Would You Stop an Abusive Teen Boyfriend?

Would you get in the middle of a teen couple in the midst of a heated argument?

ByABC News
November 9, 2010, 12:13 PM

Nov. 11, 2010— -- A peaceful walk in the park turns sour when a teenage boy begins berating his girlfriend, but what if the fight was about to get physical? Would you mind your own business or would you step in and put a stop to the abuse?

According to a U.S. Dept. of Justice report, one in three teens will be victims of psychological or physical abuse. ABC News' "What Would You Do" wanted to see how bystanders would react if they witnessed the abuse in a public park.

We first tested this scenario five years ago with hidden cameras set up in a public park in Saddle Brook, N.J., and with two actors posing as an adult couple on the verge of physical violence. Over the course of two days of filming, only 10 percent of people passing by our scene would intervene.

This time around, we wondered what would happen if the young couple were teenagers instead of adults. Once again, we set up our hidden cameras in the same park and sent out actors Natalye Cohen and Zach Meliani to pretend to be teenagers in the midst of a heated argument.

"You're acting like a whore right now," Meliani yelled at Cohen, as she tries in vain to calm him down.

"What the hell is wrong with you?" he continued as he violently grabbed Cohen's arm.

Almost immediately after the couple launched into their fake argument, they grab the attention of people nearby. One enraged woman quickly approached them.

"Are you f***ing kidding me right now?" Sasha Kanshaw yelled at them.

Meliani tried to explain. "This is my girlfriend," he said.

"I don't care! You do not push a woman out in public," Kanshaw snapped at him before turning to Cohen and asking her if she needed a ride home.

When Meliani won't back off, Kanshaw physically puts herself in between the couple.

"Seriously, stop touching her, seriously," she yelled. "You are pissing me off. You're a little punk a** kid and you are on my last nerve. Why don't you walk away?"

Kanshaw later explained that she had been watching the couple from a friend's house overlooking the park. Finally, she couldn't take it anymore, even when her friends tried to discourage her from getting in the middle of it.

"I'm like, are you kidding me? How can you not help this girl?" she exclaimed.

She also said she felt safe getting physically involved because she knew her friends were watching out for her from afar.

Later when the scene was reset and our couple was again in the midst of a heated argument, two friends, Allison Malyso and Kelli O'Brien, had a similar reaction as Kanshaw did, only they threatened to call the police.

When asked why they chose to get involved, the two friends told ABC News' John Quinones they thought maybe they stepped in because the couple was young, but they didn't want to physically put themselves in the middle of it.

Many Bystanders Got Physically Involved

"I'm not sure I would actually pull her away 'cause who knows? You don't know exactly what he's gonna do," Malyso said.

But many bystanders did take the risk of getting more physically involved. One said it was because the young female victim, played by our actor, reminded her of their own children.

"I have three daughters about that age and if anyone had ever treated them like that I would just, I would die," one woman said.

Nick Feo said he heard the fighting over the music from his iPod and slowed down to tell the abusive boyfriend what was on his mind.

"Why don't you back off of her. Treat her like a woman. Show a little respect, " he said.

When Meliani won't listen, Feo gave him a taste of his own medicine.

"You like me yelling at you right now, you like me in your face? How do you think she feels?" he yelled at our actor. "You're a man, she's a woman. Show a little respect."

In this scenario, our young couple was dressed conservatively. What would happen if the boyfriend looked a little tougher and the girlfriend was wearing more revealing clothing?

Watch the scenario unfold Friday, 9 p.m. on "What Would You Do?"

Click here for more information on the signs of teen dating violence and how to stop it from the Love Is Not Abuse resource page.