An Unheroic Rescue

If you come around here much, you know that a week ago I witnessed a man become physically violent toward his girlfriend. I chose to intervene, talking the man down and defraying the situation.

Several of my readers (love you guys!) gave me high praise for my effort, but somehow, it did not feel deserved.

The truth is after the event was over I was unable to sleep all night. Not because of an adrenaline high. I actually didn’t feel that good about what I’d done. Instead I spent the rest of the night analyzing a simple question:

What could I have done differently? 

More Than “All You Could”

One commenter pointed out that what I had done sounded an awful lot like my working definition of heroism:

A hero is someone who takes extraordinary personal risk to help others, with no personal stake.

…but I did not do anything heroic. At first it was hard to say why I feel this way. I did take risk: the man could have attacked me. And I had no personal stake in the issue; they were strangers and I could easily have kept walking toward home.

After a lot of thought, this is the missing ingredient:

I don’t believe I helped. 

Yes, I stopped the woman from being hit that particular night. But that is not where an abusive relationship ends. To be safe, she needs to exit the relationship, and that is a decision she has to make for herself.

Likewise, the man needs to reconsider the way he treats women, not for one night but in general.

Ultimately both of them are in an unhealthy pattern. Until one or both of them breaks that pattern, there is not going to be any actual improvement in their lives. I admonished him for 4 minutes, but she is no safer than she was before.

Many people have told me “you did everything you could.” But in my heart I felt there is more I could have done. I just didn’t know what it might be.

I asked my teacher how I could have handled it. He listened to my story without judgment, but with a look of concern on his face. When I finished he said:

“I’m glad you are okay. Did you have a phone on you?”

I frowned. I thought he was going to say I should have called the police. I mentally prepared my objections. “Yes,” I said, “but–“

“Does your phone have a camera?”

I blinked.


Imagine this for a moment. What if, instead of physically interposing myself between this couple–a high-risk, confrontational move—I had simply opened up my phone, stood near them, and said loudly, “I’m recording this.”


I did the right thing by choosing to intervene. I stopped the immediate threat, and let her know she was not alone.

But if I had pulled out a camera, it would have been less provocative. The chance of him hurting me, her, or someone else would have been lower. And maybe, suddenly realizing he is on film—that this could be on Youtube for all his family to see, or used as evidence at a trial—maybe he would have thought of the consequences. Of the true meaning of his actions. It could have been a learning moment.

Would he have? What do you think?

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49 thoughts on “An Unheroic Rescue

  1. As someone who’s been in an abusive relationship in the past, I feel fairly confident in saying no, he would not have changed his behavior – at least not any more than being confronted by you changed his behavior.

    If she is with an abusive man, he would likely have done the same thing in both situations: taken it home. Either way, the woman may face accusations – and worse – for “bringing attention to them in pubic,” or something similar. I can easily see a scenario where she is blamed, or “do you really want someone to see how foolish you were, and have it on camera?” “Was your behavior really worth it, considering that you made a total stranger whip out a camera because you were making such a scene?”

    You, alone, can’t stop domestic abuse. Part of the problem with being a hero is that you can’t save someone who doesn’t want to be saved. You helped, I’m sure – for one moment, maybe the woman realized that relationships don’t have to be that way. But as long as she thinks it’s normal, or okay, or even just too risky to leave – you can’t help. You can’t abduct her, and you can’t remove him.

    I’m sorry; I know you wanted to help. I believe you did do something heroic, because you told another person that you cared, and would take care of the situation if she asked. She didn’t ask.

    And there’s nothing you can do unless she does.

    Your teacher gave you good advice on how to minimize the risk to yourself while still taking action, but I don’t think, ultimately, the outcome would have been any different.

    • Arden says:

      “Part of the problem with being a hero is that you can’t save someone who doesn’t want to be saved.”

      Ain’t it the truth.

      I can see how an action like Drew’s may contribute to her getting out eventually, though. Not in the sense that it would directly inspire her– but it may serve as reinforcement that the situation is wrong and dysfunctional. You rarely see a direct effect of your actions, but you can hope that they contribute, somehow, to a better future.

    • These are really good insights Colleen. One of the people I was hanging out with in New Orleans works at a battered women’s shelter and she had also said commented that a woman can’t be helped out of an abusive relationship until she wants to. One friend gave an example of standing behind a woman while she tells her boyfriend to leave, rather than intervening to tell him on her behalf.

      This reality makes me wonder if a simple change in what I had said might have helped more. “I will stand beside you if you tell him to leave.” I wonder if that would have been any more effective or if I am grasping at straws. Perhaps there is just no solution in this situation.

      • Key word here is friend. You were a complete stranger that would be difficult to trust. It is important to consider these things and know what to do if anything like it happens again, yet I still think you did every right thing, as when you left they were with other people and not alone anymore and likely left her to realize that caring people like you are out there and won’t have to settle for an abusive relationship. That circumstance is done, and whats left to ponder is possible future encounters, if ever.

  2. Jaguar in Arkansas. says:

    I have to agree with Colleen. People who find themselves in abusive relationships can’t be saved by someone outside the relationship. The most those outside can do it talk. Talk and point out the issues. The one being abused has to be convinced she, or he, CAN get out.

    I’ve been there, made all the excuses for the partner in question, tried to deal with the fall out and finaly figured out it wasn’t worth it. No one else could do it for me, I had to do it for myself. BUT, I did have the support of friends and familey, people who “had my back”. That’s what this woman needs, and at least for a few minutes, you “had her back”. How you intervined isn’t as important as the fact that you did.

    Oh, and feeling bad you couldn’t do more, that’s normal.

    Jaguar in Arkansas.

  3. SwampThistle says:

    I feel like pulling out your camera would have been less effective. Doing so would have made the woman feel even more vulnerable, I think, like she was on trial, too. Instead you made her feel cared for, you made eye contact with her and that might just change her reaction to him the next time he comes after her.

    • That is a really good point Thistle. I will never forget the look of relief on her face when she said “thank you” to me, any more than I will forget the look of fear on his face. Maybe just that sense that someone cared is enough.

  4. I agree with Colleen and Jaguar. She didn’t accept your help. You did all you could do, she didn’t close the gap.

    I’m not sure what your camera would have done; you could use it to draw attention to abuse. You could track the man down and humiliate him in front of his employers and his community. Such vigilantism might have indeed forged some kind of social action.

    But for that woman, at least for a while, her life would have gotten very much worse, not only in the ways that Colleen describes. Such a man is terrified of feeling small. And having the cowardice of his actions put on display would make him feel very small indeed– and he would have almost certainly taken them out on her.

    Your camera might of help if it escalated to violence towards you: You would have a great assault case. But you should never assume that you would only be fighting him. SHE might have attacked you, because she probably loves him and doesn’t want harm to come to him.

    The dynamics of a situation like this are sticky. It wasn’t heroic because you didn’t help, I agree. But what help you could offer, you did. And that, ultimately, is the very best you can do.

    • I have to admit that a chill goes down my spine when I remember that it never occurred to me, in the moment, that she might attack me. My teacher mentioned that too when I talked with him. Fortunately just of instinct I didn’t put myself literally in between them, but stayed to one side so I could see both. Thank you for your comment Shanna, and especially for pointing that out.

  5. I believe that , yes, you could have done more. There are a million things that you could have done better but I believe you already did more than the average.
    When I was 15 , a guy stole my walkman in the street. He threatened to punch me. As he was way bigger than me I accepted and gave him my walkman. What shocked me was to see all the people going away. I was trying to catch someone gaze so that they come to help me but everyone was going away. Right after it happened I even met 2 policemen in the next street and told them about it and they gave me a “yeah … whatever… you have to go to the police station…” They were not willing to run after the guy who was probably still in the next street.
    I suppose this violent guy probably had experiences with people going away when he was violent with his girlfriend in public. And he thought he was somewhat ok because nobody said anything. But you interviened. You stood up. I believe that it could change something in his mind.

  6. Did I ever tell you I have worked as a battered woman’s advocate, and I have continued to intervene in what ways I could even after I left that job? Have I ever told you flat-out that I’m an abuse survivor?

    I’m actually pretty familiar with the patterns of abuse, and I keep up on what we discover about the pathologies behind them.

    If you had taken out that phone and recorded it, you would have made it worse. There is no question in my mind. Not only would her partner have attacked you, she might have too. Abuse – and taking abuse – leads to diseased thinking.

    Did you save that woman? Not directly – the downside of all of this is that anyone in an abusive relationship must ultimately save him or herself. What you did, however ineffective it might feel, was the only smart way to go about it by quietly popping the “bubble” they were living in and letting them know the rest of the world sees what they are doing, and the rest of the world does not do as they do. You reminded them both that there IS an outside world.

    This person – and any other person in an abusive relationship – is likely in multiple abusive relationships at once; it’s just the one that isolates her first that “wins.” Chances are she’s got abusive female-female relationships with women that expose her to victimhood, or women she nominates to get hurt herself. She probably has an abuse pattern that goes into her lineage – parents, grandparents, even ancestors.

    You put it in front of her there’s another way, and if she feels a true call to be another way, she’ll think of you and look at that choice to be different and to choose different people. The heroic path will be HER path – her chances of being killed by an abuser will increase significantly when she leaves. There may be kids, and she may be brainwashed into “staying for the kids.” You don’t know and you can’t know – but you also have no reason for regret.

    • Diana, I can’t say what a relief it is to know you feel this way. I did not know about your past in an abusive relationship, but knowing that, I appreciate your insight even more. Thank you.

  7. I was in an abusive relationship for too many years. But I will disagree slightly with Colleen and Jaguar. Of course you can only change the actions and reactions of the self. So trying to stop the abuse by something you’re doing is more often than not, going to end in sadness.

    I will also agree with Colleen on the point of how recording could have made her feel more vulnerable unless you made a point to focus on the man when stating something. She could very easily feel more exposed, and like it is her fault for not handling it better.

    However, whether she decided to stay, go, or just reconsider, you gave her support the best way you knew how to IN THE MOMENT. And I think that’s all we can ever do, is the best we know how in the moment it comes to us. The problem with a lot of abusive relationships has already been mentioned, but only at the surface. The woman feels in some way, she deserves to be treated like that. Whether she feels this is a normal part of how couples deal with things, or that she’s worthless so she better get what she can. Whether it was done perfectly, or had room for improvement…you did something.

    I may have been in an abusive relationship for years, but I’ve also been out of one for just as long (and coming up on longer). And where as it was my choice, and mine alone to leave…I have become forever grateful to those people that had the courage to stand beside me in one way or another and to let me know that what I was going through was wrong. I may have been temporarily left feeling exposed, or vulnerable, or stupid or whatever the case may be. But every time someone stepped up in their own way to say “This is not okay”…it gave me something to think about. And it gave me courage to leave when the time came because I knew that other people, some that didn’t even know me, thought it was wrong. It wasn’t just me.

    And even with the man, you never know what is going through his head and the reasons for his actions. What you did could have really thrown him for a loop, he could have taken it out on her, he could be so mentally unstable that he’s beyond repair.

    The point is, there’s such a long list of variables to any interaction, that I don’t think there’s any way to know how much of an influence you had on either of them. I think there are positive and negative sides to any action you could have taken. But as Manuel mentioned just above me…you took action. It may not feel like much, but the fact is you had enough inner strength as a person to do something. I think you did the right thing as best you knew how at the time. What happens after that is all in their proverbial court. And sometimes, that’s what makes us feel the most helpless, not being able to take their hand and help them through life altering realizations.

    • Thank you Amber. I have to say I am really moved by the outpouring of support and advice from people who have themselves survived abuse. Thank you so much for helping me understand this.

  8. First of all, I agree with the comments above. Second, I stand by my comment on the previous post: You sent them both a message: Someone sees. Someone cares. You have options.

    That is huge.

    As I reflect on this, it occurs to me that Extraordinary Personal Risk doesn’t only mean physical risk. The person who speaks up, who stands up, also risks his or her peace of mind. Risks his or her image of him/herself. Risks giving up being Sure. And that strikes me as no less painful than personal injury. But it is crucial. You have opened yourself up to hugely important questions, and I rejoice in that for you.

    The answers may hurt. The lack of answers may hurt. But you are asking. And that is Extraordinary Personal Risk in my book.

    • Great point Susan. Zeno Franco, who studies the pyschology of heroism, told me that the greatest risk most people are going to be faced with in acting heroically is social risk – exactly what you said. There is definitely something to that and I have to say, even though I did not do anything heroic, when I chose to stand up and intervene the instinct to keep my head down and say nothing was overwhelming. It was almost paralyzing. I would have given anything for a police officer to show up so that I wouldn’t have to step in.

      • “when I chose to stand up and intervene the instinct to keep my head down and say nothing was overwhelming”

        It is interesting to have read that, because every circumstance I’ve come across like that, I’ve had to rein in my urge to step in so that I can properly assess the situation first. People have to tell me to ‘back down’ sometimes and I find it very difficult.

        I was raised to defend myself physically because my father was concerned for the well being of his five daughters. He taught us to not let the bully have control and my sisters and I kind of got a little reputation to not be mess with. One of my sisters even accidentally knocked a friend flat who was a lot bigger then her by giving what she intended to just be a friendly punch. Having been trained in wilderness first aid and been a lifeguard for sometime, it becomes a normal reaction as that is part of the job. You have to intervene and that is one reason why I took that job, so that I could help people. Which I suppose is much like these amazing people posting here who’ve worked in shelters and abuse victims programs. You feel the urge to do something and take up that torch in however form you know.

        Maybe part of your journey is to take up the torch for abuse victims, to learn and help in whatever way you can. Shelters often need a security guard to come between the victims in the shelter and the abuser whose come to get them. Even if it is a friendly volunteer, they need all the help they can get. This would certainly be in tune with your heroic training wouldn’t it?

        • Rua, this really interested me. Most people have an instinct not to stand out. Your is to stand up for yourself and others. What a wonderful thing. Thank you for writing this.

  9. Beth says:

    Ditto everyone else. I also trained as an advocate in college, and it was immediately crystal clear: you can offer support, but no one can get that woman out of that situation except herself. And she is the only one who can judge when and how it is safe to do that.

    This is really forcing you to do some deep thinking. You’re not feeling great about this because you don’t know that you really made a difference. Like most other comments have said, there is nothing *you* can do to fix this for her. Even if you were her best friend and invited her to move in with you and did all the work for her, you still couldn’t save her from this situation. She has a lot of incredibly hard work to do for herself if she wants to get out. Does it make a difference that you intervened? Absolutely. Would it have mattered if you’d used a camera, or asked if she needed somewhere to stay, or any number of other things, instead of doing what you did? Honestly, no. The relationship will not suddenly become un-abusive because of one thing that one person does. But that doesn’t mean your “one thing” can’t combine with a string of others to help give her strength.

    I actually think this is much more true to life than the theoretical discussions here in the past. Is it heroic to save people from a fire? Yes. What are the chances you’ll ever do that? Not high, and that’s not because you wouldn’t try it; you just may never have the opportunity. But think of all the times that you wanted to help someone, but it wasn’t as simple as that. I’ve had friends struggling with depression and suicide, or miserable from or anxiety, and colleagues in abusive relationships, and friends who were alcoholic by the age of 22. In all these cases, the only thing I could do was be present in whatever way they would let me. The only potential hero in that situation was them.

    So the question for you is: what does this mean for how you think about your path? Talking about it as “heroic” implies that you are required to see final end results. An understandable and laudable goal…but honestly, that’s not usually the way the world works. You usually do your little part, whether it’s by intervening in a fight or working/volunteering with a nonprofit or being a good friend…and you have to be able to live with the fact that that’s all you can do. If you’re focused on “everything is OK now” results, you’re setting yourself up for a lot of angst.
    Is it possible that it’s more about bravery, or integrity, or being fully present in every situation?

    Which leads me to my opinions about why people like fantasy genre stuff, but that’s another discussion completely.

    • Yes Beth, I totally agree – it is about the heroic spirit that people can cultivate, as much or more than it is about the result.

      You wrote:

      If you’re focused on “everything is OK now” results, you’re setting yourself up for a lot of angst.

      I think that is the reality of the Heroic Life. Most of the time, you won’t get to see the end result of the difference you make. I’m not sure I fully understood that till I walked home from that encounter in New Orleans, confused and uncertain.

  10. joe says:

    Drew, Right or Wrong you are the one who was there and choose to act. So for that you have earned some respect. Anything else from here would be armchair coaching. But I will say this. You choose to act and the guy and his girlfriend both took it in hopefully, Maybe and hopefully it might add some momentum to one of the two fixing there life.

  11. Have you heard about this: http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/45146961/ns/today-today_people/t/daughter-beating-video-why-i-released-it/

    You may have planted a seed in her that will eventually help her get out of the relationship. Like Beth says, even if you were her best friend who could be with her night and day, she still ultimately has to make the choice. We tried to help a depressed friend of ours a few years ago, we even had him living with us between hospital stays, but he chose not to take his medication and eventually his life. I still wonder if I had said or done something differently, would it have made a difference? Probably not.

    It’s an honorable idea to want to save people, but with things like domestic violence the issues are so complex on a psychological and social level that . . . well, I don’t know what to say . . . but quick fixes won’t do it (not that that’s what I think you are doing).

    • I had not seen that video before Grace, thank you for sharing it (as hard as it is to watch). I think these complex issues underscore how important it is to realize you cannot just go out and be a hero – it is an elusive goal, and you can only do your best to cultivate a heroic spirit.

  12. Wow, that camera thing totally by passed me. Good point on that. I think you confronting him gave him a bit of a shock and maybe have made him rethink a little. But I honestly doubt that was the case, a camera would of likely made more of an impact in that regard and maybe have the woman realize the depth of the kind of relationship she is in and that it is best to leave it, if she hadn’t already.

    • Thanks Rua. The camera thing is an idea I’ll have to keep in my bag of tricks in case I run into something like this again. Whether it will make a difference…. I am no sure.

  13. Yes, Drew, I think you’re right. Having a camera would’ve helped more. But I wouldn’t have even warned him he was being filmed…. except I would’ve still intervened anyway. And took pictures.

    In the days before cell phones, I intervened when I witnessed a man beating up my neighbor. Without thinking about my own safety, and while still in my night gown and in slippers, I stormed out of my apartment and just started screamed at the man to leave her alone. She had a bloody nose and everything. He stopped, shocked that some woman was confronting him without being afraid of him. I had a cordless phone in my hand and had 911 on speed dial. When he made a move to hit me, and as the battered woman yelped for him to stop, I pressed 911 and called for the police. Within seconds sirens came screaming down the street (the station wasn’t too far from my home) but what reward did I get? The woman began to scream bloody murder at me for not minding my own business. Especially when her abusive boyfriend got hauled off to jail.

    I felt so bad about the situation that I went to the Women’s Crisis Center and joined a group of college feminists to start volunteering to help counsel battered women. That was much more rewarding than just giving a temporary fix to an immediate situation.

    I like the way you think. And I understand.

    • Val, thank you for sharing that story. Apparently it is very common for a woman in an abused relationship to become angry, even aggressive if someone tries to call the authorities on her abuser. I would never have thought of that if you, my teacher, and other friends and readers had not told me.

      I’m glad you got through that situation safely, by the way. As I’m sure you know, things could have gone much worse if the police had been slower.

  14. Oh, and another thing, too. Men need to be counseled and trained on how to treat women better as well. It’s always made me wonder what compels men to bully women? Were they abused? Did their fathers abuse their mothers? Or are they simply people who like to take advantage of other people to make themselves feel stronger? There’s some insecurity and cowardice in a man who needs to bully another person to make himself superior, eh?

    • Once upon a time (in the mid 80’s) I helped to launch a safe house for battered women. One of the things we soon learned is that women in lesbian relationships and men in gay relationships were not immune to abusive relationships.

      There has also been recent recognition, thanks to the attention on bullying, that girls can be bullies too. It’s not just boys.

      People of every gender and orientation are subject to power, security and self-image issues. We all need to be counseled and trained on how to treat ourselves and each other better. And awareness, willingness to look in the mirror, and willingness to hold up a mirror, are good places to start.

      • That is VERY true, Susan! I’ve witnessed all kinds of domestic abuse in diverse relationships. It isn’t just unique to heterosexual ones. Thank you for pointing that out. In my exuberance to make a point, I forgot to point that out, too. ;-)

      • Really good point Susan. I’m glad you added that. The same goes in cases of sexual assault too – it is amazing how many men are sexually assaulted each year. Most of those attacks are by other men in warfare or as a way to dominate each other, but it happens in domestic settings too.

      • As a child of an abusive marriage, I want to point out that men can be abused by women, too. It is not socially acceptable for them to defend themselves when it is a women attacking them. My mother would often hit my father, and I’m talking repeated closed-fist punches with a lot of force. But since he’s a man and she’s a woman, he’s expected to take it. Only once did he raise his hand to defend himself, and he stopped himself before actually hitting back. Imagine if he had called the cops, who do you think they would have arrested? my parents eventually divorced and my father got custody of me and my brother due to my mother being mentally unstable. But when I read about the psychological state of women who have been in abusive relationships, I am struck by how it sounds like my father when he was in that marriage to my mother. He was basically brainwashed. I’m glad that he was eventually able to find the strength to leave, but people frequently judge him when they hear that he got custody of us kids, like he’s some kind of monster for taking us away from our mother. For the record, he gave us a choice about who we wanted to live with, and since she was physically and mentally abusive to all 3 of us, we jumped at the chance to go with him. I thank the Gods that the courts were able to recognize that he was the fit parent, since they are so often biased in the favor of the mother. Single fathers get no recognition and no help, but that’s a whole other issue to talk about.

        • WONDERFUL point and thank you for pointing it out, Temple. I’m sorry for what you & your dad had to go through, and glad he was able to get custody. I have never met a man who I *knew* was abused by his wife or girlfriend, but it is the kind of thing most men would hide.

  15. Quick link: http://www.capserv.org/CAP%20Apps/Physical%20Abuse.pdf
    Domestic abuse comes in several different forms, not all of them are physically violent. Having a commitment towards helping women get out of situations where their freedom, safety, and independence is being compromised is not only heroic, it is honorable, moral, and should be something everyone should stand for. Even some men can fall victim to some of the domestic abuses that the above link lists/details. Just more to think about, more I wanted to say, but so many others have said already. Don’t want to take up all your reply space. But this really hits home!

  16. Your teacher’s comment is thought-provoking, but I believe you did the right thing by physically intervening.

    I’ve been keeping track of the #OWS movement for several weeks now. On November 2 (actually the morning of the 3rd I guess), I watched the Livestream from Oakland after the general strike. I witnessed the police shoot a homeless man with rubber bullets for no reason. He was just there. I’m not sure he was even involved with the protests. But the police shot him anyway. They knew they were being recorded – as all of the police across the country have known they were being recorded when they committed acts of violence against peaceful protesters – and it did nothing to stop the violence. Did it make them less violent than they would have been if camera phones didn’t exist? Maybe, but that’s a terrifying thought because cameras have been present and they have seriously injured people nonetheless.

    That might seem like its unrelated to domestic abuse, but in both situations we see a person (or group of people) who trusts another person (or group of people) to protect them, and instead of protection that person offers violence and verbal abuse. In both instances, what we’re seeing is a power play. The boyfriend was attempting to assert power in his relationship by using force, just as the police assert their power by using force. But in both of these examples, that power is being abused. A man uses his power to protect his mate, and the police should use their power to protect peaceful civilians.

    But if the presence of cameras is not enough to shame a policeman into doing his job properly, then how could it ever shame a boyfriend into doing his “job” properly? A policemen has a lot more to lose from a camera than some drunk dude roughing up his girlfriend on a rough street.

    Sometimes physical intervention is necessary. We cannot always rely on our digital tools. They are not as powerful as we like to think. Our animal bodies are not wired to react instantly to the presence of a camera, but they are wired to react instantly to the presence of another threatening animal body. If you held up your camera, the likely response would have been a laugh and a rude comment about the geek threatening him with a phone. I highly doubt it would have hit home for that man in his emotional state at the time.

    When you put your body between their bodies, you sent a clear signal to the lizard brain that was controlling that man’s behavior. You sent the eternal message of “Pick on someone your own size, tough guy.” The man – being the kind of coward who abuses women – backed down quickly in the face of a braver male presence. Most of the communication that occurred during this exchange was probably on the primal level of body language. Your words didn’t matter as much as your physical presence.

    You did everything you could do to help this woman in that moment. If she wants out of the relationship, she will have to make that choice. But perhaps by intervening you sent her the message that YES, she does have a choice. This is not the way things should be. This is NOT how real men treat women. You showed her how a real man treats women. You showed her what real male power looks like. And I think that is probably something she needed to see more than she needed to see some geek with his phone in the air. Maybe this situation didn’t end like a Disney movie with you sweeping this girl off to a new happy life yourself, but maybe it was enough to inspire her to get out of this bad relationship and find a noble companion like that random guy who intervened that night when her boyfriend was being a monster.

    We live in a society where we are not always able to physically intervene when we see someone doing something wrong. When we see a policeman beating a peaceful protester with a baton, what can we do? If we intervened in that situation, we’d likely wind up in jail even if it was the morally right thing to do. Justice has been taken out of the hands of the people and placed in the hands of the professionals who do not always do their jobs. If you had paused to call the police instead of handling this yourself, it is probably that it would not have been deemed worthy of intervention on such a busy night in such a wild town. The problems of one man and one woman “don’t amount to a hill of beans.” A less brave person might have felt satisfied by calling the police to do “their job” and then walked away with a clear conscious.But instead you did your job – your job as a man, as a human being – to protect another human being in their moment of need. If you hadn’t intervened right then, who knows what would have happened? He could have beaten her to death in a dark alley by the time the police showed up.

    The world might – no, it WOULD – be a better place if more people were willing to act instantly instead of waiting for professional to do the job for them. You did exactly the right thing. You did something nobody else on that street was willing to do for her. You stood up. You said I am watching with my human eyes, not my camera phone, and I am not going to let this happen even if I have to put myself at risk to stop it. You were a hero whether you’re comfortable with that or not. And the fact that you’re uncomfortable with it only proves it more.

    • Chase, that is an incredibly rich and heartfelt response. I can tell we think in a very similar way. Thank you for taking the time to write that.

      I do wonder though about the difference between police and citizens. I always get the sense that police feel they will not be punished – certainly in the Twin Cities, where I know the situation best, the police who abused people during the Republican National Convention faced very little in the way of disciplinary measures. On the other hand, and individual citizen like the guy I confronted could certainly end up in jail.

      In others words, the power of the camera lies in fear of the police. The police don’t fear the police, so the camera has little power over them.

  17. I want to thank everyone for the amazing depth of responses to this post. I’m sorry I haven’t responded much – this weekend has been very crazy. But I have been reading with interest and a lot of gratitude. I’ll go through and respond where I can. You’ve all been very helpful!

  18. Pingback: If You Can Destroy Them… « Rogue Priest

  19. You were the hero that night, Drew. Through your actions you made a difference to them, and to us. A difference that will ripple out and continue to affect change.
    The act of being heroic implies a temporary resolution of a crisis through bravery and quick thinking. It seems that your feeling of not really helping comes from a desire for your actions to have a more permanent resolution, which is more in the “savior” realm of thinking.
    It is admirable that you want to be helpful on a longer scale, and perhaps you were, but in the end we must all bear the weight of our own burdens. I hope that woman finds her way out of that situation, just as I hope that man can find a way to change.
    Unfortunately no action will force anyone to think, “I am accountable for my actions and right now my actions are hurting another.” People will justify and lie to make themselves appear to be right for an astonishing amount of behavior.
    Keep doing right, Drew, and let the ramifications be what they will.

    • Yeah, that is the lesson I apparently had to learn. Thank you for your comment Jeremy – I think this is your first time posting at Rogue Priest, right? Welcome aboard! I’m starting to view heroism as an emergent quality, rather than something that is ever fully achieved. I wonder what you think of that?

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