Walking Home

5 03 2008

I was walking home from the grocery store the other night, bags in hand, when suddenly I heard the sound of a woman more or less screaming bloody murder.  I looked around and saw four guys and a woman across the street in front of me, probably in their 20’s (numbers are an exception to the no apostrophes in plurals rule), and it seriously looked and sounded like the woman was being attacked.  At one point it appeared she was trapped in between three of the guys, then she got away and ran around a car, and then the fourth guy chased and seized her, and you could hear all the guys laughing.

Obviously, after all this time, I wasn’t about to do nothing.  Or was I?  I kept watching to see if it really was an attack, as it wasn’t that late at night and there were still people out on the street, walking up and down both sidewalks.  Should I cross the street and tell the guys to stop, and help her?  (But what if I’m wrong?  Or what if they attack me too?)  Should I call the police?  I started reaching for my cell phone, then realized I didn’t even know the local police/emergency number.

Should I leave it for someone else to handle?  (So this is what the bystander effect feels like.)  I noticed another, older woman jogging towards me, and she was looking over at the woman and four guys as well.  Desperately hoping she would somehow take this out of my hands, I practically went right up to meet her and looked her straight in the eyes, almost blurting out, “Do you see what’s happening, too?  Should we do something?”  But before I could even make a sound, she was gone; she hadn’t even slowed down her jog.  At that moment, once our eyes had met with no results, I felt we were immediately sworn accomplices, co-conspirators in Operation: Desert Silence.

I took a few more uncertain, conflicted steps towards the direction of my home.  (Wouldn’t she make more effort to actually run away if she were truly being attacked?  Oh, so this is how victim-blaming works.)  Suddenly, I saw another man a few feet away from me, in the shadow of a storefront.  He was watching the scene across the street as well, and dialing on his cellphone at the same time.  My mind desperately freewheeled, grasping at straws while still fearing the short one.  (He must be calling the police; it’s okay.)

I took more steps towards home, turning back towards the scene every few seconds.  (Aren’t you a feminist?  Or do your values only stand as far as your keyboard?)  Then I turned completely around and walked back the way I came, so that I would be almost directly across the street from the men and woman again.  They were still going at it, but the commotion seemed to have simmered down a bit.  I kept watching, walking back and forth over that section of sidewalk between the grocery store and my home so it wouldn’t seem as obvious (Or should you make it obvious, that someone notices?  Would that help?).  Eventually, I ascertained they were basically goofing off, playing some sort of flirty tag/cat-and-mouse but just very noisily; moreover, I’m pretty sure I also saw the woman end up resting in one of the guys arms.  So, I went home.

(But what if?)



11 responses

6 03 2008

Oiii Joaninha!

I am glad you’ve touched this topic. I did not have situations where I would witness a street attack or a game which could seem too violent for a game , but I was thinking what would I do if somebody attacks me?… or if I see a fight?.. or if I see somebody attacking another person? As a Capoeirista I feel in position to intervene – where possible – with the right means.

I had a few situations where just by the way I talked I evitted an insult/attack (thank you Lord!!!). It was funny to see on a summer night – when returning after class – a guy who had all written on his face that he was going to tease me, watching me intrusively from top to toes. I remember I had continued my lazy walk (after 4 hours of Capoeira training!) and while walking at the same pace I just made my fists all tight and round, as for a punch, still keeping my hands down as in a relaxed walk. It was funny to see the guy turning serious and passing by me fairly quickly!.. Hahaha!

I know for sure I called the police once… It was first and last time I heard my upstairs neighbour beating his wife. Heard her screaming, followed by some numb sounds (as if she was getting hit)… That was it!!! Not in/around my house, not in my presence – I am not tolerating this!!! So I had the police coming over, they took the guy, did whatever they had to do.. I’ve never heard anything like that again for well over 1.5 years.

Did I help my neighbour? I don’t know… In certain ways yes, in another – not realy cause I maybe had made it harder for them to get the immigration papers for Canada….

6 03 2008

I’m also glad you broached this topic. I’ve frequently wondered when I hear some shouts, though never seen anything quite as blatant as you describe here. But I’m always worried I’ll pick the wrong time to get involved, or not and then regret it.

7 03 2008


I have no doubt that you helped your neighbour. Even if it made it harder for her to get her immigration papers (especially if, as seems implied, she still got them eventually), I don’t think the hassle of getting them over could be compared to anything she’d experience from being in an abusive relationship (and such an abusive one).

Haha, that is a funny story about your fists. Good for you though for warding anything off! I’m curious to know what you meant by how you talked, though. How *did* you talk?

I haven’t actually thought that much about what I would do if I myself were attacked, beyond kick and scream and fight back and make as much commotion as possible. (Actually, there’s a slightly embarrassing story from when I went to Dublin with my friends once, and while trying to take a picture over someone’s head a complete stranger who I think is probably normally nice but was drunk (or maybe vice versa) picked me up supposedly to help me get a better shot, and without even THINKING I rammed my elbow back into him so he dropped me and it wasn’t till after I went back to my friends that I realized it hadn’t been an abduction attempt! Although, I seem to have a habit of doing that…for my birthday roda someone bought in with me twice when I was already dying, so I gave him cabecada as we au’d into the roda, and then it was only after I found out he’d bought in with me the 2nd time specifically to do volta ao mundo with me—i.e. give me a rest!)

I do know I wouldn’t attempt any capoeira—at the level my skills are now, that’d probably do more harm than good!

Cenoura (and also Mariposa continued),

YES, that was one of my main issues too. I’d forgotten to include it in the post but I went back and added it after your comment reminded me. The right thing to do, clearly, is intervene if you even think it’s happening, because what’s embarassment compared to if it were real?

But when you’re actually in the situation…all those phenomenons I’d only read about, even as I knew exactly why and how and that they were at work, their pull was so strong…and I would think by now I’d be fairly sensitive to them and to the situation in question…so when you look at it that way, it’s terrible but it almost gives you a “no wonder” kind of feeling in terms of how violence against women is so frequent and how hardly anyone ever does anything about it.

On the other hand, truly good samaritans probably don’t give any thoughts to these kinds of things at all, especially not at the moment they’re needed. They see, and then they act. There has to be a resource out there somewhere on this…the more I think about it the more important I feel it is now for us to get to the bottom of it. How can we discuss misogyny, etc., so much and then not even know what to do when we think it might be happening right in front of our eyes?

13 03 2008

yah I had the same experience before, but i was pretty sure I’d get beaten up if I intervened (esp since i’m so small and the guy was big)….

some quick thoughts…
…about the comment on the samaritan act…the just doing it without thinking, I don’t know if that’s actually smart or not; got no malicia there, to just stick your face right in, there’s been so many stories of guys getting half beaten to death, hospitalized etc by trying to help someone without thinking. There must be a better strategy (although I currently don’t know of one, and of course it’ll depend on your environment and many other factors) than putting your head into a crocodile’s mouth.

13 03 2008

Hm… if you’re afraid to get involved physically, just ring the police out of sight if you think it’s really serious. However, if they don’t get there in time, I don’t know what else you can do.

Also, if you’re ever in trouble yourself, apparently the best thing to do is to scream like a banshee, make lots of racket and yell, “Fire!” I’ve not tried this before, but I remember reading somewhere that people respond more to ‘fire’ than to ‘help’. I’ll be damned if I knew why though.

13 03 2008

or maybe “free food!!!” would work just as well as fire 😉

13 03 2008

I’ve heard the fire thing too-I think it’s mostly just getting around the people who are afraid of being hurt-if you say “Help, I’m being robbed” they’re more afraid to help, whereas a fire is less likely to go after them.

13 03 2008

That’s a good point Coxinha, and Akira thanks for the practical advice. 🙂

To put a super-cynical spin on things: responding to “FIRE!” usually means thinking of number 1…responding to “HELP!” usually means the opposite…

Same with “Free food!”, sadly enough! XD

14 03 2008

That genuinely made me laugh Coxinha. Especially since I REALLY enjoy my food. I swear, in a previous life I must have been a gourmet. I shock people into insensibility when I eat with them since I’m half their size, yet eat twice as much. I guess I’m blessed (or cursed when I have to buy my own food) with a fast metabolism.

On a more *ahem* serious note, that’s probably exactly what your pursuing assailant is thinking. You might get more trouble than you bargain if you shout that out loud! 😛

With regards to the cynicism, I’ve given a little thought about it. When dealing with fire, you kind of know what you’re getting into if you decide to help since it’s static in the way that it has no living intent. If you see a fire, you generally know where the danger is since it’s extremely visual. See a flame? Don’t go there! In a situation with humans however, there’s the element of unpredictability.

The danger isn’t quite so clearly defined and there aren’t the same boundaries as with an urban fire. You can see the danger (and range of threat) from a fire, yet murderous intents are harder to perceive. Perhaps this is the fear of malicia in day-to-day life?

6 02 2012

Ahh, since I avirred in Singapore 2 years ago i always wanted to finally start Capoeira, i never managed to go… I wish I had known about the beginners workshop, you know about any classes?

15 03 2008

Hey Akira,

Ahhh yes…beyond the cynicism, that’s a really good point you made about unpredictability! There’s nothing more dangerous than a cornered wolf, right?

Malicia in this case would probably mean knowing how to get out of the situation as quickly and safely as possible!

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