How much easier it is to walk on by when we are unsure of the possible danger we sometimes sense to be present. We live in a society today where people, in general, prefer not to get involved with certain things they encounter during the course of their everyday life. It can be a gang of thugs beating up on a young lad who is passing by, or an alcoholic homeless person who is stumbling along a busy road and risking getting hit by passing traffic each step they take, or a person laid face down on a pavement and clearly unconscious as pedestrians walk over and around him, or an agitated mother in a supermarket who is smacking her young child hard for some misdemeanor. All these things, good and decent members of the public may see from one day to the next and choose to walk on by.
It is risky in these times to interfere. See a man hitting on a woman in the street and go to her protection. Instead of thanking you, she might just as quickly curse you for interfering between herself and her husband. And if she is okay with you as her rescuer and you try to stop the man assaulting her, it is possible that the police might arrest you for assault also, if the other chap brings a charge.
I once recall giving attention to a woman down Dewsbury. She was a pedestrian who'd walked out in front of a car without looking. While the vehicle had merely brushed her, it nevertheless caused her to fall to the ground and fracture her leg. The car driver just drove off once he saw the lady stand up. I was naturally concerned when I saw her stand and unable to walk, so I called an ambulance. Ten minutes later the ambulance arrived and took her to the hospital after they had taken my name and address. About one month later, I received a bill for having called out the ambulance following a traffic accident and despite telling them that I'd been a Good Samaritan passing by and not the offending driver, I was told it didn't matter, as the regulations stipulated that the account should be billed to the 'caller out'.
When I was a Probation Officer in Huddersfield, it came to my attention that one of my female clients called Hazel, who was the subject of a lengthy Probation Order that I supervised was going out on an evening and leaving her three young children (all under the age of five years) alone in their council flat. Hazel was a woman with multiple problems of which alcoholism, anger and prostitution were highest up the list. She had been placed on Probation after having thrown a pot of boiling water over the head of a boyfriend she had rowed with. I had been working with Hazel for about one year when I discovered from a neighbour that she would frequently go out for a few hours and leave her three children unsupervised.
Hazel had experienced the worst of upbringings that included physical and sexual abuse. It had taken over six months of talks/counselling sessions to get her to open up to me and trust me, as she hated men in general as a reaction to the abuse she had experienced growing up. Once I learned about her leaving her children unattended, as well as having returned to heavy alcohol abuse and prostitution, I had no choice other than to involve both the police and the Social Services Department. Hazel was furious and cursed me to high heaven saying that I was like all the men in her life! As a consequence, Hazel received a fifteen-month prison sentence and all her three children were taken into care.
My involvement with Hazel didn't stop when she went to prison. I still remained her Probation Officer who would visit her during her sentence and supervise her on her release. For a number of prison visits, she continued to hold me in contempt for having turned her life upside down and 'grassing her up' to the police and Social Services Department. While in prison, she started attending an alcoholic group and continued with her A.A. attendance upon her release. She had missed her children desperately and dearly wanted them back. I told her that she would have to prove herself to be a potentially reliable parent before the Social Services would ever agree to return the children to her care. I added that if she maintained her progress that I would support her application after she had abstained from alcohol for over one year and stopped her life of prostitution.
Two and a half years after she had been released from prison, Hazel became a full-time mum once more and her children were returned to her care. Shortly after, she moved from Huddersfield to live in the Manchester area and our contact ceased. Before she left, she thanked me for what I'd done and said that I'd forced her to change her lifestyle or live out the rest of her children's growing years apart from them. For the following fifteen years, never one Christmas period went by without receiving a Christmas card from Hazel that included an update of the landmarks in her children's lives. She never married or cohabited with a man again and was content to be a 'mother'.
As life would have it, Hazel was one of the lucky ones who happened to have the will and determination to turn her life around and become the good mother she had never had, but the good mother she always wanted to be. None of that would have happened had her neighbour, who'd seen one of the worried children looking out of a window one night after having previously witnessed Hazel leave the house half an hour earlier, ignored the danger and not informed me.
I also recall my son William coming home late one Saturday night, and on his way back seeing another young man attack someone with a curved Indian sword. Without thinking about his own safety, he went to the rescue of the person being attacked. Some might have considered his actions brave, others foolhardy. I thought what he did to be the right thing to do and while being proud of him, I was also grateful that he emerged from his intervention unscathed.
It is hard to know when to interfere in the private life of another. It certainly isn't without its risk, and at the end of the day, it has to be down to one's judgement. While I have always been a trusting person who is prepared to give another adult the benefit of the doubt, I will always break that rule where I perceive it to be to the possible danger and detriment of a child." William Forde: December 1st, 2016.