Public intervention

Joey Garcia

I live near a park that has several tennis courts. Every Saturday, a foursome plays—two adult men and their teenage sons. Each dad partners with his son. One dad is so abusive, I want to call the authorities. He calls his son an idiot, gay and worse. The other dad mutters things like, “It’s only a game,” or, “He’s doing OK,” but never tells him to stop. I can hear this from my kitchen. A few times I walked over intending to tell them to shut up, but I stopped myself. There is no one at the park to contact for help. Ideas?

Stop backing the bully. When that man intimidates his son and you do nothing, you buttress his bullying. If you want to call the authorities, call the police and report the fight. You can also dial your own inner authority. That’s right: Grow a backbone and act like an adult.

Here’s what I would say: “Excuse me, sir, I need to talk with you.” (And yes, I would stand in the middle of the court and focus the foursome’s attention if need be.) “Honey,” I’d say, because that is the way I talk to strangers (give ’em love when possible), “I have been listening to the way you speak to your son, and it just breaks my heart. No child should be bullied by a parent, ever. Name-calling, ridiculing a boy’s manhood and intimidating a child in the manner I have witnessed here is abuse. If it happens even one more time, I will call the police.”

To the other adult, I would say: “I am requesting that you help your friend stop this behavior, because that is how a true friend would behave.” Then, turning to the son, I would say: “You need to know that how you play any game is not as important as how you conduct yourself in your relationships. Whatever your father has said about you is just his fear about himself. It’s not true about you. Never has been. Don’t let his emotional illness define you. Talk to a counselor at school and cleanse your father’s illness out of your system.”

At this point, someone is likely to retort, “Mind your own business.” In that case, say, “When you behave badly in public, which is the space we all share, your behavior is my business and mine is yours.”

Of course, the boy who has been verbally abused may curse at you. Don’t gape at his response to your goodness; it’s an indication of his suffering. He attacks you to prove loyalty to his father. This attachment to the abuser means that your intervention was necessary. In response, say, “Oh, sweetheart, do you mean that?” or, to the adults, “The cycle of abuse is difficult to stop, isn’t it?” Then walk away.

Never take such comments personally. Don’t respond angrily and don’t be a victim. (“I was just trying to help you!”) When you return home, write a letter to the director of your city’s parks and recreation department and relay your experience.

Ever since my husband said he wants a divorce, he pays little or no attention to our sons. He comes home whenever he pleases or not at all. I am angry, frustrated and scared. I cry myself to sleep. Please help me.

Do you want to be married to a man who treats you and your sons like expired milk? Of course not. So cry yourself to sleep, if it helps. When you wake, go online and research the divorce process. The more you learn, the less frightened you will be. Educating yourself will also distract you from obsessing about your husband. Redirect that energy into finding a good attorney and filing for divorce.

Meditation of the week
“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough,” said Mae West. Are you living right? Have you apologized to the people you blame for your own shortcomings? Do you still make excuses or have you taken responsibility for the way you operate your brain? Are you equal to other adults or only comfortable when you are parenting them?

Our content is free, but not free to produce

If you value our local news, arts and entertainment coverage, become an SN&R supporter with a one-time or recurring donation. Help us keep our reporters at work, bringing you the stories that need to be told.


Stay Updated

For the latest local news, arts and entertainment, sign up for our newsletter.
We'll tell you the story behind the story.