The Moral Dilemma of Stopping an Assault (Alone)
EXCLUSIVE ADVICE & OFFERS RIGHT TO YOUR INBOX (NEVER SPAM)
I live in a pretty quiet, safe neighborhood in Los Angeles. It’s suburban-ish, but just a couple of blocks from a major Hollywood studio. There are families, but also single millennials. Not much really happens in the immediate vicinity.
Unless you hear a screaming match between a man and a woman which seems to be happening directly outside of your window. A little further investigation reveals that, yep, it is happening directly outside of your window.
I’ll save you the uncensored details of what was being yelled between the man and the woman, but it was enough to make me sit up a little straighter and listen closely. It was clear they know each other (very well), and I was waiting for them to just go in different directions or get a level head.
I couldn’t see what was happening, but I’d had enough when she started yelling “Take your hands off of me! Why are you hitting me?!”
Headphones off, down the stairs, sneakers on, door open.
By the time I got downstairs, she was crying, but they were physically separated. I don’t know what happened, but he was still yelling at her. At least now, from a distance. I stood in the doorway, behind my gate, with my arms crossed – just so he knew I was there. He got on his bicycle and made his way down the road – still yelling.
It was at this point that I asked her if she was okay as she took her own bicycle and started walking it in the opposite direction. “No, I’m not” she managed through the tears.
She didn’t seem physically hurt, though I know she was traumatized.
At this point, I looked around the neighborhood: Not a soul in sight.
Was I really the only person who had come outside to potentially stop something serious from occurring? Being completely aware that this guy could have been out of his mind, or armed, or both, I’d kept my distance – but I at least wanted to make it known that he was being watched.
In my experience, men who are violent towards women typically lose all illusion of confidence when confronted by another man, but that’s a whole different story. The point here, is that I was surprised nobody else even made an attempt to stop what could have been an assault, or much, much worse.
I recall a problem posed to us back in high school, though I can’t recall the name of it. The general idea was that someone was being assaulted in an alley near an apartment building. Everyone looked out the window, but nobody took action. Why? Because they assumed a person in a different apartment would do it. But, what if everyone assumed, and nobody acted?
I find this fascinating, and also disappointing. As a former martial arts instructor, I was always taught that violence should be the final resort in any situation. Diffusion or avoidance of violence is always the goal – which is what I attempted to do by standing in plain sight rather than just running into the street and escalating things. What if I’d found myself in trouble? Who would’ve come to my aide after I’d rushed to someone else’s? What a moral dilemma this poses…
If you saw someone being attacked, what would you do? Would you interfere? Shout from a distance you were calling the police? Throw a rock? This is a serious question that any of us could be faced with at any given time.
I know, for me, I would absolutely act without hesitation if the person in danger was a loved one – but I’m not sure if any of us know what we would do for a stranger, unless the situation actually arose.
I believe that self-preservation and self-defense is key, but at the same time, what kind of world would it be if nobody looked out for anyone else? We would be living in a free-for-all, the wild wild west, The Purge, in real life.
I believe we can diffuse violence without participating in it. I believe we can save others without risking ourselves. I believe we can be cautious, but effective in our actions.
The question is, though: Will we?
Leave your thoughts below, I’d like to know what you’d do in this situation.
EXCLUSIVE ADVICE & OFFERS RIGHT TO YOUR INBOX (NO SPAM)