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I've had the strange luck of being there for numerous situations of abrupt street violence.

In each situation, for various reasons, I knew calling the police wouldn't help. They would show up late and punish the victims for existing.

So, many times, I've stepped in.
I mainly want to talk about this so that people inhabiting bodies like mine, big able-bodied white people, know that while being the first to intervene and put yourself in the path of harm isn't easy, it's definitely doable.
I have a diagnosed anxiety disorder, which can make navigating uncertain social situations difficult. But in situations where I've intervened in street violence, all it has taken is a few seconds of moral clarity & decisive action, before adrenaline has kicked in to chill me out.
My first step is to just walk up and be annoyingly, awkwardly there. Be a big oaf in the way. And to the extent that it's possible, check in with the vulnerable party (if there is one) that they understand what I'm doing and want me to continue.
There's great advice for bystander intervention in situations of verbal assault or sexual harassment, which is primarily about ignoring the aggressor. Just walk up to the target and pretend you're an old friend excited to catch up. Act oblivious.

But when it's more escalated...
If the person doesn't want my help, I just walk away, feel mortified, and that's that.

If the aggressor leaves now that I've put a big obstacle between them and their target, awesome, it's over.

Often, though, the aggressor is baffled for a second and then explosive.
The thing about being shoved or punched in the heat of the moment is that you only half feel it.

In situations like this, I put my body between two people, stand in an active stance, loose knees, keep my arms up but in a non-aggressive posture (usually in an X across my chest).
I put my body in the way, I make eye contact, I try to roll with the punches, and I pick one or two short phrases: "He's already been hit enough." "I just want the hitting to stop." "She wants you to give her space." "It's time to walk away."

If they hit me, I repeat the phrase.
Bystander intervention is much easier with two people: one sets a pick, the other helps the endangered party peel away and then name the support they want.

In a situation where both people feel endangered and are escalating from a place of fear, two interveners is even better!
That has been my strategy: be a big oaf in the way, stand good, keep balance when shoved, be unmoveable, and return to the same statement of moral clarity when others try to escalate.

I've never had a knife or gun pulled on me, though I have had bones broken. You run some risks.
But usually it doesn't escalate that far. Usually they shove you once or twice, call you some gross names, and storm off.

And in exchange, you can literally save someone's life, or make a woman feel safe again in a club, or help a woman connect to a DV shelter and get out.
Here is something that stuck with me in conflict de-escalation training: the more tense a situation is, the fewer words you should say. That's why I go in with one or two clear, direct, short, moral phrases in mind.

If it gets too heated for short phrases, I revert to "Okay."
I don't know how to fight. I am not in good shape.

I learned how to set a pick from basketball. I learned how to fall good from snowboarding (don't stick your hands out, protect your joints, cushion and roll). That's it.

I just know how to stand in the way with my knees bent.
Anyways, I'm an anxious wreck of a trans woman, and I'm wildly out of shape. But I'm white and I've got mass. That's always proven sufficient in my experience.

Getting in the way is the first step. The rest is about trusting your instincts and acting with moral clarity.
Oh! I want to mention: it's helpful, when entering into a situation like this, to remember that aggressors aren't necessarily bad people. They are confused, emotional people caught in a cycle of reaction.

Tapping into that truth can help you lead that person toward deescalation.
I remember, once I stepped between two people: one was on the ground, his partner was beating him with a skateboard. Started deescalating. I asked the person on the ground "Do you feel safe right now?" No. Then I asked the same question to the person holding the weapon. Also no.
"Do you feel safe right now?" is the kind of basic-ass question it's good to stick with in these moments.

I don't know why I thought to ask the aggressor if they felt safe. But the answer surprised me. And them. And they dropped the weapon after answering.
A lot of the time, people continue escalating because they feel like they have a lot to lose if they admit fault. They go into "bad guy mode." Creating the pathway out of that narrative cycle can do wonders.

Judgment can come later. In the moment, you want to calm things down.
Anyways. I wrote this thread because when I intervene in street violence, there are often witnesses who continue to just stand there and do nothing. If I didn't intervene, probably no one would have.

But for people with a body like mine, this is something you can decide to do.
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Keep Current with Avery Alder, Buried Without Ceremony

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