“Oh, I thought that was your partner”

Stuff ran an article today about the violent attack on a woman named Praveet Chahal. It was a completely unexpected attack by a complete stranger, in broad daylight, in a public street. It’s the rare sort of crime that the victim doesn’t get blamed for, because it is just so completely out of the blue.

There were people around, at least a few. Enough for the bystander effect to kick in, the odd phenomenon of people not giving assistance because there are other people there. It’s been observed and studied in different contexts, and it seems to be just part of the human psyche.

However, there was a man there who was directly appealed to for help. That kills the hesitation, waiting for anyone else to do something. He was singled out and begged for help. and he did nothing, even pushing Chahal away when she went to him for help. His female companion just ran away. That is pretty despicable behaviour really, although it could be explained by fear. Or not.

When she asked him, after the ambulance crew was there and everything was over, he gace his reason. He said “oh, I thought that was your partner”. . . . Oh. I thought that was your partner.

On what flaming planet does that make it ok for him to beat her bloody? That answer says a whole lot about how we think as a society about domestic violence. Even if a woman is screaming for help, she should only receive assistance if her assailant is not in any kind of relationship with her. What the hell? Just, what the hell?

We turn a blind eye toward domestic violence, in almost any of its incarnations. We ignore the evidence of a beating noticed over the water cooler at work. We push away the signs of controlling behaviour at the work Christmas party. And now, it seems, we have it in us to ignore a blatant beating on a sunlit street at just about tea-time. It’s shameful.

Oh, but I wouldn’t! . . . maybe. But for everyone that would stand up and help, there are others that would let her be beaten, not because they didn’t want to get hurt, but because they thought it was her partner and so it’s ok. Or maybe he didn’t want to be involved in a domestic. Either are bad, bad reasons to push away a woman begging for help.

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