On van patrol a while back I saw something which made me thing about just how much of what we do is based on our perceptions of a situation. As we were driving past one of the hotels on "the strip" (think U.S. welfare hotel, but with no kids, ever) I saw a woman fighting with two guys and then get shoved into a car.
My first thought? Oh. my. goodness. I just saw someone get "abducted", or at least taken against their will. We sat and watched the situation for a while, to see what was doing (and I wanted to get the license plate number) and talked it out. Turns out my coworker, who has a lot more experience on van patrol then me, saw something completely different.
A woman is trying to start a fight with a man, who's also getting into it. A second man is trying to pull the woman away so a fight doesn't start and everyone will be safe. In order to do this, he forces her into the car where she is out of sight and out of mind.
This is actually a far more likely scenario. The woman did not try and get out of the car once she was in. The car did not immediately pull away, and more people got into the car (with lots of beer) before the car drove away.
There were lots of assumptions made in this situation, and it helped me see how many assumptions I make on a daily basis, because it's easy to forget, especially when you're not forced to write about them in your practicum log!
Assumptions made in this scenario. First off, there's the assumption that the woman is the one in danger, and that she is responding, rather then egging the fighting on. It certainly didn't occur to me that she could be starting it! Second, there's the idea that a man forcing a woman somewhere is hurting her or abusing her. In actuality, he was probably trying to protect her. Then, I assumed that because they were pulling away from a scuzzy bar the driver of the car was drunk, and probably a bunch more stuff.
Lesson learned? Watch your assumptions. You're making them, but are you catching them?