Friday, July 10, 2009

If you see something, say something

All over the New York subways there’s an ad campaign that states “if you see something, say something”. When I first saw these ads I thought they were amusing, but painfully obvious. Of course if you see a crime you should say something. But the longer I lived in New York the more I began to realize that too often people let things happen and do nothing. Many people witness assaults or other crimes but do nothing because they feel it’s none of their business. While it may be none of your business, in many situations if a witness had spoken up or called the police the situation could have been averted. In the Chris Brown- Rihanna incident, it was a stranger in the neighborhood who called the police after hearing Rihanna call for help. If that stranger never called the police, would the world have ever known?

After a while I realized this subway ad campaign was really important, because people often are reluctant to speak up. I believe this is a common problem not only in New York, but across the United States. This issue is related to teen dating violence because silence and family privacy is a norm that enables violence. According to the Prevention Institute, this norm encourages silence around domestic and dating abuse and discourages those who witness it from intervening. This norm is reflected in the fact that even though teens turn to their friends for help first, “teens also express reluctance to intervene in dating violence situations and did not perceive that their help would be effective.” Thinking about the previous post But What Can I Do?, if you see a friend or a stranger in need, better to do too much than too little.

I would like to urge everyone to step outside of their individual life and think about themselves as a member of a larger community. Be that person who steps up if you witness abuse or another crime in public. You don’t have to be the hero, rush into a dangerous situation, or be overbearing when you don’t know the situation. But don’t simply sit quiet and try to ignore it if someone is being hurt. Call the police or try to safely help the person in need. You may not know if your help is needed, but if you see something it’s definitely worth it to say something.

-AR(BTC intern)

Thursday, July 2, 2009

5 years probation?

Chris Brown was sentenced last Monday for the incident involving Rihanna. He plead guilty and was charged with two felony counts, one for assault and one for making criminal threats. He was sentenced to six months of "community labor" and 5 years probation. There has been an ongoing debate on whether or not his punishment fit the crime. Law experts are saying that a sentencing like this is fairly standard for first time offenders. I'm saying, it just doesn't make sense. We wonder why this issue is sometimes taken lightly, why it's ignored, or why some people think teen dating violence is a relatively "new" issue. I won't say I'm an expert on the legal system, but I will say this, is a violent crime like this really worth only a slap on the wrist?

When I read the announcement regarding his sentencing, I shook my head and looked to the sky. It's all too familiar. An immediate thought entered my mind, "We have to change minds, to change laws." My stomach ached a bit. It seems an impossible thought, overwhelming at times, but it's possible...

Brown will receive Domestic Abuse Counseling. That could be enlightening, but without a reason to take it seriously, my hopes that he'll really learn something are not high. I'm not so sure I believe the community service he'll have to perform will be any more than an annoyance to him and his schedule. I do agree that sending someone to jail isn't always a necessary punishment, but sometimes, just sometimes, it is. Along with his mandated domestic abuse counseling, probation, and community service, spending some time locked in an unforgiving environment might just bring about a sense that domestic and dating violence will not be taken lightly. Now if only our legal system could get used to the idea, we might just find ourselves in a better place with this issue. There is a lot we can do to spread awareness, to change minds and laws, to educate each other on dating violence and healthy relationships, I am a part of that movement, and I hope the person reading this will join me.