Serious What to do when witnessing someone getting harassed?


Banned deucer.
This post might be a little odd but this just happened to me and I'm still kinda unsure about it. I go to a university in North Philadelphia- the campus itself is pretty nice and relatively safe but the neighborhoods surrounding it are a bit sketchy, especially at night. A friend and I were walking back from the subway station which is a few blocks away from our campus. We were approaching a local pizza place when we noticed a man a few yards away cross the street from the opposite side unto our side. He then began physically assaulting a woman who was standing there, shoving her against the side of a building. She was crying and I heard her say something to the effect of "Please don't do this." My friend convinced me to keep walking and we called 9-11 and campus security.

But I feel like I should have done more? I'm not a very physically imposing guy and the friend I was with is an equally unimposing girl. The assailant was an older fellow and wasn't particularly threatening. I feel bad that I just walked on by and did nothing to stop or prevent what was going on. I know we called 9-11 but by the time we heard any sirens it was about 10 minutes after and surely was too late to do anything meaningful.

My friend tells me there was nothing I could have done about it and that it would been a bad idea to even say anything. But I feel bad. I guess I've always fancied myself as the person confident enough to take these situations head on and do the noble thing. But I chickened out this time. I'm really beating myself up over it. But honestly, what IS the right thing to do in this situation? This is the first time (and hopefully last) I've encountered something like this happen so I'm not sure. I'm writing this here because it's really the only place I feel comfortable enough doing so. Thanks.


Autumn Priestess
is a Pre-Contributor
I'm writing this here because it's really the only place I feel comfortable enough doing so. Thanks.
I feel like the kind of guy who plans on being man enough to speak up for abused women probably shouldn't be the type who's afraid to ask these kinds of questions in the first place... You have to be strong enough to speak from the mind in the moments that really count if you ever expect to be strong enough to speak from the heart, or else don't even bother.

Your question isn't really "what to do" but more so "How do I have the courage to do the right thing?"

That's hard to know in the face of danger, when the body and the brain/mind are reacting to so many chemicals and ingrained automatic fight-or-flight triggers, but you're a negotiator type who first prefers everyone's opinions and desires are satisfied first, before you've chosen your own path.

That courage to speak up comes from a native source from deep within you, the part that houses your sense of right-and-wrong and the values you possess. That doesn't come from "feeling the room" and making sure everyone else is prepared with your same exact line of thought before speaking it aloud yourself (aka when you asked her what to do).

The dude you're describing honestly sounds like a retired beta shrimp-fry creep so I don't even get what you were afraid of especially in so public a place as you've described ("The assailant was an older fellow and wasn't particularly threatening"), and I just have to call BS on your friend - if she was the woman pressed against the wall she sure as fuck isn't thinking that passing friends are to ignore and report to Campus Police instead... You can't expect the system to fix everything; sometimes, you are the system

This is the first time (and hopefully last) I've encountered something like this happen so I'm not sure.
With that being said, you can't practically involve yourself in every public conflict, every scrapyard fight, the same as you can't save every homeless person on the street from a cold night... but there is intuition available to know which fights are yours to battle, and the rest that have to be settled by the world itself or by the compromised themselves -- but that intuition comes first from possessing both strong independent values and the brain to execute those ideals externally within proper prudence.
Last edited:

Soul Fly

is a Contributor Alumnus
Your friends is wrong. You essentially walked away from an inconvenient situation. Even if it was right you would have no way of knowing that. Convincing yourself otherwise is only a way to ease guilt.

Stand up. Be resolute. Trust your instinct of kindness and compassion over your instinct of self-preservation or convenience. You might avoid distress in your immediate circle but that would be made meaningless by the guilt of your inaction.

However only do all of those things once you're absolutely certain that the story is yours to tell and your interception is warranted. You should strive to be an ally not a knight. Fair warning, should you be brave enough to want to act in these situations.
Last edited:
I disagree with the responses so far. So this guy should have 'done the right thing' and intervened? You don't know how unstable the old man is, whether he's drunk, on drugs etc. So what happens when this guy tries to intervene and the old man turns on him? He could pull a knife or a gun and I know that physically I wouldn't be much help in a fight, which may be the case with the OP as he posted. The correct course of action is to get help, like you did by calling the police and reporting it to campus security (notice how I didn't skip over the calling the police part like the first reply did). I would also recommend, having had time to think about it, that seeking help from the local pizza place would have been a good idea as the weight of numbers would likely scare him off, but having the clarity to make a decision like that in such a situation is difficult. Don't be hard on yourself.

The dude you're describing honestly sounds like a retired beta shrimp-fry creep so I don't even get what you were afraid of
You fight the old man then. I'm sure that's exactly what you would have done if you were in this guy's situation. Seriously, take a step back, stop attacking this guy for how he reacted to the situation and saying that what his friend thinks is 'BS'.
Call the police, find a larger group of people to help but you personally keep your head down and keep walking. I don't know why society abhors a bystander as if having a sense of self-preservation over wanting to be the hero and help someone in a physical confrontation is considered cool and righteous. One of my cousins in Argentina was stabbed for trying to do that very thing (he's alive).

If there is a larger group around you go ahead and try to confront him, its still a dumb idea as he might have a weapon and since you're American there is a higher chance than normal of that weapon being a gun. However if you manage to make a scene and call out to other people you'll probably get help.
Last edited:


Banned deucer.
Maybe try being a man and protect that woman from being beaten? Do we really need to discuss this?

edit just realized you're talking the kensington area. if you tried to intervene you'd probably get shot lmfao nevermind

edit edit fuck north philly I have to uber everywhere so I dont get mugged
Last edited:


is a Tiering Contributor
The pervasiveness of guns makes any kind of action in situations like this outside of being a bystander too risky. It sucks, but unless you were sure that he didn't have a gun, even shouting at him from a distance could potentially endangered both you and your friends' life. You did the right thing by calling 9-11.
Shout at him, volume has more effect than one thinks. Let your presence be recognised, threaten him with the police etc. Walk towards him with conviction, but don't physically engage, definitely not worth the risk of a weapon. If he wasn't an imposing guy, then the fact that there were three of you should have been enough to deter him. It's a nasty situation to be in, I've walked away once before myself to my regret, but the second time I witnessed something like that I did what I described. Guy slunk away badmouthing me, but that doesn't matter


goes to eleven
is a Site Staff Alumnusis a Programmer Alumnusis a Live Chat Contributor Alumnusis a Top Contributor Alumnusis an Administrator Alumnus
That scene pictured in the OP might seem pretty clear cut, but do you remember in Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood the scene where the villagers happen upon a fight and go, "Look! That lion is mauling that child!" Obviously, in real life, nothing is quite that drastic or exaggerated. But you should keep that in mind because situations are often not what they seem.

All that being said, intervene when women are clearly being harassed. Learn about escalation of force. Learn how to SHOUT commandingly. There are books about this, and YouTube videos. Just take the above into account and don't open by pulling out your weapon and attacking.

Users Who Are Viewing This Thread (Users: 1, Guests: 0)