Ac­tions speak louder than hash­tags, so step up

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney) - - Opinion - CHAR­LOTTE MORT­LOCK Char­lotte Mort­lock is a re­porter for Sky News in Syd­ney.

Iwas wait­ing at a taxi stand in Manly at the week­end when a cou­ple walk­ing past be­gan fight­ing. The man was ag­gres­sive and an­gry, swear­ing at his part­ner, ac­cus­ing her of look­ing at an­other man. He was be­com­ing more and more volatile, irately shouting in her face while she cow­ered back­wards, ev­i­dently scared and try­ing to calm him down.

It got to a point where I de­cided this wasn’t just a nor­mal lover’s tiff. I walked over and asked if she was OK and if she wanted my help. She looked at me with grat­i­tude. I’m not sure if she was re­lieved that I broke up the mo­men­tum of the fight or grate­ful for mak­ing him aware that I was watch­ing them, or maybe just sur­prised that some­one cared enough about a stranger in ob­vi­ous trou­ble to in­ter­vene. He be­gan hurl­ing abuse at me be­fore walk­ing off.

Other peo­ple in the taxi line be­gan ap­plaud­ing me, say­ing: “Well done for step­ping in.”

I didn’t need their ap­plause and didn’t do it for recog­ni­tion, and couldn’t help think­ing: if ev­ery­one else knew his be­hav­iour wasn’t OK, then why didn’t they step in as well?

In a world of vi­ral Face­book posts and hash­tags I won­der if ev­ery­one has for­got­ten that while words may raise awareness, they don’t equate to ac­tion.

It’s all well and good to share a #MeToo post or change your pro­file pic­ture to the lat­est ban­ner push­ing a so­cial re­form — but real change needs more than typ­ing.

For a few sec­onds be­fore I went over to the cou­ple, ad­mit­tedly, I asked my­self: “Is this my busi­ness? Should I get in­volved? What if he turns on me? What if it makes me feel awk­ward?”

I didn’t know if he had a ten­dency to turn phys­i­cal or whether it would have amounted to that. But I de­cided it was bet­ter to try any­thing than to do noth­ing.

Par­tic­u­larly on the mat­ter of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence, gov­ern­ment poli­cies can take us only so far. The ma­jor­ity of the weight for change falls on the shoul­ders of our so­ci­ety’s cul­ture.

If we are go­ing to make any change, on any mat­ter, we all need to be mak­ing an ef­fort — and not just ap­plaud­ing those who do.

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