When a confrontation happens in public, it’s easy to just walk away or ignore it for fear of the consequences. Indeed, what if it makes the situation worse? Or what if the perpetrator then turns their anger onto those trying to help? When one particular woman was being verbally abused by her boyfriend in public, the only person to confront him was a 19-year-old woman.
When husband and wife David and Lorraine were out shopping one day, things started to get ugly. David was exhibiting aggression toward Lorraine in an attempt to maintain some kind of control over her. Indeed, Lorraine looks upset – terrified, even – as David lets loose with furious insults.
When a couple’s domestic problems are aired publicly in the form of an argument or as verbal abuse, it’s easy to wonder what goes on behind closed doors. There’s a temptation to step in, but – for some – it’s easier to turn a blind eye and simply walk on by. Would you step into this situation, though?
“You’re gonna start crying now?” David angrily asks his wife while she looks on the verge of tears. Deliberately trying to belittle Lorraine, he says, “Are you finished telling everybody our problems?” Then comes the most hurtful blow of all: “Why did I marry you?”
For anyone brave enough to intervene, however, there’s a chance the perpetrator may turn their anger and aggression on whoever’s trying to help. Worse still, it could make a bad situation worse when the victim returns home with their aggressor.
“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me,” as the children’s rhyme goes. However, verbal and emotional abuse can be incredibly harmful. It may not manifest in broken bones, but it can easily break a person’s spirit – as Lorraine surely knows.
The aggression escalates as four young men walk by. “Move!” David shouts at Lorraine. “You’re such an idiot! Come on – hurry up!” David’s behavior catches the attention of the group, though. One of the men then stops and turns around. He looks as though he’s about to confront David.
Ultimately, however, the man rejoins the group and keeps walking. Meanwhile, David’s verbal tirade toward Lorraine continues. “And you wonder why I cheated on you?” Now, David has caught the attention of a young woman close by. She’s keeping a watchful eye on what’s happening between the couple.
In floods of tears now, Lorraine walks away from David. The young woman grabs Lorraine by the sleeve as she approaches. For this young lady, standing by and watching or walking away and minding her own business simply wasn’t an option. She felt compelled to help.
The caring bystander asks Lorraine if she’s okay. “Don’t let somebody talk to you like that,” the young woman tells Lorraine. “I don’t even know you. You don’t deserve that.” At that moment David approaches. He tries to take Lorraine away. But the young woman is having none of it.
“Don’t go. You’re not going,” the young woman says to her. “She’s not going,” she says looking David squarely in the eyes. “You wait in the car, you piece of junk,” David tells Lorraine. David insists that they need to go, and Lorraine turns to leave with him.
Then, despite her best efforts to stop Lorraine from going anywhere with David, the young woman’s mom steps in. “Come here,” she says to Lorraine. “It’s okay.” But Lorraine walks away. Mom turns to her daughter and says, “I understand you want to help, but you are a child.”
Her mom begs her not to get involved in a potentially dangerous situation. “Let the men stick up for her,” she says, fearing David could get violent. But the young woman will not let it go, insisting she’s not a child anymore. David then returns, bluntly saying to Lorraine, “Can we go? Are you finished?”
The young woman replies, “She’s not going anywhere.” Undeterred by David’s bullishness she says, “You’re not allowed to take her ’cause my dad’s a cop and he’s coming here, okay?” It’s only then that other people get involved to break things up.
Who would think that in the next scene it would be Lorraine comforting the young woman, now in floods of tears as reality shows itself. The whole scene is a set-up from ABC’s What Would You Do? Lorraine and David are, in fact, actors.
The show’s host, John Quiñones, reveals himself to the young woman, who immediately bursts into tears. Mom recognizes him and says she was afraid for her daughter. Martina, the only person to stand up to the bullying “David,” bursts into tears realizing what is happening.
“Lorraine,” comforting Martina, thanks her for her bravery. With so many others in the store, it took a 19-year-old to stand up to a grown man who was verbally abusing his wife. This scenario may not have been real, but it’s a situation that could play out anywhere.
What Would You Do? uses hidden cameras to capture how the public interacts with scenes performed by actors, often involving criminality and arguments. The spotlight of the show is on the bystanders and what they will do when faced with these scenarios – if they do anything at all.
Since the episode aired in September 2016, many have commended Martina for her bravery. One Facebook user said she was “so very, very proud of what this young lady did… It took a lot of courage.” Another said, “We need more [of] you men and women like her. This may have been a fake scenario but it’s good to know there’s still good people out there.”
When Martina was asked why she was moved to step in, she said simply, “Nobody deserves that. And nobody was standing up for her. And she wasn’t standing up for herself.” And if “David” had then turned on her as well? “Then she’s not alone.” Martina’s only hope was that if she was in that situation she’d want somebody to do the same for her. And perhaps we should all try to learn by her example.