On Monday, the Humans of New York Facebook posted a harrowing account from a survivor of domestic violence who says she was abused by an ex-boyfriend, who is named only as "an actor on Broadway."
"I broke up with him in December because he couldn’t manage his anger," the story begins. "He’d scream at me on subway platforms. Once he busted my lip while trying to grab something out of my hand. That was when I finally ended it."
But when he called to ask if he could accompany the survivor to a New Years Eve party, she relented.
"[The tickets] were expensive so I agreed," she said. "My sister was coming with us so I wasn’t worried."
Though they all had a good time at the party, things took a turn once they dropped her sister off at home and went back to his place.
"I was so drunk that I curled up in a pile of clothes," she told HONY. "When I opened my eyes he was taking photos of me and laughing. I immediately decided to leave. It was literally the start of a new year and I wanted to begin on a good note."
"He yelled at me to come back but I kept walking," she continued. "He followed me down the stairs and grabbed my arm. He told me to ‘stop acting stupid.’ Then he pinned me up against the side of his building. He was choking me and saying ‘calm down, calm down, calm down.’"
It was then that a van drove by and began honking at the couple, she said. But the driver didn't stop, nor did they seem to call police.
"A van drove by and started honking at us," she said. "But they didn’t stop. They didn’t help me."
It's this part of the story that has drawn a reaction from Facebook users who are wondering why the driver didn't stop to help.
"She calls attention to a good point," one person commented. "Why didn't anyone stop? Why are we so afraid to get involved? I'm a woman but believe me I would have run to her and kicked, scratched and punched that douchebag off of her."
"THIS is not the kind of society in which I want to live," another user wrote. "THIS is not what community looks like. Not only am I deeply sorry this happened but I promise.... I will never not stop."
Another user pointed out that the hesitance to act could be attributed to the bystander effect, a psychological theory that posits that the presence of others will decrease the likelihood that a witness would intervene. Of course, some people may also feel unsafe intervening, or may feel that it isn't their business. But as Facebook commenters have pointed out, witnesses can also alert the police.
"When a woman screams, I get involved," one commenter wrote. "Everytime a neighbor woman is silenced after I hear things thrown, I call the police. I was a 911 dispatcher once, I never 'hope' nothing is going on. I assume there is always."
It may not always be safe to get involved, but this HONY story — and the reactions to it — prove that doing so could help keep someone safe.
"I broke free and ran into traffic but nobody was stopping," the survivor recounted. "He caught me, and pushed me up against a van, and lifted me into the air by the neck. When I woke up on the ground he was gone. I asked the judge to sentence him to anger management courses. He's finished them. But I’m still dealing with the trauma of that night."
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, please call the National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247.