How to intervene and not get hurt

The tragedy in Portland, Ore., over the weekend in which two men were killed by a knife-wielding white supremacist, might give some people pause before risking their safety to help someone else. But people whose instinct is to help someone else aren’t the type to pause.

The man was assaulting two women on the train, one of them wearing a hijab.

“I worry that in a similar situation I may hesitate before saying something,” Lowen Liu writes on Slate, adding that if we all do, then this is a terrorism from within.

Andy Borene, an Edina native, didn’t. He was honored by the FBI for coming to the aid of a stranger who was being attacked by a man in March, the Star Tribune reports today.

For his efforts he suffered head trauma and an eye injury, the paper says.

Borene, who only recently returned to work, on March 15 pulled over in a traffic jam when he saw a man and woman fighting. The woman was bloody and the man pushed her into his car. Borene walked up and asked the woman if he could help. Borene took the keys from the car after a brief struggle, and yelled at other slow-moving motorists to call the police.

The man then struck Borene from behind and started pummeling him. Borene, a former Macalester College football player and combat Marine, eventually pinned the man to the ground. The man was charged subsequently by a federal grand jury with attempted manslaughter.

It’s probably a good sign that more people are asking how to intervene and not get hurt.

The Boston Globe reports today that courses on intervention on behalf of others are increasingly popular, particularly those on stopping a rant before it turns violent.

One of Tracy’s favorites was hatched by a group that decided an effective way to defuse a hateful rant would be to start singing the John Lennon song “Give Peace a Chance.”

A more typical solution for a bystander who witnesses someone being harassed is to pretend the target of harassment is a friend waiting to meet for coffee. Striking up a conversation with the person can throw the harasser off-kilter and provide an opportunity for the target of the rant to escape the barrage, Tracy said.

But Tracy and other workshop leaders remind would-be Samaritans to be realistic and to remember that danger is real — a warning Tracy said she intends to underscore in future training sessions by recounting last week’s fatal stabbing in Portland.

“Calling the police in most situations is a good idea,” Tracy said. “But if you are in a bystander situation and you are an immigrant without papers, that may not be an option.”

One expert says forget about trying to change the mind of someone verbally assaulting another over, say, a hijab, and concentrate instead on deescalating, not debating.