Witnessing Verbal Abuse at the Mall: What Would You Do?

Power and dominance hand gesture, close up

I recently had an upsetting encounter at the local shopping mall.

I was walking through a department store and I heard a man repeatedly call his wife “stupid” and demand that she walk behind him and follow closely. I got a little ragey inside and confronted him. I simply said that his wife was not stupid and he needs to stop saying that.

His response?  “Actually she is stupid. And mind your own business”.

My response? “I just made it my business”.

The wife just smiled at me – but she also stood up a little straighter. And the bystanders around us pretty much had eyes so wide it looked like they might pop out of their heads.

I was still a little shaky when I met up with my kids five minutes later. I explained to them about the incident and they, along with their friends, wanted to hunt the guy down in the mall and share a piece of their minds as well. We talked about how I responded, what I could have done differently (if anything) and what they do when they hear people spoken to with disrespect.

It also allowed for some conversation about abuse in relationships, a conversation I’ve had with them often. A couple of women in our lives have left relationships because of abuse so it is a topic they know very well.

That day at the mall I had to say something. A man should never speak to a woman that way. Not on my watch.

But it does beg the question – some would argue that my speaking out will somehow have a negative effect on her. Will his frustration with my advocacy mean he takes it out on her later? Will she go home and suffer more because I stood up to him? I hope maybe the impact would be that she will feel stronger to stand up to him or leave when she sees other people don’t think she’s stupid.

Have you ever encountered a situation like this one? If you did, would you speak up? We try to teach our kids not to be the bystanders when someone is being bullied, but are we willing to do the same?



Picture of Julie Cole

Author: Julie Cole

Julie Cole is the co-founding vice-president of award-winning children's label manufacturer Mabel’s Labels. She has helped her company bring their product to a worldwide market, gain media recognition and win countless entrepreneur awards. Cole is a regular television contributor, an influential and syndicated blogger and a mother of six. Follow her on twitter @juliecole and Instagram @cole.julie

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