When your time comes to step up, what will you do?

    We’re straying a bit from the usual fare of business-economy-growth in this opinion piece, but it’s a subject that touches all of us in one way or the other.
   Domestic violence is still a closed-door issue in this country. It’s still hidden away, often behind the walls of your neighbors’ houses. When I served for two years on the county’s Commission Against Domestic Violence, one of the chief struggles facing the group was working to convince the general public that domestic violence was its business.
     The knee-jerk reaction for so many people is to feel that domestic violence is an issue between two people, and whether they are married or not, it is "just a relationship thing" that isn’t part of their business. This is the mind set that allows this violence — chiefly against women — to continue.
    The bottom line is that it IS your business. But the reality is that it is not as easy to "do the right thing" when push comes to shove as we might hope.
    When, on a hot Saturday night in the beginning of August, there was a confrontation and assault on the street in front of my house, I ran out of my door to find a woman laying in the street, crying. Her boyfriend was standing over her, calling her every name in the book, and demanding his car keys. I shouted for him to back off, and got a few choice words directed at me as a result. My wife was out of the house next, and I told her to call 911, which she did; I got between the young woman, still on the street, and her assailant. The girl scrambled to her feet and started to run, sobbing, yelling, "Stay away from me, leave me alone!" I stayed between the two and he eventually left up an alley, screaming and cursing her; she was nursing a welt on her face where he had slugged her. She thanked me, but as he left the alley, she told me I was "sticking my nose in other people’s business."
   Not the reaction I expected, but it didn’t change the fact that something had needed to be done.
   After the police arrived very shortly thereafter and began to comb the neighborhood for the assailant (the girl also disappeared before the police came, saying she was wanted on a warrant and didn’t want to be there when the police came), I went back inside and my wife and I talked through the whole event.
   The young man had been furious with me for interfering, and had made that clear. I had two sleeping kids in the house. Was it possible he would come back and vent his anger on us as well? I didn’t get to sleep that night until very late, and it was a fitful sleep at best.
   I had begun second-guessing my actions. Had I done the right thing? Had I put my family in danger because of some self-interested sense of bravado? I’ve since come to think that hard decisions often entail this kind of second-guessing after the fact.
   The bottom line: If I had just hidden behind my windows, I would have been part of the problem, not part of the solution.
   I live in a quiet neighborhood, where this type of activity out on the street is about as rare as a blue moon. The screaming, crying and threatening shouts were probably heard for blocks. When this happens in your neighborhood — and it will — are you ready to do the right thing and be part of the solution?

— J.T.

Off Beat
      by Rik Dalvit




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