Dear PoPville – What Would You Have Done?


“Dear PoPville,

Question – is there anything PoP readers think we can/should do about this? In front of our house this morning, a car pulled up, man and woman in a heated argument, windows down, car moving forward, then stopping, blocking the road. At one point the man got out and the woman tried to drive away. The man managed to get back in while the car was moving. An elderly neighbor and I happened to be outside observing the whole thing, wondering what if anything to do. The car stopped again a couple of car lengths away, and the guy yelled at the woman “If some f*cking old lady [presumably our neighbor] calls the police, I’m going to punish you.” In the moment I wasn’t sure what to do and didn’t have the presence of mind to get a license plate…and not even sure if it’s something I could/should have called the police about anyway. Except for that last comment… I’m just left feeling very unsettled. Thoughts/comments/suggestions appreciated.”

39 Comment

  • It’s an abusive relationship and he’s going to punish her regardless if the cops come.
    So you might as well call the cops on a reckless driver who is threatening to harm his passenger.

  • Call the police. They can’t do anything about incidents that are never reported. It could help this women get out of a bad situation. And believe me – an abusive partner is going to find something to “punish” their for victim either way.

  • A good rule of thumb: When in doubt, call the police.

  • justinbc

    These things happen fast, and it sounds like it did in your case as well. People are always quick to say “you should have done this or that”, but in the span of 5 seconds most peoples reaction time is not going to be good enough to act on a guy threatening someone then driving off. I wouldn’t beat myself up over it too much, but maybe put a mental note on the car so that if you do see it again you’ll know to grab the license. I think most area drivers probably take the same routes regularly, so he’ll probably be by your house again.

    • “People are always quick to say “you should have done this or that”,”

      especially when specifically asked, “what would you have done”

  • If you didn’t get any identifying information, then a call to the police would be a waste of their time and yours. If you did, call and report it. They can use it when the go to arrest him for the actual assault that is probably in the near future.

  • Call the police. That person is going to get it either way but maybe this time is the time that they get out.

  • This sort of happened to me a few weekends ago, when I was walking home down 12th St. near the Coffee Bar with a friend, and we saw this guy across the street standing over a woman, screaming at her.

    We stopped and kind of stared for a minute, just to put eyes on the street, and I yelled out “you okay?” She said, slightly choked-up, that she was fine, and then the guy started pacing us from across the street, shouting at us and asking things like “you trying to say something?” “What are you looking at?” And that sort of thing. We crossed the street, and she was talking to him in the middle of the street, and as we were turned away he went to hit her and either did or she caught his arm (all we heard was the smack, and saw the tail end of a raised arm).

    We went around the corner, called the police in a very low voice to report a potential domestic disturbance, and as we were there on the phone he came around the corner with his shirt now off and the woman following him, and I quickly pretended to be calling my girlfriend or something. We said we were moving on and he sort of started at us and walked away, while the woman yelled at us “why’d you have to say anything!”

    I don’t know what happened to either of them. I’m still not even sure I did the right thing. But by god, some people…

    • Sadly, this is how these situations tend to play out more often than not. Don’t ever call the police with the expectation that the victim will thank you for it. They won’t (you just got her boyfriend in trouble with the cops!) Say something or call the cops because her boyfriend is an aggressive, violent creep, and violent creeps gotta learn that this kind of crap behavior isn’t okay and won’t be tolerated in public. Especially threatening bystanders – eff that noise.

      • My bf tried to stop a man who was beating on a woman. As he’s holding the guy back, the woman comes up behind him and lashes him on the back with a car antenna. Lesson learned. Just call the cops.

        • This happened to me on the metro. A guy was beating the holy hell out of a girl so I stepped in. I gave him two or three slaps to show him what it’s like. Just as I was feeling good about myself she started hitting me with her cell phone in the ear and eye from behind. She was like 230 and I started bleeding all over the place. I finally had to get off the train because she would not stop. I sat down and got a chuckle that maybe he was defending himself.

          Last week I was walking home a a little guy was dragging a girl down the street and she wanted none of it. I asked her if she needed some help and she said yes. Little guy looked at me and kept pulling so I put his arm behind his back and put him on the ground slowly. I was waiting for her to get away when the cops showed up. Oh poop I thought but they had been watching and the cop took the guys arm from me said thanks and told me to have a nice night. I’m still very very hesitant to step in. I’m not super man and I don’t want to go to jail for what might be an average night for two misplaced lovers.

          • Anon, as a woman I can say if anything were ever to happen to me, I’d be happy to have a real neighbor like you around!

      • Or maybe they won’t in that moment because they’ve been abused for so long that they think/realize that the abuser will take it out on them. And they don’t think there is any hope, so they’d rather not have anyone help because in that moment all they see is the bad that is happening rather than the help that can come. That doesn’t mean you don’t help.

    • Accountering

      You did the right thing, both speaking up, and calling the police.

    • Ally

      Good for you; you did the right thing. People in that situation are not themselves. I have a friend whose husband regularly abuses her. And there is no reasoning with her.

  • Years ago while approaching 11 & M, I saw a guy grab woman by her hair. I yelled from across 11th “let her go” and when the guy looked at me and said “what are you going to do” I said “I’m going to watch you and call the police”, he took off running leaving the woman behind. The police came, she said nothing, but at least he stopped at that moment and perhaps learned that people are willing to say something in public. At least.

  • Getting the license plate is helpful or a description of the car. You can give it to the 911 dispatcher when you call. Chances are that the car will be gone by the time the officers show up, but they might be able to stop the vehicle a few blocks away.

    For the person who was blamed by the female victim, you did the right thing. Chances are wherever these couples live that they are known to the officers from there. Part of the procedure for officers in DC are to refer victims to OCAP. Generally they have more success in talking to them than we do in uniform, especially when the offender is present.

  • I had to read it a couple of times but are you sure the man said “If some f*cking old lady calls the police, I’m going to punish you.” to the woman in the car or did he shout it directly at your neighbor? Either way I am very concerned that this guy might come back and retaliate against your neighbor if anything happens to him whether she or you report it or not. In this instance I would suggest that you report to the police as a possible threat.

  • Call the police. I hesitated for a sec, but no, without a doubt, call the police. If he is willing to take her life, he’ll do it over something else if not for this, and if the police get involved, at least there’s a chance of her getting help.

    • Where in the story did you get he was willing to take her life? ” I’m going to punish you” to “I’m going to murder you” is a stretch.

      People yell and they fight and sometimes say things they don’t mean. And other times, they mean what they say. Me personally, in this situations (based on description) I do not feel confident that I had enough information to make a judgement call on calling the cops or not. And given being unable to make a judgement, I would have aired on the side of minding my own business.

      Do people call the cops every time a parent is yelling at their children in public and telling them they are getting punished when they get home (time out, early bedtime, etc)? No, most people don’t and I see this situation as very similar, with the exception that these are two adults more capable of taking action to protect themselves then a child is .

      • A parent telling a child “I’m going to punish you” could mean — as you noted — time out or an early bedtime.
        When one adult tells another adult, “I’m going to punish you,” what non-disturbing options do you think that includes?

        • Seriously, the scenario described is not normal. It speaks to a person in distress and possibley in danger, it’s impossible to tell what leve of distress, so if the person feels it’s the right thing to do, he or she should call the police.

  • “Normal city crazy behavior”- this does not compute. No, this is not normal behavior, and yes, it IS crazy. Normal and crazy do not belong in the same sentence in this case. And NO ONE deserves to have their partner threaten to “punish” them no matter what they’ve done. That is abuse even if physical abuse doesn’t actually occur. Wow.

    • +1. (And IMO, the threat to “punish” her sounds like there’s violence implied.)

    • Ally

      Agreed. Nothing about this situation stuck out as anything other than abusive. There’s a difference between drunk yelling at your partner (been there, done that in my 20s, got the t-shirt) and erratic driving and threatening violence. Over the line.

    • Ummmmmm…..either you are yourself abusive and find nothing wrong with threatening your partner in such a way or you genuinely have no understanding of how threatening to harm your partner is in fact abuse and indeed worthy of police intervention.

      • Nope, I’m a very peaceful person, and I’ve actually broken up violent domestic situations involving strangers. This just highlights how you make judgements of people you don’t know from a biassed perspective. I just prefer to assume I don’t know the cause of arguments I observe until safety is an issue. People have a right to get mad and raise their voice, but not if violence is involved. I generally mind my business. This is a city, stuff happens.

    • gotryit

      Calling the police doesn’t mean the person will get punished. It may just deescalate the situation.
      But if it is getting physical, then better to have the police there sooner.
      For example, at about 1am one morning, I heard loud shouting between a man and a woman – it looked to me like it might escalate. While I’m on the phone with the police, she tried to get away, he grabbed her ankle and she went down. Police were there shortly after. Ended up getting 30 days in jail for assault.

      • A lot of the time, especially lately police escalate situations, and use excessive force, especially concerning minorities. I’m less inclined to call them in situations when harm is not an issue, and by reading the details, I gathered that no harm was witnessed. A lot of people raise their voice to show they’re upset, but they are non-violent people.

      • gotryit

        “A lot of the time, especially lately police escalate situations, and use excessive force, especially concerning minorities.”
        That hasn’t been my experience in DC, and I find it hard to believe. I get it that it happens, and it’s more obvious now because of cell phone video. But do you have some kind of data to show it’s overall better for a victim (or potential victim) to NOT call the police?

      • //But do you have some kind of data to show it’s overall better for a victim (or potential victim) to NOT call the police?

        Yep, it’s called DWB, Stop and Frisk, Mike Brown… Etc.

  • Dismissing that kind of situation as being ‘no big deal’ is a huge part of the problem. Of course people are allowed to be angry and to vocalize their anger. But there is no “deserving” an aggressive threat. He didn’t just say he’d be upset or mad if someone called the police, he threatened to “punish” her for actions that are outside of her control – that’s controlling behavior and is suggestive enough of violence that calling the police is a completely reasonable response. Assuming that everything’s fine because physical violence didn’t occur in your line of vision is not the answer.

    • certainly the police should be involved in every case of someone raising their voice. i mean, what problem can’t be solved by a little jail time?

  • uh deserve to get punished. what in the fuk are you talking about.

  • +1 I agree 100% roadclaim. Too many busybodies on here.

  • I have the same comment anytime someone asks “Should I call the police?”

    The answer is Yes. You know who’s really good at determining if they’re needed to help a situation? The police.

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