Back in 2011, Tim McGraw stopped a concert, walked onto the catwalk of his stage, and pointed out a man who was hitting the woman next to him. “You don’t treat women like that!” McGraw shouted into the microphone while pointing to the person he was addressing. Eventually, the victim is brought onto stage, the perpetrator is removed from the concert, and we are given a great example for men on what we can do to intervene when we see domestic or dating violence happening in front of us. (Related: Tim McGraw Kicks Fan Out of Concert.)
So, what can men do to stop domestic violence?
For years, I have taught students how to apply Dr. Michele Borba's Bully B.U.S.T.E.R. method as a positive bystander process to stop bullying situations. When we understand that both bullying and domestic/dating violence are relationships built on the exercise of power and control over others, it makes sense that the B.U.S.T.E.R. action steps can also be applied in dating/domestic violence situations. That’s exactly what I saw happen in the Tim McGraw concert video!
B.U.S.T.E.R. Action Steps
McGraw first Befriended the victim by making it clear that he was on the side of the woman who was being roughed up. He has her come onto the stage where security personnel stand alongside her. McGraw clearly points out the person who was in the wrong. Other ways that we can draw this line is by simply standing next to the person who is being harassed. There is no "staying out of it" once we've witnessed abuse. There is only choosing a side. Inaction actually sends a message to the abuser that the abuse is okay.
Use a Distraction - A distraction can be using humor, pointing out or drawing our attention to something positive which lets the abuser know in a discreet way that people have noticed, or in McGraw's case be the distraction yourself. McGraw uses his concert, stage, and celebrity to draw his audience's attention to the situation. With the spotlight on the abuser, it becomes very difficult for him to continue the abuse. Shine light into darkness.
Speak Up/Stand Up - The moment McGraw saw the situation happen he didn't hesitate to use his stage, presence, and microphone to speak up for the victim.
Tell Someone, Get Help - SECURITY! Two security personnel backup McGraw from the stage making it even clearer where the line is drawn. McGraw then calls for additional security to escort the abuser out of the concert.
There is a huge difference between telling and tattling. Tattling is what people do to get others into trouble. Tattling is manipulative. Telling is what people do to get others out of trouble. Telling is about helping people for safety and justice. That’s a huge difference we all need to understand, and teach to our future generations.
Exit with Friend or Alone - The victim is asked to come onto stage and is escorted away by staff and security towards safety and away from the abuser. She seems grateful with tears in her eyes, but that may be me reading into the situation at that point.
Redirect - “You don’t treat women like that!” McGraw takes a moment to share a moral standard with the person in the audience by pointing out the abusive behavior as wrong. This is probably the one area where we need to train ourselves and be mindful of what we are saying.
Good phrases and actions to use:
- “No one deserves to be treated that way.”
- “You are better than that. Please act that way.”
- Redirect responsibility of actions where they belong. “Your behavior is scaring ME and MY family. I need you to stop.” Abusers feel entitled to scare and dominate their partners. This move takes some of the pressure off the victim and shifts the responsibility back onto the abuser for his or her behavior.
- Insist on using names and redirect from name calling. Abusers dehumanize their victims with slurs and nicknames like “Baby Momma,” “My Lady,” “That B*@#h!” and so on.
- To the victim - “Are you okay? I saw what was happening to you, and that wasn’t right. No one deserves to be treated that way. I can help. Can I call the police for you? Can I call a local hotline with people who are trained to help in situations like this?”
Phrases and actions to avoid using:
- Take your business behind closed doors.
- That’s not how we treat people in public.
- Agreeing with the abuser that the victim probably did something wrong to deserve what is happening.
- Avoid telling the victim what the victim “needs to do.” That victim is already in a situation of power and control where the decisions in a relationship are often made by the abuser. When we tell victims what they “need” to do, we are coming from good intentions but are merely creating a new power and control relationship to replace the old one. Instead, offer up lifelines, lot of lifelines.
We tend to think that domestic violence is a private matter. I have met many men in my life who have shared they witnessed an abusive situation, but didn't do anything because they felt like it wasn't their place to say anything. In some cases, it was a matter of "Bro Code" to leave it between the two in that couple to "work out their marriage (or dating) issues."
The facts are that roughly 75% of us in Texas will know someone who is a victim of domestic violence in our lifetimes. We may see direct signs of violence, or we may experience the side effects at work such as someone coming to work late or leaving early, or a workplace accident. (Side note: roughly 19% of participants in a Batterers Intervention and Prevention Program reported they either caused an accident or a near miss at work because they were pre-occupied with harassing their victims.)
Safety considerations afterward:
The first thing we must do in order to help someone who is a victim of abuse is try to see their perspective. It’s easy for us to make assumptions from our positions of safety. We aren’t the ones who have to go home to abusers, see them the next day, or fear the abuser will stalk or harass us. They do.
Download the free Personal Safety Plan Checklist brochure from Texas Council on Family Violence.
Where will the victim go afterwards? The abuser may have been the victim’s ride. The victim may also be living with the abuser, or runs the risk of seeing that abuser at home. Intervention is important, but it has to go beyond the moment. I’m not saying this becomes your burden until the end.
What help is available besides just police? There are a variety of services available such as battered women's shelters and agencies, victim advocates, county attorney, legal aid organizations who can provide free legal help, local, state and national hotlines, etc.
How far does that victim want to go with resolution? Ultimately, once you have established safety, make this about what the victim wants to do. That victim understands her or his situation better than we do. All we can do is be supportive, and be ready to help again when the time comes whether it is that same person or someone new.
See it through with accountability, especially if that abuser is a friend, family member, or fellow believer. Abusers do what they do because it is what they learned. The best way to ensure that future generations do not continue this behavior is by having more men held accountable for setting a positive example. This will take courageous action by most men to take a stand.
We can send the message that manhood is not about domination over other people. We can be positive example for men and boys that is worth following.
Violence Against Women - It’s a Men’s Issue, TED Talk by Jackson Katz
Violence Against Women - It’s a Men’s Issue, TED Talk by Jackson Katz
Family Time Q&A Podcast, Episode 2 - Bully B.U.S.T.E.R. (Father-son session)
Download Strength Revisited, a free eBook download based on my TEDxCorpusChristi Talk about how we define strength in manhood.