Ask Amy: When good men do nothing

2014-08-11T00:01:00Z Ask Amy: When good men do nothingBy Amy Dickinson Tribune Content Agency Arizona Daily Star
August 11, 2014 12:01 am  • 

DEAR AMY: Several years ago a co-worker I was friendly with suggested we get together on a day off and barhop, shoot some pool and drink some beer. We met at a bar we both knew about and then left in his car.

He said he needed to stop by his house for something and invited me in. While inside and with no warning he proceeded to backhand his wife across the mouth in front of his two small children. His daughter burst into tears and his son looked like he wanted to kill him. I was dumbfounded.

As my mind raced through the options I couldn’t decide what to do. I could have beat him to a pulp, spoken up, walked out of his house, etc. But the fact remained that he would again see his wife and kids without me or anyone else around — and then what? I also would have to see this so-called man at work.

I did nothing and acted like everything was fine the remainder of the day but then declined all further invitations to spend time with him.

To this day I don’t know what I should have done differently. — Conflicted in Iowa

DEAR CONFLICTED: The sheer audacity of the man who would strike his wife in front of his kids and a visitor is an indication of how arrogant and dangerous he was. Obviously you were caught completely off guard and given all of the circumstances you mention, you were paralyzed.

Beating this man to a pulp in front of his family exposes everybody to an unacceptable level of trauma, but you could (and should) have reacted by yelling, “Whoa. Hey! What the h--l?! Stop it!”

The reason to do this is so this man’s wife and young children — especially his son — could see another man standing up and expressing, “This is unacceptable. This is not right. This is not how men should behave.”

Instead, what the children witnessed was the worst combination of human behavior: their father’s brutality and another man’s silent passivity.

At the first chance, you should have called the police and/or “hotlined” him by calling the local department of children’s services and reporting the violence.

I have received many heartbreaking testimonials from adults who witnessed domestic violence and/or were abused themselves as children and realized that other adults (neighbors, family members, etc.) were aware of it and did nothing.

Frankly, this seems like a time when seeing dad taken out of the home in handcuffs might have been a good thing.

DEAR AMY: Through my son’s school I have made some fast friends. Our kids are buddies. The adults are energetic, friendly and hospitable, and we hit it off immediately. We enjoy getting together at each other’s houses.

The only problem is that I am not as hearty a partyer as they are. They are a lot of fun but I’m getting older and I don’t want to stay up late or drink too much. Once I even declared I was tired and ready for bed (which horrified my boyfriend); another time I deliberately ran out of wine in order to end the evening (and my boyfriend offered to buy more).

They don’t seem to take offense, but is there a better way to handle this? — Sleepy in Colorado

DEAR SLEEPY: Your boyfriend is the one who needs to be more understanding. If your magic coach is about to turn into a pumpkin, then he should back you up — not undermine you.

As you become more intimate friends, they will come to understand and accept that you are just not a late-night partyer. At your house you can excuse yourself and say, “You all, please feel free to stay and hang with Mike, but you know me — I’ve just got to pack it in.”

DEAR AMY: “Technically Frustrated” was a young adult daughter dealing with her mother’s insistence on posting personal photos on Facebook without her permission.

My mother went through this phase, but I sat down with her and reviewed the privacy settings. She didn’t understand the ramifications of posting photos. Now she seems to get it. — Savvy

DEAR SAVVY: Terrific response. Thank you.

Contact Amy Dickinson via email: askamy@tribune.com

Follow her on Twitter @askingamy or like her on Facebook. Amy Dickinson’s memoir, “The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Mother, a Daughter and the Town that Raised Them” (Hyperion), is available in bookstores.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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