Last night I was walking to work (after dark) and I passed a couple (they were street-involved) sitting in a doorway on the other side of the street, arguing quite loudly. Shortly after I passed them, I heard a loud smack, and turned around and realised that the man had struck the woman in the face. She was crying holding her head, and he had gotten up and was walking away towards the alley.
It’s one of those situations that makes you realise how helpless you are. I could have called the cops but, after realising that they were dealing with a brief (and now finished) scuffle between two homeless addicts, they probably wouldn’t have even bothered responding to the call. Even if they had responded they probably would have taken so long getting there that nobody would be left at the scene by the time they showed up.
I could have gone after the fellow but, I hesitated to do so for two reasons — both of which are related to the embrace of nonviolence. Thus, the first reason I hesitated was because I knew going after the guy would escalate the situation and, given the opportunity, I wasn’t sure if I could trust myself to stay nonviolent. However, my second reason for hesitating was even stronger — there would be nothing meaningful to say to the fellow if I caught up to him. What would I say? Hey, buddy, don’t hit women! Yeah, that would do a lot of good — maybe even piss him off enough that he would beat the shit of the woman later on because of me.
So, I paused for a moment, and thought, “what, if anything, should I do right now?” And so I figured I’d ask y’all. If you were in my position last night, what would you do?
[You know, in retrospect, I don’t think that I did the right thing, but I’ll wait to hear how others might have responded before I say what I did, and what I think I should have done.]