Turning the Tables

She says that perhaps these people have some past frustration in their lives which makes them "actually enjoy vicariously the experience this woman was having by being aggressive" toward her boyfriend.

'Old-Fashioned Views'

Later, a husband and wife out for some exercise observed the abusive situation and continued on their way. So "Primetime's" producers stepped in and asked, "Why not stop or at least call 911?"

"What they were havin' there…[they were] just havin' a little tiff. They'll be all right," said the man, a police officer in a nearby community. His wife told "Primetime" that she would have found it "more upsetting if [the young man] had put his hands on" the young woman."

"Oh, without a doubt," her husband readily agreed, acknowledging the double standard. "Call it old-fashioned views. If you're raised the way I was raised, you don't put your hands on a woman, right?"

Keating says that holding those kinds of values and beliefs "is going to give them a very different lens through which they see the behavior of the actress, the aggressiveness of the woman against the man. They under-value the potency of her responses."

What Should You Do?

Keating says there is no single appropriate response to a situation like this.

"Every individual has to do their own calculus when it comes to whether or not they should step in and help when faced with an ethical dilemma," she says. "because there are costs to helping. There are risks, there is danger, there are time and energy investments."

Over two days of taping, "Primetime" watched 163 people just walk right by the actors – the abusive woman and her boyfriend. Of all those who had the chance to step up and get involved, only one group of women stopped.

After taking time to assess the situation, these women -- four of them -- gathered at a distance to assess the situation. They then sent an emissary to offer the fighting couple some assistance.

But when the actress replied that "this is not your business," the woman respectfully walked away.

But while the first woman was attempting to engage the couple, one of the other women, Clare, was calling 911 from her cell phone.

"I'm in Leonia Park, and there are two people fighting on a bench," she reported. "She's …beatin' him up and I was wondering if somebody could come and just check it out?" (The police were aware of the hidden camera experiment).

The fact that the abuser was a woman did not matter to Clare and the other women with her. They said they just knew they had to do something.

"She was a little out of control," said Clare.

"I was concerned for both their safety," another woman said.

Another member of the group, Donna, recalls "trying to assess the situation before we reacted."

Avoiding Regrets

Keating found this group of concerned women to be "an interesting collective. In a sense they verify the sort of cognitive steps we all go through whenever we see a situation that conveys some sort of ethical dilemma: 'Should we respond or not'?" "They saw it as requiring intervention," she said. "They stepped up to take responsibility. They collected as a group and tried to figure out what to do and actually put into place a plan of action where they could be of help."

According to Donna, doing nothing was never an option. "I'd rather do the right thing than walk away and go home and regret it," she said.

And according to Keating, those kinds of regrets can be hurtful. There is "a risk to not helping," she says. "When we fail to help in a situation it doesn't make you feel very good about yourself. And those sorts of memories can last for a long, long time."

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