usually know when they are being used in this manner, and they resent it. 2) The proud - these are people who are motivated by their own moral standards. They give because they ought to, not necessarily because they want to. The poor they serve are incidental, and they only give time and resources as a demonstration of their own good works. They become arrogant and feel superior to the poor and those who do less good works. The poor can sense this and they resent it. 3) The grateful - these are people who serve out of an overflow of gratitude. They see their time and resources as gifts to be shared. They weave their very lives in with the fabric of the poor community in an effort to make it stronger, healthier. They have compassion without pretense. The poor sense this and they embrace it.

    You modeled for your sons true and good values. This is indeed important and right, but don't forget to cultivate and demonstrate compassion. This is easier said than done, and there is usually some sort of sacrifice involved on your part. Your conflictedness is evidence that this is perhaps taking place. People who are broken and damaged can sense compassion and empathy…even if they don't see it as a favor in the moment.

    That was more lengthy than I intended…I hope I didn't clog your blog :)
    Take care Randy!


    NW Dotson

  2. You did better than doing her a favor. You did your community a favor. That man is a menace to society. Yes, it was a "domestic" situation but I doubt anyone who acts that way in public with someone he knows would turn into a reasonable, calm person if he faced a negative situation anywhere else. We have police to take care of these situations.

  3. she doesn't have the perceptive ability to understand that you did her a favor. and while you did her a favor at the moment, she might know that later it's going to continue and likely be worse. the important part here is that you helped document his behavior. once in the police station, it might be learned that this is a pattern for him, and this might lead to something rather strict from the authorities.

    if you're still conflicted - try not to be. doing nothing would have been worse. i hope i make the same choice if the situation presents itself.