Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Bystanders

Happy Wednesday, warrior-wombed.

I am, yet again, at the mercy of the a/c man.  Today is the day he will come and make my breezy dreams finally come true.  That's one trip for diagnosing, one trip for removing giant hunk of metal treason, one trip for replacing.  Did I mention because of conflicting accents that I can't understand a word he's saying, and he can't understand a word that I'm saying?  If this were housewife porn we'd be off to a very rough start.  And seeing as how a giant tumbleweed of dog hair just blew past me I can safely say I would be the world's worst housewife, so no porn angle is a little limiting.


I'm sure everyone is aware of what's happened in Ohio on Monday, but seeing as how I can't be sure how much coverage this is getting outside of the U.S., I'll give you the jist.

Three women in Ohio went missing, separately, 10 years ago - two were minors and one was 20.  On Monday evening, a man was outside of his house and heard a woman screaming next door.  Upon further inspection he saw that it was a young woman holding a child, trying to escape his neighbors house.  So that man, Charles Ramsey, broke down the door and called 911.  He thought he was intervening in a domestic abuse incident, and it turns out he was helping to free three women - and a resulting toddler - from the captivity they'd been held in for ten years by three brothers.

First, let's all take a minute and think about what a freaking miracle at the end of horror this is.  Horror because I think this sort of thing happens a lot more than we think it does.  Horror because we can only imagine what those women have gone through.  Miracle because when I hear about someone going missing for ten days, that dark part in the back of my head thinks 'what are the chances they're still alive?'.  These women resurfaced after ten years, and just a few miles from where they went missing.

Second, can someone buy this man a beer?  Free McDonalds for life?  A pony?  Something?

If you've watched or read interviews with this man, he is definitely rough around the edges.  So naturally, seeing as he's a black man combined with the fact that he's not pretentious, some of the interwebs is making fun of him and saying he's going to be the next Antoine Dodson (of 'hide you kids, hide yo wife' fame).

(Sidenote:  Antoin Dodson has now renounced his homosexuality.  I have no words... Hide your wives?)

Ummm, no.

This man was a bystander that sprung into action.  It would have been the much easier, much more popular route to take to simply go inside and 'mind his own business'.  Thinking it was just going to be an instance of domestic abuse - which is famously ignored a lot of times - he got involved.  He helped the woman before he even had time to think how it would affect him.  If part of his brain wondered if right behind the girl there was going to be an angry man with a gun, and I'm sure it did, he didn't listen to it and a lot of people would have.

And now that he knows what he did was not just the 'typical' domestic abuse incident in a bad neighborhood?  He doesn't even want the reward.

No one should give a shit about how he 'presents himself' and just be figuring out how to present him with a round of drinks, and pray for neighbors this good.

When I lived on the east coast, I volunteered with a rape response organization.  We dealt with women directly after their assault, and accompanied them to the hospital.  From my experience with that I can tell you that it is frightening how often someone has the opportunity to intervene, call 911 - do something - and doesn't do it out of fear. In the self-defense classes we used to teach, one of the first things taught is if you're in trouble to yell "fire!" because "help!" people have a tendency to ignore.

And really, when things like this happen and you hear a story of someone being heroic, it's an opportunity to ask yourself and really think about what you would do. And be inspired to be a Badass free of Bullshit like the ridiculously charming Mr. Charles Ramsey.

(This one did give me an inappropriate chuckle, though...)


While we're on the subject I need some guidance, and ye whose lack of functioning wombs have been replaced with wild amounts of wisdom, will hopefully be able to help me figure things out.

On Monday I wrote about munchausen by internet, wherein a person keeps a fake blog for attention, usually full of horrible tragedy and unbelievable miracles.  The last two days my time usually reserved for dicking around the internet and watching cats behave cat-like has been replaced by gobbling up information on this phenomenon.

Here's the thing... At what point do you intervene with a blogger?  When do you go from being a reader to being a bystander?

If you come across a blog where a person is claiming to harm themselves or to be in some kind of situation where they're being harmed or harmful, is there really a difference between passing that blog by and passing by a similar person in real life?

Normally, when a story or concept gets me playing the 'what would I do?' game I'm pretty good at it.  I'm not a woman who waffles (though I do love me some waffles).  I know with a good deal of certainty that in the fight, flight or freeze scenario whether it's on my own behalf or someone else's, I fight.

But until the last couple of days, all of those scenarios involve something happening right in front of me, live and in HD.  Adding the internet to the situation throws me completely off.

If a woman was in front of me and making claims - however outlandish - of being beaten, tormented, abused or victimized, whether it be by herself or by others, my thought process would be what do to do help her, not whether or not I should.

If I came across a blog where the woman was making the same claims... this is where I get stuck.  If she's not asking for money, do you just leave her to it?

Even if you know the claims being made are more than likely untrue... what if you're right?  Girlfriend still needs help, and even if you walked away you don't know that other people won't become emotionally or financially invested.  Or worse - what if you're wrong?  I can't help but think that at that point you have now, albeit in the comfort of your own home wearing pajamas,  become the asshole on the news who walks past a woman passed out on the street.

Is there a difference between seeing something like that online and just quietly stepping away from the blog, and seeing something like that in real life and walking past it?  And if there is a difference, help me - what is it?

I think that the bright cornea-burning computer screen somehow takes the edge off of remembering that on the other side of what you're reading there are real people.  The security of being invisible as you pass through people's lives makes a whole lot of things possible.  It makes it possible for us to ignore things that we don't like, to make fun of people like Charles Ramsey, to look at the facebook pictures of that dick ex boyfriend you had in high school.

If you removed the computer aspect from people, very few would be able to walk by a woman screaming 'help I'm being abused! Pay attention to me!' even if you were pretty sure she was lying.  No one would have the balls to mock a guy who just did something completely heroic.  You would not be in your ex boyfriends bushes with binoculars (...hopefully not).

The internet gives us permission to do a lot of things, and I am mostly cool with that.  If someone's blog bugs me, I don't read it.  The unfollow button may be the greatest thing to happen to the internet since someone figured out how to upload videos of cats.

But in the online world, at what point does ignoring something make you complicit?  What's the line a blogger's toe would have to go over to make you want to figure out how to intervene?  And then, do tell, if you do find a blogger who is making outlandish claims and you find yourself wondering whether it's worse if she's lying or telling the truth, if you did want to do something... what exactly would that something be?

I'm thinking of the example (and subsequent blog) I read online, where a woman faked her cancer blog. Claimed she was dying, had been abused, had had suicidal thoughts.  The people who reached out and tried to help were screwed, because she was a fake.  The people that ignored it let those other people be screwed.  So what would have been the happy middle solution?  Would there have been one?

I in no way shape or form would want to go trampling in someone's life without permission.  Violation of privacy is a disgusting feeling, and I think we can all agree my specialty is more in the realm of inappropriate jokes.  I also know, however, that in real life I never want to be the person who regrets not doing something because it was 'none of my business'.  Does that translate to online though?  I don't know.  And how does the online world make it seem like it's really none of your business, even though I think we can agree part of the purpose of blogging is to have people read it?

The last couple of days of thinking about these things and all I've come up with is that if you throw in a computer into any given situation, I will freeze... and I'm not a freezer, ya'll, I'm a fighter.  Just tell me how.

32 comments:

  1. As I know the blog that you are talking about since I pointed you to it, I have so far been a bystander. If the blog was more believable then I think that I would try to do something....but being that I don't believe a word of any of her stories, I'm not sure how exactly to get involved.

    I definitely agree with you though- the internet aspect makes it easier to "walk away." I would like to think that I would never walk away in person even if I wasn't convinced that the person was telling the truth. At that point I may be able to get her/him some help- even if it is just mental help. But it's harder on the internet. Some of us are so far away (physically) from each other and have no idea how to even get help to the person.

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    1. I'm just at a complete loss as to what to do in the hypothetical online scenario? It's just so weird.. Because 'in real life' I know how I would handle it, and it's the total opposite of how I'm inclined to deal with it online, which is to just stop reading... And agreed, I think most of the more concerning blogs a person could come across are full of horse shit.. But oh man, what to do with horse shit. Online my instinct is to just turn away to get away from the smell but there's something in my head that won't just drop it.

      I am coocoo. It's official.

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  2. I also saw said blog forwarded by nschica and honestly I just walked away without barely thinking anything other than woah this person is crazy. Jenny you have an amazing way of making me think hmmm I really hadnt looked at it like this before. I have to think on this. As for Charles Ramsey, and the coverage has been massive over here too, he is awesome. Total legend.

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    1. He is a legend! My word. I'm a little in love.

      Yeah, I'm wondering more on the whole.. you know, where exactly is the line between harmless doodoo and something you should do something about?

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  3. I live in Ohio, so we've been getting a lot of feed about that story here and elsewhere. Absolutely nuts!

    I used to work at a Domestic Violence shelter, so I've had my share of crazy stories and situations. But this is something else altogether. You're right, normally with DV people ignore the situation, they don't get involved, they turn a blind eye. It's sad, and it's scary. It's a miracle that man didn't take the easy way out and ignore what he saw, because that's what most people would do, you're absolutely right.

    As for online... that really is tough. I've had situations on the forums where a woman went through a miscarriage, and several of us were very concerned about her well being. She was displaying signs of failure to cope, severe depression, and possible suicidal tendencies. We kept messaging her, if we didn't hear from her for a day we kept at it, some of us PM'ed her, and some probably offered to text/call (I've had women reach of to me after my losses online in this same manner). But really, there's only so much you can do anonymously on the internet. And even if we tell them who you are, let them in, they don't always respond.

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    1. That dude broke down a damn door! I hate even thinking about how many people would realistically do that.. And he's apparently only lived there a year, so there's an argument for a gawd, sticking a neighbor like that next to you at the right time.

      It's frustrating! because you don't want to trample in someone's life, but I'm not sure where the line is of 'it no longer matters that this is none of my business'. And in thinking about just fake blogs, I feel like I would just leave it if the person wasn't gaining anything financially or too heavily emotionally from people... But yeah, what do you do if you're worried about someone's well being?

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  4. There is a big difference between what you observe with your own eyes and what you read about on the screen. One is YOUR observation, the other is someone else's process.

    I think transparency also comes into play. Is the person reachable? Do you know where they live and therefore which local police department to contact? Do you know a real name? If no, it becomes very difficult to help.

    This is a terrible side effect of the Internet; that people can say things and make someone else a bystander. They take away the ability to help.

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    1. That is SO true.. It really does kind of cut out your ability to help and force you to be a bystander.

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  5. Hmmmm. It's a tough one. I'll admit that I'm a helper and if a blogger in need has left the door open for some sort of assistance, I'll do something. But if they don't have any contact information available - real name, private email address, etc. - I'm not sure how much help anyone can give them. In those cases, I tend to assume that they want privacy so I don't push for more information. That being said, if there's some sort of criminal activity going on (such as domestic violence), I don't know if I could just sit by quietly. I just...don't...know...

    (And of course now I'm REALLY curious about this blog people are referring to...)

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    1. It's so tricky! It's obvious that if you found someone who was like this and talking openly about it online, that it's a bit of a cry for help. But how do you answer that cry?!

      And if a person is full of poopoo and there's no money involved, the last thing I want to do is anything that would embarrass anybody...

      (Check your email gorgeous).

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    2. Wow. I am really intrigued by this blog too. I mean, I want to say it sounds familiar...
      Props to you though, Stork. I am a DV advocate and get sent out to the hospitals too and it is TOUGH! I applaud you and the applaud Charles Ramsay :)

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  6. Charles Ramsey made me super duper proud to be an Ohioan. Dude has my vote for hero of the year!

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    1. His instinct was to kick in a door. KICK IN A DOOR. Amazing.

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  7. Wow, now that's a dilly of a pickle. I don't know the blog you guys are talking about, and I like to think that in the little circle of bloggy friends that I've created for myself, if one of them was really suffering (ie. expressing thoughts of self-harm) then I'd react the same way that I would in real life, which is call or write and get them to talk it out and hopefully find them some help. BUT I think that with these Munschausen-by-internet folks, you'd probably find out pretty quickly that your help isn't really taken because it's not needed and the person wants things to keep going the way they are to continue to get attention. In a genuine cry for help, the person will usually take the help when it's offered. When it's fake, you'd get excuses about not being able to chat, or being too overwhelmed to meet, or not having time to make that appointment with the therapist you recommended, or whatever. Because some people just like to complain and get noticed for being martyrs. As long as you don't get sucked into sending anyone money (which, I love all y'all, but I'd NEVER do even for youse guys, but then again I'm a cheap asshole) then you can always reach out and see how it's taken and judge from there.

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    1. Excellent point... If it's Munchausen what the hell do they want help for? They don't.. They just want the attention. ::Sigh:: such a pickle. Because if it was some teenage girl making it up or something I'd still be inclined to hope that the parents were aware of it but it's IMPOSSIBLE. Argh.

      Agreed - I think at least in our particular circle.. I mean, would I like money for IVF in theory? SURE! But no way does that fantasy involve the internet in any way.. I mean and besides, we're all in a financial pickle with IVF, don't care how rich anybody is, not one infertile has any business donating to others.

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  8. I have seen one or two blogs that very much seemed like they were just looking for attention -- and critical comments were simply deleted. So from this experience, I wouldn't even know what to do, at least in the sense of trying to protect others from being exploited. As said above, on the internet you only get to see the perspective the blogger wants to present, and it's very hard to figure out how close to the truth that is, unless you know someone else involved in the story... (sorry, this probably isn't helpful)

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    1. Ha! It's helpful in the sense that I'm thankful other people are as mind-screwed about the subject as I am...

      I think maybe if someone went over the line (like 'hey! i just abused my kid again!') I would happily go all 007 and try to figure out their IP address and/or submit them to the eli hoax blog so they can sort it out.

      It's just weird that there aren't very many options with the internet.. It's either ignore it completely or get psychotically involved.

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  9. I love Charles! That dude is a true hero in my book! What a horrible situation, but people like that help restore my faith in humanity!

    Wow, you bring up a good point! I'm not sure what I'd do if I came across a situation like that. My internet buddies were involved in a situation with a lady who was claiming to be abused. She had kids, so they called children's services. I would totally do that, or call the cops if I didn't know where the person was located.

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    1. I'm thinking maybe if there were a totally icky situation, I might bring it to a bunch of people and figure out what to do... safety in numbers, and all that.

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  10. Three cheers for Charles!
    You definitely pose a interesting conundrum. I guess I've just been fortunate to not have encountered such a situation. I really don't know what I'd do. I think if I already had an established connection with the blogger and then something happened it would make me feel a sense of responsibility...but if I just stumbled upon such a blog I don't think I'd have the same response.

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    1. There really should be some sort of blog or weird organization that is an expert on that sort of thing.. You know, you can anonymously go "hey this person over here has repeatedly made it seem like they need help" and they have some super magic way to contact them.

      The closest I've seen is that Eli Hoax blog but really it seems more of a thing if someone is conning money.. and I'm not sure how I feel about outing/embarrassing someone if they aren't taking money from people. On the other hand they seem to at least in the process of outing people offer them some kind of help...

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  11. I've fallen for a fake blog life before. Now I'm more cautious.

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    1. This makes me really sad (and really wary).

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  12. OK, as much as I think what Charles Ramsey did was awesome, and as much as I LOVED the video footage of him describing how he rescued the girls, I am not so much a fan of his own criminal record (and jail time) for serious domestic abuse:

    http://www.thesmokinggun.com/documents/cleveland-hero-charles-ramsey-8702415

    As for the fake blogs... yeeks... I always just walk away from those things and tell myself I would NEVER fall for stunts like that, and whoever does surely had it coming. But really, I'm kind of surprised there hasn't been more legislation put in place to track down these frauds (the ones soliciting money especially) and punish them. On the other hand, they probably have some kind of mental illness or psychological problem that needs treating, not brushing aside. That's kind of why I like that Catfish show -- I think they do a good job of not just exposing the frauds but really trying to figure out the WHY behind what they did, which ultimately makes them a lot more sympathetic as it's usually due to trauma/bullying/etc.

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    1. Yeah, Bub let me in on that one a few days ago... Not a fan of his criminal record, for sure.. Gotta believe though that if there was some way to make up for it a little bit (just a little!) and earn some good karma this would be it.

      Yeah, I think the people that do it for money are in an entire category of their own and need to be punished without too much sympathy from me.

      The ones that do it just for attention.. I mean, if I did something like that and then was found out I can't help but feel like even though I deserved it it would be MORTIFYING. Not to mention a serious indicator of some other crazy ish that is going on in my mind.

      I dooooo like how in Catfish they try to address why the person did it. Even in the most outlandish ones it makes you have sympathy for them instead of wanting to catch them in a butterfly net. (Except I did see one episode where I had a hard time.. That girl who did it to a girl just to be mean? And then kept repeating she wasn't sorry for it? Did you see that one?)

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  13. I'm extraordinarily lucky to have never fallen for a fake blog. Or at least I didn't know it if I did. I'm grateful for that. I do know I was sent to give some "love" to a couple of fake bloggers, but by the time I did, someone had figured out it was a hoax. In real life, I have intervened a few times, but I don't know if I would have the balls to break down a door like that dude did. Call 911, yeah that I'd do in a heart beat, but the door thing, I might just be too chicken shit to do that.

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    1. Yeah I'd like to think that I would.. But holy shit me. Even in the best version of how that would go down I think my brain would keep my legs from moving for a second or two. Just up and without question like "yeah let's get this door down" is BADASS.

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  14. Fascinating question - because I'm a blog reader and I don't do much on Twitter or Facebook, most of the stuff I see has some time and distance to it. So, if someone were writing about something I found questionable, I would probably try to contact them directly rather than intervene any other way. Because if they're typing out a post, whatever the crisis was would have passed and there is some sort of calm going on that would allow time for a non-emergency response.

    As to Charles Ramsey, in spite of his questionable past, I think he did a great thing. And who knows? Maybe he learned from his past mistakes. Anything is possible. Would I have broken down the door? I don't know - I certainly would have called the police and waited until they got there.

    I tend to freeze in real life situations, because things are never really clear cut. I guess I'm a suspicious reader of atmosphere, because I've often felt like something was not quite right even though there were no visible signs of a problem. If I saw someone getting hit, I'd call the cops. But when I see someone who appears to be getting "encouraged" back to the car, I feel like something's wrong, but don't have anything to back it up. I do sometimes write down license plate numbers, though.

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    1. Yes! I like to think that Charles Ramsey at least gets to.. redeem his past a little, for this. Not that it undoes what he did, but you know... If you hit someone from drunk driving (gawd forbid), quit drinking and then later saved someone from getting hit themselves.. I mean you still once did an awful thing, but I'd like to think you can at least feel a bit better about yourself.

      I don't even know how to go about contacting someone directly! Like.. Hey, are you okay? Do you need help? Oh man I suck at this.

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  15. I think I'd do what I could ... provided I knew something about the person's contact information. Because if I didn't, and the situation was really dire, then I'd never be able to forgive myself for standing by. And if it wasn't real? I'd be the only one hurt, and it would only be my trust. Which, in the end, is repair-able.

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    1. Excellent point! I definitely would be super afraid of being the person that just stood by and didn't do anything, I feel like that would ultimately outweigh not doing anything.. But yeah, I feel like if it's a Munchausen situation I could at least go into it knowing that I was probably going to end up stepping in horseshit, but just in case.. I mean it's a weird situation to want to approach someone about needing help and/or some kind of intervention without letting them suck me in emotionally. Damnit the internet is tricky.

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