It was a lazy, sunny Sunday morning. My kids and I were out walking with our dog when we saw him. A man leaning out the window of his car, yelling at a female driver over a parking space.
Everything about him was aggressive – his body language, his tone, his choice of words. Intimidatingly so. It was his spot, he yelled. “Move on, woman. You have no right to be there. Move on.”
In the moment, I reflected with my kids about how disrespectfully he was treating this driver. There were plenty of car spaces, and I told them that in no way was it ever OK for a man to speak to a woman like that. Or to anyone, for that matter.
I saw this same man in the dog park shortly thereafter, so I asked the kids to go on ahead to the seats. I’d catch up, I said. And then I walked over to him.
I’m now reflecting on the reason I made that split-second decision.
Mia Freedman on #MeToo: “The act of doing something publicly does make a difference”. (Post continues below.)
I suppose I hoped that if I shone a light on his behaviour, peacefully and in a public place (though not publicly), that he may listen and reflect. Sometimes we get so caught up in ourselves, in our own lives, that it’s only upon reflection that we realise the impact we have on other people.
And so I approached him, gently. I told him I had witnessed what occurred in the car park, as had my children. And I pointed out that his treatment of the other driver had been disrespectful and unnecessary.
Within moments he became enraged. He screamed at me so loudly that all the other dog owners could hear. “How dare” I butt in.
I responded peacefully and attempted to calm him down, but he wouldn’t listen. He continued to berate me. So caught up in being ‘right’ about his claim to the parking space, he couldn’t take in what I was saying.
I told him he could well be correct in his claim, but it was the way he spoke to the woman, the disrespect, that I had an issue with.
As he continued to scream, I tried another tack. I revealed to him that I was a victim of domestic violence.
I exposed my private life in the hope that I would call on his compassion, that he would stop his aggression toward me.
I suppose it was naive to think he’d care.
All he did was use it against me. I clearly “had a big problem,” he said. He had a company with over 50 employees and he’d “never raised a hand” to any of them, he said.
I remained calm and just listened as he continued to unleash. I stood up tall, but my body was shaking. My tone was peaceful, but the tears began to well.
There was no getting through to this man.
During his ten-minute tirade, plenty of people watched on, but not one came to my aid. Not one. Except for my daughter. She’d come looking for me and found this stranger berating and belittling me. So she put her arm around me and said, “Can you please stop being mean to my mum? You are making her cry.”
Yes, the one person that stepped in and stood up to this bully was an 11-year-old girl.
I am so proud she supported me. You see, she too has experienced domestic violence at the hands of her father, both as a witness and as a survivor herself. Yet how awful that is was only her that confronted this man; this aggressive, intimidating adult man.
And it worked. As soon as her words left her mouth, the man stopped screaming. Instead he told me to “go look after my children.”
As he walked away, I thought to myself, I am looking after my children, and my children’s children, because they saw their mum call out your behaviour and stand proud and tall in the face of your abuse.
Shout out to all Dads.
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