Stepping In

Last night around 8:00 I was on 7th and E St. NW (in the Chinatown area) waiting for my bus to head home. I had just approached the bus stop and set down my stuff, and I noticed that a man was standing nearby yelling at this woman, whom it appeared he knew. Everyone in the area could hear him yelling at her. Immediately I could sense by their body language that something wasn’t right — the man was tall and towering over her, and she was sobbing and cowering, trying to turn away from him. I saw him yelling at her for just a few moments, and then I saw him grab her face, in the jaw/mouth area.

I immediately stood up and approached him. As I approached, I heard him yell at her, saying that she was lying about being raped, and that she just wanted an excuse to get with a bunch of men. She was sobbing and obviously distraught. I said, “Sir, if you lay one more finger on her, I’m calling the cops.” I think this took him by surprise, and he got in my face. He started yelling at me, telling me to mind my own business. I responded, “No one in the area can ‘mind their own business’ when you’re acting this way. You are disrespecting this woman. You are disrespecting me. You are disrespecting that woman [pointed to an elderly woman also waiting for the bus], and everyone else who’s witnessing this. This is NOT how you treat other people. Show some respect, and give this woman some dignity.” At this point, he was a little stunned, but then he started yelling at me again, telling me to get out of his face. For a split second I was a little scared, because it looked like he was going to lunge at me. I said, “I’m not in your face. You’re the one who is now in my face. I’m calling the cops. You’re harassing this woman. No one deserves to be treated like this.” At this point, he clearly wanted to get away from me, so he tried to drag the woman down the street. She looked at me, still sobbing, and said, “It’s ok; don’t call the cops. I’m going down to the homeless shelter.” This woman appeared to be in an abusive relationship, and I got the sense that this man’s behavior wasn’t anything new.

I watched them leave, and I saw him drag her down the street and shove her every now and then. The cops came just a couple minutes later, and I pointed them down the street where the two were headed. The elderly woman who was also waiting for the bus approached me and thanked me for saying something to the man.

I think many of us who live in DC have been in the uncomfortable — and sometimes scary — situation of witnessing verbal, emotional, or physical abuse in a public place. Sometimes when we’re waiting for the bus or Metro, it’s not clear whether people are having a normal lover’s spat, or whether it’s something more serious. I’ve often considered stepping in when I see someone verbally abusing their partner, but this was the first time I took action. Admittedly, part of me is worried that I made the situation “worse” for this woman by angering her abuser, but I can’t imagine the alternative of watching it happen without saying something.

Submitted by PR

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2 Responses

  1. MG

    Way to go, PR! I doubt that the situation could have gotten much worse for this woman–being humiliated in public, and probably not for the first time since the jerk of a “man” didn’t seemed too caught off-guard by your interruption.

    Who knows? Maybe seeing you stand up to him will give her the courage to do the same.

  2. Anonymous

    Good for you! Your response was great and very brave.