Saturday, November 22, 2008

Participating Citizen

One of the ongoing conversations in our office is what "lessons" we would like to incorporate into our prevention programming. We are big supporters of comprehensive sex education. We believe in personal responsibility. We also want to encourage responsible bystander behaviors.

By, "bystander behaviors" we mean having the courage to speak up when someone is out of line or intimidating or intentionally/unintentionally mean. We want to shape a community where people are not afraid of intervening when they seen exploitation or abuse or intimidation.

We also would like to see a society where people respond in compassionate and appropriate ways to the pain of others.

This evening I read of the college student who web broadcast his suicide. Some viewers egged him on. Some tried to talk him out of it. Some discussed if he took enough drugs to accomplish the task. Only a few tried to seek out an intervention or assistance. Sadly, they were too late.

Reading this reminded me of an incident in court recently. I was assisting a client in obtaining a restraining order. We were gathered, early, outside the courtroom. Everyone in the hallway that day was there seeking relief in situations of domestic or interpersonal abuse, violence, or intimidation. A couple was having a disagreement to one side. The voices were soft at first, but using profanity and disrespectful language. The male of the couple put his face within an inch of the female's face and started yelling profanity and threats. At first, we jumped and watched. She tried to quiet him. This, as with so many abusers, just "provoked" him more. When he started yelling again, I walked over to the one courtroom in session so I could signal to the bailiff that we needed assistance. The officers were already on the way out of the courtroom.

They separated the couple and asked the male to cool off. They moved the female into the courtroom. The male started glaring at me and muttering that "People need to stay out of other people's business." I looked him in the eye and told him that he needed to move on.

I hope that my response to get a real intervention will serve as a model for the other people in the hallway. Maybe someday they will act to get an intervention for someone else. I also feel that not only is it a responsibility of the work I do that I intervened . . . but a responsibility as a member of this community.

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