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Byron Shire
September 25, 2021

A call for ‘help’

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J Thomas, Mullumbimby

A few nights ago I was disturbed by a woman screaming, ‘Stop! Stop! Stop! Get away from me! No, No! Get away!’

I hesitated, fearful for my own safety, then leapt off my bed, got into my shoes and ran out onto the street. There I saw a woman being pulled around by a much larger guy, but now this woman had a support team of one; an ageing female, not particularly strong.

On a crossroads, with houses in every direction, no one else had turned out to help this woman. What stopped them? If it was fear, I understand that. The point of this letter is not about what happened next, but to say that physical intervention isn’t always necessary to prevent someone else being seriously hurt, just as it wasn’t in this case. The point is to ask people to change their immediate response to someone being assaulted and calling out for help.

Responding quickly, before the victim has been downed, can reduce any need for physical intervention. Witnesses, and the realisation that the victim now has allies and is no longer alone can be a powerful enough deterrent to make an aggressor cool off, and leave.

If everyone turns out and, standing well out of striking distance, makes it clear that the victim is no longer alone, police have been called, and that every move is being witnessed; that can be enough. The aggressor doesn’t know who may be strong enough to turn the tables, or whether the police may turn up in time.

So please, if you hear someone in trouble, just show up, and do what you can to prevent serious harm.

On the night that I found myself in that situation I stood on the other side of the crossroads. I called out to the guy to leave her alone, I made it clear I was witnessing, and called to the woman to run to me. The guy eventually let go enough for the woman to break free and run into a nearby house.

I stayed, waiting and listening. There was no more shouting, the guy walked to a car, I went home unharmed by having intervened, and possibly having made a difference to the outcome.

Why didn’t I rely on the police? When someone is being assaulted, they need help immediately. The police don’t seem to have the resources to arrive quickly enough to make a difference. Sometimes it’s hours later. So when someone outside needs help, calling the police, then just staying indoors is unlikely to prevent serious harm. Many victims of assault relate that there were people within earshot, but no one came to help them.

I have failed to step up in the past, when woken in the night on a busy city street. I wanted someone bigger and stronger than me to go. No one did until it was too late. The consequences for the victim were terrible. The guilt of my inaction stays with me. I have promised myself, never again.

J Thomas

Mullumbimby

A few nights ago I was disturbed by a woman screaming, ‘Stop! Stop! Stop! Get away from me! No, No! Get away!’

I hesitated, fearful for my own safety, then leapt off my bed, got into my shoes and ran out onto the street. There I saw a woman being pulled around by a much larger guy, but now this woman had a support team of one; an ageing female, not particularly strong.

On a crossroads, with houses in every direction, no one else had turned out to help this woman. What stopped them? If it was fear, I understand that. The point of this letter is not about what happened next, but to say that physical intervention isn’t always necessary to prevent someone else being seriously hurt, just as it wasn’t in this case. The point is to ask people to change their immediate response to someone being assaulted and calling out for help.

Responding quickly, before the victim has been downed, can reduce any need for physical intervention. Witnesses, and the realisation that the victim now has allies and is no longer alone can be a powerful enough deterrent to make an aggressor cool off, and leave.

If everyone turns out and, standing well out of striking distance, makes it clear that the victim is no longer alone, police have been called, and that every move is being witnessed; that can be enough. The aggressor doesn’t know who may be strong enough to turn the tables, or whether the police may turn up in time.

So please, if you hear someone in trouble, just show up, and do what you can to prevent serious harm.

On the night that I found myself in that situation I stood on the other side of the crossroads. I called out to the guy to leave her alone, I made it clear I was witnessing, and called to the woman to run to me. The guy eventually let go enough for the woman to break free and run into a nearby house.

I stayed, waiting and listening. There was no more shouting, the guy walked to a car, I went home unharmed by having intervened, and possibly having made a difference to the outcome.

Why didn’t I rely on the police? When someone is being assaulted, they need help immediately. The police don’t seem to have the resources to arrive quickly enough to make a difference. Sometimes it’s hours later. So when someone outside needs help, calling the police, then just staying indoors is unlikely to prevent serious harm. Many victims of assault relate that there were people within earshot, but no one came to help them.

I have failed to step up in the past, when woken in the night on a busy city street. I wanted someone bigger and stronger than me to go. No one did until it was too late. The consequences for the victim were terrible. The guilt of my inaction stays with me. I have promised myself, never again.


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4 COMMENTS

  1. Risks do need to be taken, J. Often just stepping out & asking ‘What’s the problem here?’ is enough.
    Men tend to back-off if there’s a witness.

  2. Attention Stefanie, Men tend to back off when there is a witness! is not a good statement, the echo should not publish this type of fueled comment it’s rubbish.

  3. Darren – I’m not sure what you mean by a ‘good comment’ that isn’t. Talk with any Life Line worker & they
    will give you the same rap along with those employed in Women’s shelters. Heads stuck in sand has allowed
    an increase in abuse & stuffed-up lives. Truth itself is risk taking. A human being will understand that.

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