The cost of doing nothing

The title to a recent Amy Dickinson advice column caught my attention and lead me to the question about domestic violence. I was so shocked by the brutality of the writer’s co-worker and his dilemma that I wrote the following letter to Amy and him before reading her answer to the question.

Another option for the man in Iowa is to simply pick up the phone or his cell phone dial 911 and say “I am witnessing domestic violence committed by so and so at such and such address.” I am confident that the people on the other end will handle the domestic abuser from there on out.

In 1962 I found myself in a similar situation. My wife and I newly moved from Kansas to Cincinnati, had bought a new house on Planet Drive. One evening we heard the wife of a neighbor crying and screaming as he beat her. Not knowing what else to do I started to cross the street and intervene to stop him. Another neighbor met me in the street and told me not to interfere. “He had done this before and when his wife got enough she would leave him.”

I allowed his words to stop me. Reflecting on that moment I know I made a mistake. In 3 days I plan on turning 82 and this is one mistake that still haunts me. I suspect the Iowan will learn some thing from his experience. My best wishes to him.

Jackson Katz, PhD, on Ted Talk describes this as the bystander effect in many male violence against women cases. I recommend his talk for men who want to make a better world for themselves, women and children. I believe it is available by Google.

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