Wednesday, August 20, 2008

What's My Responsibility Here?

My friend N. was driving down a Brooklyn Street with her bf, R. The traffic knotted and after a moment they saw 3 individuals being brutally beaten by a tag-teaming group of 9? 12? 14? adult women. N. called 911 immediately. The 3 victims were: a girl about 11 years old, an older adolescent or young adult female, and a grown woman. The crowd was enjoying the show, ignoring the fact that the adult woman's head had been wedged under a car tire and she was being beaten unconscious and unrecognizable. R. jumped out of the car and tried to pull the perpetrators off the little girl, but the tag-teaming was too much.

Much credit to N. and R. They did all they could. Even after eight to ten minutes, the police never showed. It's unknown of they ever showed. The attack didn't make the papers.

My question to myself is this: as a martial artist, as someone who has some amount of training in self-defense, what could I do? If I encounter something like this, what do I do? I mean, I know to tell 911 that a cop is being beaten by someone with a gun, and that might encourage them to show. But more than that, do I jump in? Do I grab the most viscious attacker and take her down swiftly and completely - because there is no other way. Its all or nothing. Clearly those perpetrators had no fear of defenseless victims, but would they fear someone who took down their leader? Do I accept the possibility that I would die trying? Its not the movies, attackers don't wait in line for their turn at you, you gotta fight them all at once, so you have to go for the most disabling move possible in order to save 3 lives. What on earth would I do?

4 comments:

Lori said...

Wow...what a horrible thing to have happen. N and R are some amazing people to have stepped in the way that they did. I have to be honest and say that I am not really sure what the best thing to do as a martial artist would be. I guess these are things we should ponder. I am looking forward to reading some oppinions on this.

Sensei Noah said...

Ellen,
That's a very tough situation to be in, on many levels. On one hand, as a martial artist, you have a responsibility to society and with a good heart you feel as though you might want to use your skills to help less fortunate victims such as these. On the other hand, we know that to use our art to disable someone goes against the philosophy of "Karate Ni Sente Nashi." Also, in the eyes of the law, if you were to jump into a situation like that and injure (or kill) one of the attackers, you would be legally responsible for that action, and knowing martial arts would certainly count against you. You would be asked, "Certainly, having been training for X years, you must know how to temporarily disable someone without serious injury?" It's a very tough call. If you'd had a rifle in your car, would you point it out the window and shoot the attackers? Using physical martial arts skills may amount to the same thing, both morally and legally. Certainly calling 911 immediately was the right thing to do. After that, you should think of a way to diffuse the situation - if at all possible - without causing any (or the least amount of) physical harm to anyone involved. And of course, joining a situation such as that, ten against three, would most likely not help the victims and could add you to their number. A good martial artist can evaluate a situation and knows when - and when NOT - to use his or her physical skills, depending on the situation at hand. In your case, I would have to say that you did the correct thing; as strong as the need to help may be, you most likely would have ended up with your own head underneath a tire, or worse. There are too many unkowns as well. You don't know, for example, whether any of those 10 attackers was armed. What makes you different, as a martial artist, is that you cared enough to stop and dial 911, unlike the crowd of onlookers who made no attempt at all to help. You did well.

heidi said...

Personally, I don't think I would physically put myself in the middle of this one fight, but rather would try to prevent these inevitable situations from going on unattended in the future.

Several thoughts run through my mind... I would try calling a local news station. Maybe it will cause enough embarrassment to the authorities, so that It won't happen next time?
A similar reaction would be to send this story to the local papers. I wonder what the Ethicist at the NYTimes would say.

Put up flyers guiding the people in that district to get the help and attention they need, if such a place exists in their community. If it doesn't exist, I would rally to start one.

Good question, El.

Elena said...

This comment comes from a friend who wishes to remain anonymous:

"I don't know what I'd do.
I have, also, come across some random violent attacks and decisions, in those moments, are always tough.
Luckily, two of those situations involved a one-on-one attack and I felt like I was able to help stop the violence. The other instance, involved multiple attackers and I tried to help but don't know how much good I did - if any.

Like you, E, there are many of us who feel a deep obligation to help others and would struggle with this situation.

It's also true that self-defense is first - SELF defense - our own safety has to be considered. Not self above others but not, always, self sacrificed for others.
If, by fighting, I thought I could make a difference in the outcome, then fighting would be more of an option.

Of course, if you choose to fight, then you fight viciously and stop when it is no longer necessary or when you no longer can.
If it seemed like my fighting was very unlikely to change the outcome then I'd have to be okay with saving myself.

We can trust our assessments of options, while giving ourselves permission to act.
I would say that it is our responsibility not to ignore violence - the rest we just have to figure out as we go.

Love and peace to all of us."