What Would You Do If You Saw A Woman Being Battered?

*Trigger Warning*
This is actually really stressful to watch, even thought i know it is a dramatic interpretation but it is amazing to see how people react to abusive situations. ABC’s new show “What Would You Do?” set up a series of couples acting out being in a abusive relationship. The way strangers react is totally heart wrenching.

Until you see they change one variable-the women’s clothing. In the second set of scenarios no one comes to aid the women.

I am befuddled. As mentioned on Jezebel, this is not exactly the most scientific experiment, but it is really interesting that no one came to the aid of the women when they were dressed “provocatively.” The underlying belief is that if women are perceived as sex workers, read “slutty,” they were in some way asking for it. This assumption transcends race, since apparently in the first take less people were willing to step in with the black couple as opposed to white, but some people finally did. In the second video no one helps either woman.
These videos are really upsetting to watch, subject to multiple variables and staged. But I appreciate the overall sentiment and maybe that is what viewers need to think about dominant perceptions of domestic violence and the rightful time and place to intervene.

Join the Conversation

  • xxxevilgrinxxx

    Having been in this situation (stopping a batterer), I can say that it was heartbreaking to me how many people just saw what was happening and didn’t do a thing. It was a real eye opener.

  • konkonsn

    These were hard to watch. I haven’t experienced domestic violence, so I wonder if women who have would want these types of shows. As a bystander, I would be super-pissed if I defended one of these women and found out it was a media stunt. It would make me feel like, “Hey, this shit happens to women, and you’re playing it for ratings?” But at the same time, people need to see what’s going on…
    I did almost cry in the first one when the women defending the second actress yelled, “Stop!” and screamed at him. It reminded me of my self-defense classes when they tell you to yell, “No!” because women are afraid to do that. This woman was putting her body at risk and yelling powerfully to help another woman. I really started to tear up.

  • pedestrian

    Thank you for posting this, although it is truly heartbreaking. I’m amazed that the women claim with a straight face that they would have responded the same way if the couple were white and the woman dressed conservatively.
    Really, you would have assumed that she was a prostitute and sat there speculating about her without doing anything to help? Somehow I doubt that.

  • PamelaVee

    This is really disturbing and is a prime example of victim-blaming and slut-shaming. I think I personally am more disturbed by the responses of “not here, go elsewhere so I don’t have to see it” than anything. Silence is violence! The idea that it is okay to beat/harm women as long as it doesn’t BOTHER other people in public is a really f*cked up way to respond. I am even more troubled by the fact that OTHER WOMEN said this.
    The variables were really interesting. There are a lot of places we could go with it. Both women were what I would consider attractive by western standards of beauty-
    Would people respond the same if women were dressed conservatively but were less “attractive”?
    What if a large woman were the abuse victim?
    What if a large woman wore the black short dress?
    What if the woman were noticeably pregnant?
    What if the woman were noticeably pregnant and had several children with her?
    What if the woman were loud?
    What if the woman were abusing the man? Would he deserve it in their eyes?
    Another thing I noticed was the racial bias. I do feel the women in that particular scenario stood up for the victim when dressed conservatively, but why didn’t more men stand up to the black abuser? Was it because the men were more afraid of the black abuser than the white abuser? Was it just that particular group of people? Did the men assume that this is just part of black culture?
    I really find these John Quinones specials interesting because we can see who the everyday good people (I would even say heroes in some cases) are, and the cowards who stand by have the embarrassment of forever having their actions on camera.
    Hopefully we would all be so brave to stand up to this type of behavior.

  • supremepizza

    Intervening in domestic disputes between strangers is extremely difficult for many people. Even for trained cops domestic incidents are easily the most frequent cause of injury and/or death. This danger is heightened for untrained bystanders. And if they think that guy is her pimp, then they probably assume (correctly) that he’s armed. That said, at the very least you can call the police, and that’s what troubles me most. No-damn-body called the police.
    The world is short of heroes.

  • Jessica Lee

    This gets me infuriated, especially how when it was a black couple with a “provocatively” dressed woman, one woman went as far as calling them a pimp and a prostitute. Huge WTF.
    I’m glad that there are people who helped, but the second video was not only incredibly sexist, but horribly racist too.

  • another constellation

    In one of the classes I TA’d, we talked about how to intervene when we saw couples arguing violently on the street. The scenario that felt most comfortable for me were to speak directly to the target of the abuse and ask if she or he wanted to get away so they had time to cool down (To both: “Hey!” To the target: “It seems like things are getting out of control. I don’t know you and I don’t know what’s going on, but do you want to go somewhere else until things calm down?”). If there is someone else with you, they can speak to the batterer/keep them away. If the batterer agreed to come with you, we talked about things like going to a cafe (a public place away from the partner, where the target can leave if ze wants to– even around another corner works) and discussing what was happening.
    The important thing in the scenarios we talked about was allowing the target to chose to leave, not starting a new fight with the perpetrator, and demonstrating that that kind of fight is not okay and not “normal.”

  • hfs

    Actually, shouldn’t this kind of thing be required training for everyone? I’d love it if I had had the opportunity to take a class in school what the best way to defuse a situation like this was – at 6’1″ and 175lbs there are a lot of guys that are a lot bigger than I am, and it would give me more confidence if I knew how to approach them in a situation like this.

  • TabloidScully

    Our presumptions about domestic violence are so pervasive, this sadly doesn’t surprise me at all.
    Two months ago, I watched as my stepmother beat and assault my father in a parking lot in Las Vegas. Nobody intervened as my father was repeatedly pummeled and scratched by this totally drunk, belligerent woman. I ended up launching myself in between them, scared to death because I was four months pregnant then and knew I couldn’t protect both my fetus and my father, but I could not just stand by while this was happening, refusing to get involved.
    My father boasted 14 stitches, a black eye, a split lip, and 15 gashes to his face. My stepmother didn’t have a scratch on her. When she sobered up (in jail, I might add) she did what all abusers do: she apologized and promised never to do it again. This isn’t the first time she’s gotten drunk and assaulted those around her, so I guess we’ll see.
    Anyway, when the police responded, they acted like the entire thing was a huge waste of their time. My father did not want to press charges, I was hysterical, and at least one officer asked my dad what he had done for this small-framed, younger woman to go off on him.
    It’s interesting how, just as people decided a scantily-clad woman must be “asking” for it, so too must a man who is being beaten by his wife.
    I’m ashamed to admit that I probably wouldn’t have been as apt to intervene for a set of strangers. As I said, I was four months pregnant at the time, and reacted on adrenaline from a desire to protect my father. Only later did I realize that if my stepmother had turned her rage on to me instead of trying to get around me to him could I have ultimately sacrificed the fetus for my father.
    It might sound heartless, but I would not hesitate to make that decision and potential sacrifice for my father every time. I’m not sure, however, that I could make the same choice if the victim were a stranger. I’d like to believe that I could, but I think to say so is probably not truthful.

  • Tapati

    Even a person who feels too afraid for their safety to directly intervene can walk a little distance away and call the police.
    I have been the woman that other people heard and did nothing for. I will never be the woman who hears or sees and does nothing. I’ve lost count of how many domestic violence calls I’ve made on behalf of neighbors.
    I hope this show will move more people to act. Thanks for posting about it.

  • emstoletheworld

    These videos were absolutely heartbreaking in different ways. I was strongly moved by the first video and it made me happy in a sad kind of way to see people stick up for those who need help.
    The second made me cry and created some righteous indignation with in me. It shouldn’t matter what a person wears when they are being abused. The fact of the matter is that they are being ABUSED. I was disgusted by multiple people thinking that this was something that needed to be taken care in private.
    I’m only fifteen but I like to think that I would confront a man or woman doing something like that to their partner, or at the very least comfort the abused and get them out of that situation while their partner had left to use the bathroom.

  • dark_morgaine

    I’m with the actress (Mari?) who, in response to the assumption that she was a prostitute, said, “What if I was?” Also, notice the provocatively dressed black woman was assumed to be a prostitute, but not the provocatively dressed white woman?
    I am also sickened by the “this isn’t the time or the place,” comments. NO TIME, NO WHERE, is appropriate for abuse. I don’t care if the abused is buck naked, wearing a bikini, a speedo, a cocktail dress or a business suit, no one deserves that. And hello, the BRUISES?! Hard to miss. Grabbing her wrist and yelling at her?
    You know, people will often stand up if they think a parent is getting out of line with their child, but not a man with a woman (or vice versa – what kind of man would let a woman beat on him?). So the lesson for little girls (and boys) is: Once you grow up, your rights as a human being disappear.

  • paperispatient

    My main fear in intervening in a situation like the ones depicted would be that the couple would just leave and the man would take it out on the woman even more violently once they’re alone – for whatever he was “mad” about before and for attracting the attention of nosy people in the restaurant.
    Have there been any studies about the best / most effective way to intervene in a domestic violence situation like this that will bring about the least harm to the abused person? I’d be concerned that I may stop the violence in that moment but do little to help the situation overall and perhaps make it worse. I don’t think I’d be able to keep myself from going over to the couple if I saw something like this, but the last thing I would want to do is make things worse for her.

  • Cassius

    Same I would do if I would see anyone getting battered, inform the authorities.

  • mke

    Agreed! You make a very important point. Confronting the abuser, in many cases, could lead to a serious escalation in violence, and create a very dangerous situation for everyone there.

  • zes

    How do they know nobody called the police in the 2nd video? I wouldn’t necessarily advertise that I had done it, I would call first, but mightn’t openly get involved if I were scared. Though actually, both my sister and I have separately intervened in situations where a man was apparently abusing a woman in public, both times in the street.
    In my case I saw a man screaming and gesturing threateningly at a crying woman. I stepped into a pizza place and called to some patrons to call the police, then went out with several other people where we made clear to the guy that we were watching, and one guy got in his face. He said, “Hey don’t be a hero” and the hero guy didn’t quite back off and some of us said things like, “Look man calm down” or “There’s security cameras on you”, so the abuser turned away from the woman. He started throwing trash cans instead. Some other patrons from the pizza place brought the woman inside and shut the door so the abuser couldn’t come in. The police came and took him away.
    In my sister’s case she was driving slowly looking for a parking spot and saw a couple arguing and the woman in tears, but no violence. She pulled over and asked, “Are you OK?” of the woman. The man immediately shut up and looked mortified, and then looked kindly at the woman and said he was sorry in a submissive way and admitted he shouldn’t be loud. My sister is a cop who specializes in “vulnerable witnesses” (rape victims, kids, people with disabilities, ones they aim to handle with special care) so highly experiened in such a situation. She said that the man’s reaction was typical of a guy who is not an abuser, because he was so embarrassed and immediately backed down – he was utterly mortified to be perceived as a monster and showed insight into how his own behaviour looked, and knew that if the perception were reality, that it wasn’t OK. She said an abuser would typically either justify himself, bristle up to the intervener and threaten them, or try to pull his target away to privacy. So she parked and watched as they had a more reasonable discussion and then the woman went into her house and the man went away. So it was probably just a regular argument that got impassioned, but not a danger situation. But she wasn’t on duty and still got involved. In both cases the women were in revealing party clothes.
    I am glad people got involved in video 1. I hope someone would get involved for me – though my husband is simply not capable of abuse, he is a kind, good person. Indeed when I showed him this video his first response was that he hoped ABC had good insurance for the male actors because if he were there he would dismantle them. He is 6’3 and has four black belts so he’s not kidding, he knows how, and he has stepped in to break up fights before and won. So I am quite glad he wasn’t there as he would probably be arrested and the actor would be drinking through a straw for 6 months!

  • blondeintokyo

    I once intervened when I saw a crying woman in a club, surrounded by about seven or eight men. I didn’t even hesitate- I waded in and pushed the guys to the side, shouting LEAVE MY FRIEND ALONE! at the top of my lungs. She was in real distress and I managed to lead her away from the group and sat her down a ways away and comforted her. It turned out that one of the guys was her husband, and he was allowing one of the men to feel her up while the other guys watched. Her husband insisted it was a consensual scene, and the woman confirmed this, but I didn’t believe she was really consenting, as she was very drunk and very obviously distressed. I got her shoes back on her (they had fallen off, she could hardly even walk) and I took her to the security office. Her husband kept insisting nothing was wrong but I didn’t fully believe him and kept my body between them all the way to the security office. I left them there with the security officer, and never did find out what happened.
    I was fucking terrified and was shaking for the next hour- that could have been very dangerous, considering there were eight guys and I was alone! But I’d do it again in a milisecond. No hesitation.
    That video brought it all back to me and I cried while watching. I couldn’t bring myself to watch the second one. I’d be too upset to see no one helping a woman who so obviously needed help.

  • Monaxia

    There’s that, or how about when the woman has a serious case of Stockholm Syndrome and turns on you for trying to intervene? That’s actually happened to me.
    Seems you can never be right in these kinds of situations, but at least you tried to help. Nowadays if I see something weird I just stay out of it and call the cops to deal with it.

  • m. leblanc

    It took me almost 30 minutes to get through these videos. I kept having to stop because they were so upsetting.
    God, I feel so bad for all the women who were so upset they were crying. Being made to witness this, all for a television show. Sigh.

  • Toongrrl

    I didn’t watch them and it is still horrible. Is this what my 9th grade english teacher was talking about when if someone with a cancle in a vigil didn’t have a flame, would anyone notice, would anyone care? She also said that evil persists when good people do nada