What Would You Do?

What would you do if you saw a woman being battered?  Would you do something – maybe call the police? Or would you just ignore it and think that it wasn’t any of your business? You may think that you would try to intervene.  But are you sure?

This question came up in a recent article that refers to a story reported by ABC News in a “What Would You Do” hidden camera report.  In the hidden camera video, people’s reactions were recorded when they saw women being physically and verbally abused by their boyfriends in a crowded restaurant.  The scenarios involved two different couples, a Caucasian couple and an African-American couple.  The couples were actors posing as a man and woman in an abusive relationship.  Please be warned, that the video from the news story can be disturbing to watch. 

In each hidden camera scenario, the woman has been made up to look bruised and battered and acts visibly distressed.  The “boyfriend” is loud, verbally abusive, and is being physically rough with his “girlfriend.”  This scenario is played out four different times using both couples.  However, in the second time for both the Caucasian couple and the African-American couple, the “girlfriends” are provocatively dressed. 

The reaction from the onlookers is both hopeful and discouraging.  In the scenarios where both the Caucasian “girlfriend” and the African-American “girlfriend” are dress conservatively, other diners appear concerned for the abused woman and offer to help her right away, ultimately confronting the abusive “boyfriend.” But, in the other two scenarios, both the Caucasian and African-American “girlfriends” who are dressed provocatively, do not get any assistance from the other diners in the restaurant.  In the video it is clear that the diners are bothered by what they are seeing, but their concern, surprisingly, is not for the safety of the “girlfriend,” but for the dignity of the couple.  Some diners even mention to the couple that they are embarrassing themselves. 

It is hopeful, that in today’s society, where everyone seems to be so self-absorbed and isolated, that there are some people out there who recognize right from wrong and are still willing to intervene, especially in cases of abuse.  But it is discouraging that the misconceptions are still out there about abuse and that some women based on the way they dress or who they are “deserve” to be abused.  It is not okay to think that anyone, no matter what, deserves to be treated badly, battered, or abused.  Abuse is the fault of the abuser – period.  But as the video clearly showed, some people are still misinformed.   

Obviously, ABC News’ report was non-scientific and had their test been done a few more times or at different restaurants and in different cities, the results could have been different; and then perhaps, at least one person would have come to the aid of the provocatively dressed “girlfriend.”  But as it stands, I’m afraid the results were pretty accurate about people’s attitudes and understanding of abuse.  We as a society need to realign our thinking and stop blaming the victim so that the focus can be on the abusers and making sure that they, not the victims, are held accountable.

One Comment

  1. Kristin
    Posted June 3, 2010 at 6:57 am | Permalink | Reply

    Reading your blog reminds me of an author I know. Angelica Harris is a domestic abuse survivor who has healed many of her own life’s struggles through writing. Check out her website, http://www.angelicaharris.com. Maybe the two of you could work together and help each other out.

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