Thursday, April 12, 2007

What To Do If You Witness Child Abuse In Public


About a year ago, my dad was waiting in a very long line at an IKEA store. In front of him was a family with a toddler son. The little boy was impatient and was fidgetting, asking his parents questions, and trying to play with everything. At one point, the little boy playfully smacked his father in the leg. In turn, the father slugged the little boy, full force, in the stomach. The little boy started to cry, of course! His mother picked him up and scolded the father for hitting the child. Meanwhile, my dad stood there awkwardly, not knowing what to do.

So what do you do if you're in a situation like this, and you witness child abuse, or sense that child abuse is about to occur? There are several different choices.

Friends Of Child Abuse Prevention recommend that you avoid shooting the parent angry looks or making negative remarks. This will only upset the parent more, and make things worse for the child!

Instead, try to strike up a positive conversation with the parent. You could tell the parent that your own child often acted out in public also, so you know how they're feeling. Or, compliment her on the child's looks, clothing, hair, etc.

If the child is misbehaving, try stopping the misbehavior by striking up a conversation with the child himself! This will give the parent a minute to calm down!

Praise both the child and the parent for something... anything! If the parent has fruit in their shopping cart, you could comment on how great it is that the parent buys healthy things for the child! Anything, to get the parent in a more positive state of mind!

If you're still at loss for what to do, Dr. Phil has some words of wisdom to share as well!

If the parent is actually hurting the child that very minute, you may have to act immediately, instead of simply trying to engage the parent and child in conversation! Still, don't try to physically confront the parent. Alert a manager or security guard to come handle the situation. If you cannot find a manager or security guard, or there is nobody available (such as at a playground, which most likely wouldn't be staffed by managers or security guards!) call 9-1-1.


In case the parent and child leave before help arrives, get a physical description of the parent and child. If you can, get the license plate number of their car. Then you can give this information to the police or your local social services office.


When my dad witnessed a father hurting a child, he was taken by surprise, and didn't know what to do. Later, he was able to think of several things he could have done! If you think ahead about this topic, and keep some strategies in mind for what you can do if you find yourself in this situation, you may be able to save a child from being abused!

1 comment:

Kristen said...

This is good! I wish more people would stand up and say something when they see a child being abused.