I usually don’t say anything to people who aren’t disabled but park in disabled parking spaces anyway.  I dislike confrontations, and it’s just not worth the hassle.  There are rude and tacky people everywhere, and I’ve gotten used to it.  But should I just accept rude behavior?  We all share our public spaces, just like here on the internet, so we should all contribute to what we think acceptable behavior consists of.

Illegal parking is such a small thing… And maybe that person parked illegally because they were in a hurry, on their way to see a sick friend in the hospital before visiting hours were over. Maybe that person was really depressed and decided to make themselves feel better by breaking the law.  (It happens.)  Maybe that person had an operation two days ago, and still feeling weak, decided to use the disabled parking space just this once.

I can make up a hundred excuses for rude behavior, and in my younger days, I even made up excuses for other people’s bad behavior.  My boss yelled at me?  Well, maybe he’s having trouble at home.  Some crazy driver on the roadway scares me to death?  Well, he probably doesn’t drive like that every day.  And in my older days:  All the dog owners in my apartment complex who never pick up after their dogs?  Well, I’ll just learn to step around all those gross and yucky piles (while taking pictures of the trees, birds, and clouds) — you know, work on my coordination.

I’ll never forget the time I witnessed a mother screaming at and belittling her two young kids in the grocery store.  The kids seemed to take it in stride, like it happened all the time, but I was embarrassed and frightened for them.  I tried to think of something to say, something that wouldn’t make the mother even angrier than she already was… but I was struck dumb.  I didn’t know what to say that would make the situation any better, for her or for the kids.

And let me say that if you live in a state that has liberal gun laws, you learn to keep your opinions to yourself.  It’s just the safest thing to do.  But is it the right thing to do?

I hope I would say something if I ever witnessed physical abuse, but why don’t I react the same when I witness verbal abuse?  Is it fear that keeps me quiet?

As a chronic pain patient, I have accepted being bullied, especially by doctors.  It was that first time — that first time I allowed myself to be bullied — which made it so much easier for the next doctor to bully me…

It was Foghorn The IKonoclast’s post about witnessing a rape back in the 70s, and a recent story about silent bystanders of a rape on a college campus, that made me wonder why so many witnesses of these crimes stay silent… turn away.  Would I have done the same thing?


Back in 1974, I was a kid, only 18 years and probably was witness in some way to a date rape. It sure felt like it because as I was leaving out the dorm that night, guys were pulling a train on a teen girl and some guy asked me if I wanted to have ‘some.’ I said, “no.” And besides, the choice of words haunts me too as well as the whimpering that went along with her disorientation.

I was so naive but a part of my soul has been tortured to this very day. If I knew then what I know now, I might have gone postal because I cannot imagine a crime worse than that. You see, she was drunk and whimpering. Damnit. That really pisses me off. No girl asks for ‘it.’ Not for that.

I didn’t know what “pulling a train on a teen girl” meant, but the Urban Dictionary filled me in.  I suppose these kinds of activities happen in gangs and around athletes, two places I’ve never been. But I find it hard to believe that any girl would happily agree to participate in being a train, no matter how popular she wanted to be.  Or how much in love, because that’s not love.

And I also find it hard to believe that anyone witnessing such an act wouldn’t automatically know they were witnessing a rape, no matter how young or naive they were at the time.  If a dog or cat wandered onto a scene like that, even they would know that someone was suffering.

I hope I can look back at the mistakes I made when confronted with any kind of human or animal abuse and recognize when fear held me back from trying to stop it.  I hope in the future, if I am unlucky enough to witness verbal (or physical) abuse again, I will have the courage to speak up. And that’s all I can ask of anyone else — please speak up.

For it is when we stay silent, when we question ourselves, when we allow fear to overcome our better judgment, that things like rape happen.  Victims and survivors of rape, of the drug war, of addiction, of the war against mental health and pain patients — we all have to speak up.

Thanks for reading.

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