There is a television series What Would You Do? The program features actors acting out scenes of conflict or illegal activity in public settings while hidden cameras videotape the scene, and the focus is on whether or not bystanders intervene, and how. Variations are also usually included, such as changing the genders, the races or the clothing of the actors performing the scene, to see if bystanders react differently. John Quiñones appears at the end of each scenario to interview bystanders and witnesses about their reactions. (Wikipedia)
- A pompous club promoter denies people entry into a club based on their appearance, and is rude, condescending and mean to people. Others in line either step up to defend the victims of the rude behavior or stay silent.
- A flamboyant hair stylist destroys women’s hair. Other clients see the interaction and try to rectify the situation.
- On a sidewalk, three teenagers beat and taunt a homeless man in front of passersby.
It is so easy to watch it and think of what you would do to help the victim in the various situations, but would you really? Would you put yourself in the hot seat to be possibly attacked yourself? Are you sure about that?
Several years ago I was at the grocery store to pick up a few items. I was studying my tortilla options when I heard a loud, stern voice “Will you stop it? I’m so sick of you. You never listen! I can’t wait to get you home!” I immediately froze. I was as if time stood still and I was transported back to my childhood. Slowly I glanced over and saw a family walking towards me in the aisle. A father, mother and their two children. It was a boy and a girl who both looked under five. As best as I could tell the father was irritated with the older boy and was not shy about letting us all know it. His voice was booming and he continued to say even more horrible things to this young child.
For a split second I caught the eye of the mom and I could tell she was embarrassed but kept her head down. The other younger child kept her head down too. Anger filled my heart and there were so many things I wanted to say to the father. I stood there as they walked past me and considered my options as well as tried to calm myself down. I slowly realized the things I wanted to say would only add fuel to the fire. It wouldn’t truly help the situation just make myself feel better. Even if I called the father out – it would probably only incite him more and his family would receive the brunt of it.
By outward appearances the mom seemed to be as traumatized as the children – so this helped to confirm decision to not verbally attack this man. I slowly followed this family around the store as I struggled to do nothing. I pretended to continue shopping but all I could do is think about this family. I tried to put myself into the little boys shoes and tried to figure out what I would need in that moment. I remembered the many times I was in his place growing up at home. Many times I was punished for simply being a child and told the most awful, hurtful things by my mom. I don’t know what triggered the father to react this way, but I know these children did not deserve it.
I looked for an opportunity to speak to the mom but never found one. I knew I couldn’t call the police – what crime had been committed? Again, I knew time was running out and felt so completely helpless. Then I had the thought – pray. So immediately I began to pray for the children – for God to protect their little hearts, minds and bodies. That part was easy. Then I prayed for the mom – and then the hard part – the dad. I don’t know what brought him to react that way to his child but he clearly needed help. I prayed for so many things and even asked God to remind me later to continue to pray for them.
I finally left and still didn’t have peace and wondered if I should have done something different. I’m still not sure. There have been other times where I have intervened in some way…
- I’ve called to report children in cars not in their car seat. (multiple times)
- I’ve stopped a woman from dragging a crying child in the parking lot and reported it.
- I’ve called Child Protective Services when it was clear child(ren) were in danger.
- Helped an infant (left alone) be removed from a hot car.
There is a story on Facebook where a father was caught dragging his little girl by the hair. He was confronted and responded mind your own business. The police were called and in the end was told nothing could be done because the child had no bruises or missing hair. This is a mess on all kinds of levels.
My questions is this: If you witnessed a situation like this what would you do? Would you make it your business or just walk away? I realize there are so many reasons why things happen and maybe you only see a snapshot, but honestly what would you do? What if you were to see this tomorrow? Or next month?
Do NO visible marks or scars = no crime or abuse? When should adults be held accountable? What should be the responsibility of bystanders? I don’t have all the answers but my heart aches for others who weak and vulnerable.
In 2014, 315,806 children were served by Children’s Advocacy Centers around the country. This organization teams together with law enforcement and child protective services to help child victims. Instead of dragging a child from place to place CAC helps to bring these agencies together to better help the child. Of the 315.806 children helped by CAC here is the relationship of alleged offender to child:
Parent – 81,602 / Stepparent – 14,311 / Other Relative – 49,803 / Parent’s boyfriend/girlfriend – 19,361 / Other known person – 58,194, / Unknown – 23,696 (National Children’s Alliance.org – 2014 National Statistics Report)
As you can see the numbers show a majority of these cases stem from the home or other relatives. Chances are it could be happening to someone you know and/or close to you. Are you prepared? Do you know what you would do?