Home / Good Samaritans Should Not Always Get Involved In Domestic Disputes

Good Samaritans Should Not Always Get Involved In Domestic Disputes

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Domestic violence is harmful and potentially fatal, not only to individuals directly targeted by their abusers, but also to a victim's family members and friends, good Samaritans, counselors, coworkers, police officers, and everyone else exposed to it.

This month, for example, a father of three in Melbourne, Australia, was gunned down while trying to intervene in a domestic dispute. A second man who intervened and the female victim who was being dragged by her hair from a car were also shot by the male perpetrator.

A police officer in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was also injured and nearly pushed from a second floor balcony during a struggle with a domestic violence suspect earlier this month.

That's why it is common for two or more police officers to respond and approach domestic calls with caution. They hope doing so will help decrease the risk to police officers in these unpredictable situations. "We never know what we're going to," said one police officer. "A simple check person call could turn into a person with a gun that could turn into a deadly force situation."

Not only can good Samaritans and others get killed while intervening in domestic disputes, they themselves can also seriously injure or kill someone and possibly face criminal charges, as a result.

All this has me wondering why two subway security guards in Montreal, Quebec, are under fire for not attempting to stop a man from attacking a woman who appeared to be his partner. The incident occurred the same day Montreal police announced that its officers would be taking over patrolling the increasingly violent subway system. According to news reports, the union representing subway security guards said the guards had no choice but to stand aside as the man assaulted his partner because police had ordered them to stop intervening in violent incidents.

"This shows how absurd this new arrangement is," union president Josée Massicotte told Radio-Canada, "because in regular circumstances, metro guards would have acted right away."

However, just as it did not make sense to allow unarmed security guards who have no power to make arrests to patrol the very problematic public system, it does not make sense to expect the guards to put themselves in harm's way by attempting to quell potentially lethal incidents of intimate partner abuse. Safety is the first priority, not only for victims of domestic violence, but also for those who witness it. This is why DV prevention experts and police consistently urge bystanders and even victims not to confront violent offenders.

A person who confronts an enraged batterer discovers that it's like trying to "reason with a ticking time bomb," noted an abused wife in Cincinnati, Ohio. This is a deadly job only for law enforcement personnel and others with special training in violence intervention, domestic or otherwise.

"If you witness or hear a violent episode, do not try to intervene physically as this may result in injuries to you or others," cautions the Family and Child Abuse Prevention Center of Ohio. "Call 911 immediately. When the police arrive, cooperate, ask to fill out a statement, and prepare yourself to testify in court."

Moral crusading and public outrage notwithstanding, the security guards as well as other bystanders should always keep at safe distance, call the police, and wait for the situation to be handled by armed police officers trained to diffuse such a violent and volatile situation.

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About iAMrj

  • Good Samaritans should NEVER get involved in domestic disputes.

    …oh. You mean to mediate them.