Just last week a friend sent me a link to a blog by Rick Steves entitled, “What Would You Have Done?” Yes, this is THE Rick Steves, travel guide extraordinaire, whose world famous pocket size books recently navigated me through Amsterdam, Venice, Florence and Tuscany. His advice allowed us to visit the most coveted sites in our destination cites, so he was a hero to me before reading his blog. And now, I’m ready to start a Rick Steves fan club – but for a different reason.
This particular read wasn’t in his typical genre where he reviews a geographical area, an attraction or a favored restaurant. Rather, it was about what he observed and heard at a restaurant he was visiting in Ireland. Steves shared his account of an abusive situation he witnessed at a nearby table. Because I admire how masterfully he handled it, I’m compelled to share what Rick Steves taught us.
As it turns out, Steves and I have something in common. We have both observed women in restaurants trying to enjoy dinner while being verbally abused by the men who accompanied them. In his blog, he shares how he listened to the string of insults and complaints for 30 minutes until he couldn’t take anymore. Finally, he approached the abuser (I’m not sure he deserves the title of man) and called him on his behavior.
At one time in my life, I was that woman. I experienced several dinners, even publicly, getting bruised with a good old fashioned tongue lashing. One evening, there was a bonus round with a swift kick under the table. According to him, I deserved it.
Then, many years later, life came full circle. I, too, witnessed a woman being verbally abused two years ago on my honeymoon. After some harsh words, there was a loud, stinging hand slap to her leg. With the help of waitress and another woman at a nearby table, we were able to give her the cash and a plan to escape in a cab while her boyfriend was away from the table. I shared this story in Chapter 8 of my book, The Attractive Trap, and added a reflection on the times I was in this situation. However, one night something happened within me. I got my groove back and left the restaurant. And thankfully, soon after that, I had the courage to leave the relationship.
Here’s the bold truth we don’t acknowledge – if words could impose physical and not just emotional, mental and psychological damage, the women who endure this abuse would end up with a blood stained face, a black eye, and other visual damage. Even though there’s no outward evidence for many women, few things are more diminishing or harmful. Over time, the inward damage can seem almost insurmountable as the impact reaps its harvest in the form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, autoimmune illnesses and a host of other mental and physical diseases.
Verbal abuse is real. The abuser gets release and even satisfaction by lashing out at others about anything they claim happens to be your fault. The fact they’re berating another person even while in public isn’t an obstacle for them. They are so far removed from the harsh reality of how they show up and their impact on others, that slicing and dicing someone up openly is just another conversation in their world.
If you happen to ever be privy to this type of abuse, please step up and say something. While logically we may think, “Well, if she can’t stand up for herself, why should I?” excuses us from an intervention, it doesn’t. What many don’t realize is the women in these situations have been groomed for many years into thinking this is normal. Over time they feel they don’t have a voice. It’s ugly. It’s sick. And, it’s time to stand up.
Please – Be Like Rick. To read Rick Steves’ blog, click here.