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Dear Amy,

My name is Geneva and I'm a senior in high school. I was on my way to my 6th period class today and as I was walking I saw this guy twisting a girl's arm behind her back (I assumed it was his girlfriend but it could've been anyone). I'm almost 100% sure that they weren't playing around. He was physically hurting her and swearing at her as well. Initially, I was just shocked that this was happening right in front of me. After a second I got it in my head that I really should speak up. I confronted him and the girl walked off.

The conversation went something like this:

Me: What are you doing?

Abusive Thug: None of your business

Me: Why are you hurting her?

AT: Because I can. I can do whatever I want.

And at this point I got really flustered and angry so I stuttered something along the lines of, "no you can't" and when he insisted that I couldn't tell him what to do I told him that I could find someone that would and...it was quite possibly the dumbest and least productive conversation I've ever had.

He walked off shortly after and rather than run after the abusive thug, I went to class.

This was the first time I've ever encountered real abuse and it just made me so sick to my stomach that a) I watched it happen and b) I really had no idea what I was doing or what the right course of action was. It never really occurred to me that this was none of my business and I should just stay out of it and I'm a little proud of myself for at least saying something but I know I wasn't effective in any way. I didn't change anything. The guy was gone before I could explain the whole situation to a teacher, or find some authority figure to talk to.

So I'm asking you, what exactly should I do now? I don't know this guy's name or if I'll ever see him again. I could recognize him if I did but, what would I say? Who do I speak to? I plan on reporting it to the front office of my high school tomorrow but really there's no guarantee that they'll do anything about it. I would hate it if the abusive thug was out there, being abusive, when I could have done something to stop him. All of Inga Muscio's Cunt retaliation methods seem a little extreme for this situation and I don't want to just hand the responsibility entirely over to someone else.

Any advice you could give me would be really helpful.

Thank you.


Geneva --

I certainly think that you should report it to the front office, but I also think that you ought to reach out to the girl -- but you have to be careful not to make her defensive. She might be embarrassed that you witnessed that and try to come to his defense -- or she might be too bruised by the situation to want to confess.

I think that if you just approach her about something else and then within an extended conversation just say that you witnessed what happened and wondered if there was anything that you can do for her.

Besides helping her, I think that you also might want to try to confront him or have someone you know confront him. As with the girl, it's best if it comes from someone who doesn't appear to be nosy or the enemy or antagonistic. If there is a way that someone you know could say something to him.

These suggestions might seem less direct, but honestly when it comes to longer term change, I think that is often best -- so others have a chance to assess their own behavior.

I hope that helps and regardless of what you do, I think it's great that you are doing something.

-- Amy