The People Opposing Women Abuse (POWA) neighborhood experiment, which was filmed in South Africa using hidden cameras, is a powerful and disturbing one. The PSA begins with a man playing drums in his home late at night. Over the course of the evening, he receives several complaints from neighbors claiming that the noise is too loud.
On a different night, the same man plays an audio recording of a couple having an argument, which quickly escalates with sounds of a woman getting beaten. Unlike the previous night, he receives no noise complaints or inquiries about what is going on inside. Had there been an actual fight, the woman would have been left alone while the neighbors stayed inside listening to the woman defend herself against her partner.
With at least 1 in 4 women experiencing domestic violence in their lifetime, it is safe to say that most people know someone who has experienced such abuse. Whether it is a family member, coworker, or neighbor, many of us question if we should help. The answer to that question is a resounding “Yes!” Most of us know that we should step in and help, but often times we talk ourselves out of doing anything because of our own self-consciousness. What kind of repercussions will follow if we intervene- will it only make the batterer even more upset? Maybe it’s just not any of my business? What if I say the wrong thing and make my friend upset?
I’m not saying that bringing up this conversation isn’t going to be awkward or by any means easy, but that doesn’t mean the conversation isn’t worth having. If it were your friend or family member who found themselves in this situation, wouldn’t you want someone to be in their corner, to listen and to help? It might be scary or make your friend or family member uncomfortable initially, but the message you send when staying quiet is far worse- that it’s okay.
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It’s time that we send the message that partner abuse will not be tolerated. Domestic violence is everyone’s problem and has consequences for more than just the people involved. For example, children who witness domestic violence in the home are affected as seriously as the person being abused. These innocent children suffer from anxiety and depression that will follow them for years to come. How can future generations learn respect and boundaries if nobody steps in to help? It takes just one person to intervene and send the message that violence is not acceptable. It’s time to take back our community and end this cycle of violence once and for all.
There are resources available to assist those wishing to help a friend or family member who is currently experiencing abuse. Please visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline (www.thehotline.org) for ways to help… and possibly save lives.