On his blog, Carl Beech tells the story of what happened when he and a colleague, Dean Gray, were on a tube train and saw a woman on the station being treated with violence by a man. They got off the train and confronted him, stood their ground when he threatened them and stayed with the woman until someone arrived to take him away. They asked other men on the train to support them, but none of them did.
Carl says: 'I pray the lady was ok. I hope she leaves that man. I hope he had a wake up call. I pray that one day there will be a big enough groundswell so that these incidents become fewer. I hope that more men will be prepared to confront rather than shrink away. When I read Luke 4:18 I dont see a passive call to justice. I see a call to stand in the gap when we need to and take a hit if necessary, even putting yourself in harms way if thats what’s required. That seems to me, to be a redeemed use of my strength.'
I'm so grateful that Dean and Carl were prepared to take a stand and to confront violence. Reading their account, it wasn't easy and they felt vulnerable but didn't back down. I feel heartened that they responded in that way and it reminds us, if we need reminding, that not all men are violent and aggressive, that violence against women is abhorrent to most men, and that it's only some men who do that kind of thing.
And I'm left wondering what I would have done in that situation, and in fact, what I could have done. If it's hard for two men to stand up to a violent bloke, how much harder is it for a woman? If other guys on a tube train won't support two men confronting violence, would they rally to support a woman who asked them to take action?
I hate the thought that in that situation I wouldn't be able to do anything constructive for fear of being on the receiving end of violence myself. I hate the reality that so often in the narrative of domestic abuse men are the violent perpetrators and women are the passive victims - I don't recognise myself or most of the men I know in that narrative and I appreciate that makes me very privileged. I wonder if our culture has taught us to fear men and has made us passive, when in fact if we made a stand we would be heard?
So I'm interested to hear from women - what would you have done in that situation?
And I loved reading this story from Natalie Collins of Restored, who overheard an abusive conversation in a coffee shop, prayed for the woman to be kept safe, and then talked to her and gave her contact details as she left. That's something we could all do - carry details of Restored or local domestic violence agencies to hand out to women that we meet who might need them.