Far to many times I have witnessed a child being abused in public:
- A mother slapping her child across the face at Academy Sports
- A mother slapping her child across the face at Magic Kingdom at Disney World
- A man on the side of the road beating a little boy up against his car
- A man verbally assaulting a little boy at Home Depot
- My next door neighbor beating her toddler to a pulp in the backyard
- A man verbally and physically assaulting a little boy behind a vending machine at an airport
- And on and on…..
For years I never knew what to do. Do I intervene? Do I call the police? Ask a store manager for help? Do I do nothing?
In one of the cases above, I reported the abuse to the store manager. He did absolutely nothing. In another case, I called the police. The abuser was long gone before the police arrived. Three different people filed a police report against the man on the side of the road beating his child, and none of the police reports were even submitted! Therefore, the entire case went undocumented. Unfortunately, I learned that asking authorities for help was useless.
Then I saw a story on the news about a woman named Sarah. Sarah said, “One day I was verbally abusing my daughter at a grocery store and a stranger confronted me about my behavior towards my child. That was the wake-up call I needed to get help.” Because a total stranger had the guts to stand up to an abusive parent, Sarah has not only rehabilitated herself, but she has also mentored hundreds of other parents as well.
So I began testing this myself when I witnessed a child being abused in public. I began speaking up.
This Is What I Learned
- If you confront someone in public who is abusing a child, you need to remember that the abuser is going to be very heated. It is critical that you stay calm
- Make sure you are near other people or witnesses for your safety
- In a very calm, non-confrontational voice, say clearly to the abuser “Ma’am/Sir, that is not the proper way to treat a child”
- 99% of the time, their response will be “This is none of your business”
- Very calmly respond “When a child is being abused in public, it is everyone’s business. Everyone’s.“
I say this last line because I truly mean it. I truly feel that when an adult sees a powerless child being abused by an adult (including an older sibling, grandparent, coach, etc…) it is our duty to defend that child. Give abused children a voice who don’t have one.
I think of Sarah and her story. What if that women who confronted her that day thought to herself “Oh, this is none of my business” then Sarah and the hundreds of parents she has helped would still be abusing their children.
Consequences of Confronting a Friend
As I mentioned above, one of the abusers I reported was my next door neighbor. It was one of the worst child abuse situations I have ever witnessed. I called Child Protective Services on her. She knew it was me.
First, she went to Facebook and made snarly remarks about me on our neighborhood Facebook page. Later, she verbally assaulted me in my driveway. She said she was “parenting” her son, not abusing him. And she said I obviously had no respect for her since I didn’t talk to her husband about this.
- She is exactly right. I have absolutely zero respect for anyone who abuses a child – even if it is my next door neighbor or the cute bubbly mom on our school board. I will never give respect to an abuser.
- She was the one abusing her son, not her husband. What the heck does he have to do with this?
- Hitting is not parenting. I’ll say it again. Hitting is not parenting. Do the research. Children who are hit more than twice per month, experts (and research) has proven to be “excessive” and causes a long list of long term negative side effects.
If you confront or report a friend, be prepared that there will probably be backlash. How important is that friendship? Will your circle of friends stand by your side – or her side? Just be mentally prepared.
If you find yourself hitting your children when you get angry, try these helpful links:
Share your stories below. How often do you witness child abuse in public? Have you ever spoken up? How did it turn out?
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