Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Fight child abuse -- write this number down!

Write this number down (US readers only):


This is the National Child Abuse hotline.

Keep that number in your wallet or purse.

You never know when you will need it.

Last weekend, Sweetie and I were scoping out pink dogwoods at the local big box garden store. It was a great day. I've loved hardware stores and the plant sections of any store, since I was a kid.

Then she ruined it -- a woman about ten feet away. A woman deserving of, at best pity, at worst, utter contempt. (As noted in a previous post, I am perfectly aware that there are a few women in the world who have utterly failed to live up to their divine birthright.)

For wham, wham, wham, she smacked the hand or arm or perhaps the shoulder of a Girl who was with her, all of maybe eight years old. Very hard slaps, at least three in rapid succession, heard more than they were seen.

Followed by: "Don't do that!" or maybe it was, "I told you no!" I can't remember the exact words.

What the hell do you do in such a situation? Your mind begins to race as your blood pressure skyrockets. Was it truly abuse? Every parent probably slaps a child at least once in their lives, after all. My Mom, who would have given Her life for me, whacked me at least once, after all.

It's different when it's someone you know, or a neighbor, where you might be more aware of the home situation or at least could easily call the police to investigate. This was in a store miles from home, with a total stranger, on the move.

Sweetie and I agonized over it for several minutes and concluded that there was nothing we could do. It might or might not have been abuse. It might or might not have left a mark. It might or might not have been habitual. The child was clearly not in immediate danger of serious injury, just of a bruise at most. She didn't even cry; the family just moved on further into the store.

Now I have the hotline number. If ever I should witness such a situation again, I need only to quietly observe the license plate number of the person and then call the hotline and report it. That way, people who know the signs of true abuse can follow up and do what needs to be done.


Rebecca said...

hmmm. I am glad the woman in question made contact with her daughter's arm rather than more demeaning or injurious places. I can't imagine doing that in public. Styles of discipline vary from family to family. Some include corporal punishment, some do not. I have a hard time condemning the behavior when reading this account, but if I saw it, I admit my reaction would be different.

I know I have witnessed what I have thought excessive parental reaction, and said Hey, now out loud (got all the dirty looks, and told off more than once). But being a mother, I can tell you, my son has pushed my buttons to the point of nearly losing my temper in public. Breathe, I tell myself, just breathe.

My mother believed on corporal punishment. But she waited until we got home, and nursed the offense until we got there...

Melanie said...

i have to say i have come close in public to hitting my child a few times. When your child doesn't adhere to what you ask its not always easy to divert attention so that they wont do what you asked them not to for the 50th time and not just in that instance.

BUT, i agree. thats a scary thing to watch unnecessary physical mistreatment of any child. I try to find ways to make him understand the consequences of his actions without striking him. But MAN its frustrating. And did i mention frussstrating?

Janice Thomson said...

I think a lot of frustration boils down to an 'or else' problem. Because woman are with the children so much of the day she tends to become lenient to the point of saying do this 'or else' but never follows through on the 'or else' which could be taking away toys or treats or TV or sending to their room or whatever one uses as a type of constructive punishment. The child quickly learns then that mom won't really do anything until she gets really mad. That's when mom starts using slapping etc. Saying no! should only happen once or perhaps twice; then it is time to teach the child what no! means - and not by slapping which is not a constructive form of punishment. Children only become pests if they are ignored and one way to get mom's attention is to do something she doesn't like. That being said there is always that occasion when mom's nerves are frazzled to the point of wanting to use a slap to get the message across pronto.

Foster Communications said...

Sadly, the girl probably didn't cry because she's used to it. I don't think it's ok to hit a child. Ever.

eastcoastdweller said...

Not knowing this woman or what else had transpired between her and the children that day, I don't know whether she was just a harried mother at the end of her rope or a genuine abuser in need of help.

It's hard to imagine what could possibly have motivated a normal person to such rage in the garden section of a hardware store. I could maybe understand if the kid was throwing a fit in the candy aisle and slinging chocolate everywhere or was doing something dangerous.

But it was as if this family was moving along past the dahlia display like everybody else and this woman just exploded out of the blue.

And it was not just a warning or punitive slap, and it might even have been a punch. Like I said, it was a complete surprise to me. It was at least three blows, one right after the other in a second or so, as if she wanted vengeance on that child.

But then they just kept moving as if nothing had happened.

It was disturbing and confusing.

.Nicotine.Queen. said...

Wow. I'm sorry you were put in such an uncomfortable position. (well, at least I would have been). Abuse of any kind freaks me out- it's like politics or religion for normal people, I just don't like to talk about it. It freaks me out too much.

I'm glad it meant enough to you for you to find out information on it. You're a good person.

the walking man said...

I have been there and what I do is first calm myself, walk over to the mother and quietly ask her if she needs some help. If she wants to rave on for a bit cool, I can take it better than the kid. Then squat to look the child in the eyes and ask them to shush and mind their mom.

Universally it seems that the woman forgets she is being observed when the temper goes off, and will stop and collect themselves.

It is a band-aid I know, but then and again one can only deal with what is in front of them eh?



Molly said...

Waiting in line at the PO yesterday I heard a big strapping man snarling at his sweet, curly haired angel of a daughter because she was dancing! True, he also had a baby boy in his arms, and the line was long. But just because she was his, he felt justified in treating her like a dog. There are surely better ways to teach a child than by hitting or ugly words.... Children are not just extensions of us but persons in their own right. We would do well to remember that. Kahil Gibran says it best in his piece "On children" in The Prophet.

eastcoastdweller said...

You've all shared some very good comments with me, and I appreciate that.

Rebecca, it is certainly true that everyone intends to be the world's best parent ... until they actually become a parent.

Melanie, the strangest thing was, that there was no sign of a temper tantrum, nothing to clue me in as to why this woman was so angry and so suddenly.

Janice, I've seen that with my Niece in law. She'll ask Her Mom something quietly and be ignored, ask it a little louder, continue to be ignored, and finally resort to arm poking and yelling -- which of course brings instant, negative attention.

Foster: I really hope that You are wrong about that child -- that She was used to being hit. How tragic.

Nicotine Queen: Welcome to Isis! It was definitely very uncomfortable. I don't like surprises like that -- well, who does? I don't like not knowing the appropriate way to respond, especially when a child is involved.

Walking Man: Good idea, brave idea.

Molly: Isn't it frustrating? Especially for those of us who have not been blessed with children in our lives.