SAN ANTONIO – October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. While San Antonio police have found that our own community is very aware there's a problem, they also said people tend to turn a blind eye to it when it doesn't involve them.
So KSAT 12's Courtney Friedman and a team of San Antonio police set out to do an experiment called "What Should You Do." It involves our cameras, two actors, real police, and real people.
Our KSAT crew explained to the participants that two actors would be portraying an issue that happens in public all the time in Bexar County and that our goal was to get their genuine reaction.
In the first scenario two women agreed to participate. They watched the two actors walk across the pavilion. One was a young man, the other a young woman. The young woman was on crutches and was asking to take a break and sit down. The man snapped at her, cursed at her and tells her she cannot rest and that she needed to hurry. Halfway through their confrontation, one of the participants interrupted the actors. She asked if they need a ride to where they're going. The couple said no, and the man makes the woman to tell the participant that she is okay before they leave.
After the demonstration, we talked to the two participants. The woman who interrupted the dispute is Mari Garza.
"It looked like he was a bully and she was just trying to hang on," she said.
When she was asked if the situation seemed like domestic violence she responded, "Actually it did. And I see this a lot," she said.
Then we spoke to her friend, who kept quiet during the demonstration. We asked what she would have done if the cameras weren't around.
"Honestly, I wouldn't have done anything. I would have ignored it and minded my own business like people do," she said.
SAPD Officer Misty Floyd talked to the women about how they handled the situation.
"First of all I want to applaud you for seeing it as an issue, and you were brave enough to step in and say something,” Officer Floyd said. “However, what we do recommend is call the police. Don't get involved in a situation that could cost you an injury or your life. So stepping back, calling the police and getting a description of the suspect and the victim is actually a way that can really help us."
Officer Floyd said what happened was in fact a crime.
"Actually grabbing someone by the arm, it's an assault. It's assault contact," she said.
The participants now understand that by letting police know, they can prevent more severe abuse before it happens.
"It doesn't matter if you put your hands on them or not. When you're aggressive it's a threat," the participant said.
"We really need to take care of each other in the community," Officer Floyd said.
In our next two demonstrations, our actors switched roles. The woman hurried the man along and yanked him, shoving him and yelling at him even when he asked her to stop.
The participant watching the second demonstration was named Cami Anthony and when it was over, we asked her if she saw anything wrong with what was going on.
"Well I saw her bully him a little bit, but it wasn't dramatic enough that I felt like it was anything that needed to be intervened or stepped in," Anthony said.
We asked Anthony if it made a difference that it was the woman shoving and pushing the man.
She responded, "There is a difference I think because she is less intimidating, so my initial reaction isn't as strong as if it were a big burly guy and a small petite woman."
We then checked in with another female SAPD officer to see what she thought of Anthony's response.
"Most people think that if the woman is the aggressor then it's not that bad," the officer said.
Anthony was surprised to learn how often women are the abusers.
"From the calls that I've handled, I would say it's probably about even actually," the officer said.
For the last demonstration, we asked a couple to participate. Again, the woman is the aggressor and hurries, shoves, and screams at the man. The girlfriend watching looks like she wants to intervene, even stepping forward at one point, but in the end, the couple said nothing.
Before we approached the couple to see what they thought of the demonstration, our microphones caught them saying to each other that they felt bad for not doing anything.
"I wanted to intervene," the girlfriend said, "but not sure of the situation I guess but it did seem a little violent. I was concerned."
We asked if the boyfriend considered the situation to be along the lines of domestic violence.
"To me, personally, no," he said. "I think it was close but not to the point where I feel that I would interrupt what was going on."
"It's something I would definitely comment on to him but I wouldn't go get a police officer for it," his girlfriend added.
We asked our SAPD officers if that was abuse.
"Yes it was. It was a form. Do y'all think any laws were broken?" the officer said turning to the couple.
"Maybe the pushing?" the girlfriend said.
"You are correct," the officer said. "It is assault contact, and we can't do anything to help them unless y'all report it or help the community report it to us. You have to make the call to us. And you don't have to get involved. You can flag us down if you see one of us or call us and give us a really good description. And if it turns out to be nothing and just a little argument, that's fine! But if it turns out to be more or there was violence before that, or you may stop violence from occurring."
Both the young man and woman said they're glad they participated, now much more aware and inclined to help stop the ongoing cycle of violence that is raging in our very own community.