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Witnessing abuse. I just don't know what to do. - Page 2

post #21 of 70
Quote:
Originally Posted by swd12422 View Post
We have a non-profit group here that offers parenting classes and assistance for "at-risk" families (families at risk of domestic abuse). Can you find something like that in the city, and keep their business cards/pamphlets with you in your purse? Then when you see a parent struggling, you can just give them the number and say something like, "I can see you're having a bad day. Maybe this can help."

Just a thought...
I like this. Just be careful. Any hint of criticism is going to get you in trouble, quick. Also, what about volunteering at the same place?
post #22 of 70
For starters, confronting a parent who is angry/frustrated enough to treat their child in such a way is very likely to end up with them taking that anger out on you instead, possibly putting you in physical danger.

:

Also, these people are already taking life's disappointments and anger out on their LOs. My fear is that the anger they feel from any confrontation will later be taken out on the children. In other words, I'm afraid a confrontation will not only not solve the problem, but will go on to make it worse.

For these reasons, I usually choose not to confront the parent.
post #23 of 70
It is really hard. Like a previous poster, I have just moved and am confronting this on a scale I've never imagined. I moved from a city on the west coast where that kind of thing is just really unacceptable and wouldn't be tolerated in public, to a city on the east coast where everyone is well invested in the "mind your own business" approach which has allowed people to be awful.

I am a mandatory reporter in my state, so I have to report any abuse I witness or have reasonable cause to believe is occurring. When I don't really have any information on the person, it isn't possible to do much with that. I know some mandatory reporters try to chat it up with someone to find out names or child's school or where they are going or some kind of identifying info. However, I would second that it is a good idea to call the police if you are seeing physical stuff manifesting right in front of you.

That said, yesterday outside my office I was hearing a baby crying and a dad (from the temp shelter currently in the building) repeatedly yelling at the baby to just "shut up!" I was getting so anxious just listening. I finally went out to the room where they were, and I just observed for a couple minutes. Here is what I saw:

The mother was sitting on some stairs, and the baby was plopped down (sitting) on the floor about three feet from her. There were many bigger kids playing around her, and there was an (unpredictable) ball flying everywhere which helped make the baby feel vulnerable. It looked a couple of times like she was trying to scoot to her mom but couldn't get the mobility. That seemed to contribute to her frustation, especially since she seemed like she was needing some comfort. Another baby, who might have been her twin, was crawling around as well. The crying baby was obviously sick. She kept sneezing and all this snot would fly out all over her face, which would make the crying worse. Then her dad would come up behind her and without letting her know he was there, he would reach around and wipe her nose. She was taken by surprise and also hated getting wiped. Meanwhile he would yell at her "Oh, knock it off" when she responded with tears, and then he would proceed to pace around the room telling her to shut up and stop crying as he waited for the next sneeze and interacted with the other kids.

I went and knelt down beside the baby. I crouched as low down as I could so I was on her level and I looked at her and just tried to model what would have been a nurturing response. I said, "Oh sweetie! You sound really upset. What's the matter?" The mother continued to just sit there, and it seemed okay, so I rubbed/patted the baby's back lightly a couple times and said, "You sound so sick baby girl! I'm sorry. I am miserable when I am sick too."

This seemed to really click with the mom and she said, "I know! I've been telling her dad we need to take her to the doctor, but he doesn't want to." So when the dad came back over to wipe her nose again I just repeated, "She sounds so sick, poor thing!" He didn't yell after that, and after asking the mom how old the baby was and telling her she was a very sweet baby, she said thanks and then picked her baby up and went to talk to a friend. It seemed to have difussed the situation.

Sometimes I think ignoring the parents but engaging with the kid works well. It just breaks the tension and occupies both. Other times, I say things to my kids, loud enough for the offender to hear, that I think might help. For example I might have said, "Oh [3 y.o. ds], that baby is crying. She sounds so upset." And then ds pipes in, "What's the matter with her?" And I say, "I don't know, but it looks like she feels really sick. Isn't it crummy when you feel sick. I wonder what would make her feel better?" And then hopefully ds would pipe in that the baby might want to be cuddled or something like that.

Other times I say things to my kids, not really intending to intervene but more because I don't want my kids witnessing that stuff and thinking that it is okay, and it ends up being unintentionally overheard, which can make things better or worse depending on the person. For example, one time this woman was flipping out on her daughter in a parking lot, just screaming in her daughter's face. Sometimes going up and offering to help in situations like that is good, but in this case I got the feeling that wasn't going to fly. ds however, said, "What is she doing?" I told him she seemed really frustrated and was yelling, and I told him that yelling like that isn't okay and that the mommy should do something to calm herself down. I am not sure, but I think she overheard me, and she seemed to at least get a little more reasoned about what she was yelling rather than just hurling insults and calling her daughter names. I think it just reminded her that she was being heard. I've occassionally tried to gently point out reasons for a child's behavior that had become an inappropriate target of the abuse. For example, "He looks so tired! I remember doing that when I was tired when I was a kid too. Is it almost naptime?"

In extreme situations I've been known to say, "You should know that I'm a mandatory reporter" (not sure if you want to use it if you aren't, but maybe when you are desperate). Or just "whoah!" and then flashing an alarmed look their way to let them know, "I just saw that, and you were way out of line."

I gotta say though, like you, I often freeze up and regret it later. I totally empathize!
post #24 of 70
And again with the mainstream mom turned elsewhere POV:

Do you not think that the reason that the mom is doing this at this time, possibly, is because she's out in public, because the environment is crowded and the child is in sensory overload and is screaming because it's the only thing that makes them feel more right, and whatever she's doing, she's damned if she does, damned if she doesn't? Someone in that bus is going to be judging her the minute her child starts screaming, and she's (wrongly) assuming that the only thing the other passengers want is to have a bit of hush. I don't believe the OP is in any danger, it's a struggling, overwrought parent- a human.

I like Sierra's idea of engaging directly with the child- I feel uncomfortable with talking with my children about what's going on in earshot, but if that works for her : Keep a toddler-friendly snack in your pocket that you can share if you want to. Empathise with the tiredness. Play peekaboo. Develop an obsessive interest in balloon modelling in public. Blow bubbles! (I just thought of that, but I actually really like that idea.)

I'm wondering if you might find resources through the www.nspcc.org.uk website or whatever the US equivalent is for the prevention of child cruelty (Is there even one? I can't find it through googling...)
post #25 of 70
I witness the same kinds of things when I go to the WIC office. Some things that I try to do in addition to engaging the child is to start chit chatting with the mom. My mother lives in Chicago and I go visit her monthly, so I know that people there aren't real chit chatty with strangers, but if you start it they always join in. I'll say things that show empathy towards the mother, rather than angering her more by being real confrontational. I don't want her to get the "I'll show em!" type of attitude, thus taking more frustration out on the child, later. (am I making sense?)

Invite her to church or a bible study. Or ask if she can recommend one, by the end of your friendly conversation.

Or, if that isn't something you feel comfortable doing, carry some pamplets with you for organizations that help stressed moms cope. Just handing it to her as you or she exit the bus, without saying a word, says a lot.
post #26 of 70
As I others have said, my dilemma is that by intervening I may make things worse for the child later on when no one is looking. It is also hard to know what to do when you don't have the whole story. I think most of us have had a moment in public when our parenting could look pretty ugly to others, but most of us are also loving parents overall.

Personally, I think shaming or trying to argue with angry parents is the wrong approach. It may make them stop in public, but they will take that added shame and anger home with them, and possibly take it out on their kids.

When I see this sort of parenting, sometimes I ignore it, and sometimes I try to engage the parent. I try to make eye contact and smile and say something like "Kid, they can drive you crazy." Then maybe I would make a comment about how cute the kid is, or how smart he or she seems. I've said things like "It's always the smart ones who give you a hard time. My hope is that this gives the parent a chance to vent, and then refocus on the love and pride they feel about their child. It can be really hard to be nice to people who are being horrible to their children, but for me it has felt like the best of a bunch of bad options.
post #27 of 70
I like Sierra's ideas for engaging/defusing, at least where it's a matter of anger or verbal abuse being directed at the child.

I've had a couple of instances where, instead of just shrinking inside when I hear a parent being verbally rough with a child, I've started to chat/empathize - once a mom was being really tough on a little guy, and I learned that they were on their way for a 'fun' day at an amusement park, but it involved a couple of hours on transit, her stroller partly broke half way, and his energy was driving her up the wall. I complimented him on how patient he was being, he played some with my daughter, the mom relaxed some...

With physical abuse, I don't know that I could do that. Here, if it was hitting a baby, hitting in the face, etc., it would be downright against the law, and even 'spanking' is not something I'm used to seeing. On one occasion I saw a grandma smack a girl on the bottom at an event. I was shocked and just kiind of thrown, and I'm sorry to say my first instinct was just to make sure my daughter hadn't seen, and move her onto another activity away from that family. She had smacked her for being curious/touching something, and looking back I wish I'd made a pleasant remark about how it's hard not to have curious hands at such an interesting place, and so on, but I didn't think of it at the time.
post #28 of 70
It's hard to see another human being suffer!

It's interesting, what Sierra and others mentioned about regional differences. I live in a Midwestern city (but not Chigaco). Yet I haven't witnessed stuff like this on public transportation, or at the WIC office for that matter.

But if I did, I probably wouldn't have the same response each time. My response would just depend on my gut feelings about each particular situation. I like the idea of trying to connect with both child and parent and empathizing, rather than being confrontational.

And I'm almost always with my kids when out in public, so I can understand about wanting to help them process what they're seeing and not think it's alright. A few years ago, when dd2 was a baby and dd1 was 5, we were at the library when a baby was crying in a stroller.

The mother was waiting in line to get help from the librarian, and had her 6yo daughter take over the baby and stroller. And the little girl was laughing at the crying baby, jiggling the stroller, and telling her to "shut up!" I do wish I'd gotten involved and helped sooth the baby -- but then I was holding my own baby on me in the sling, and I've found that when my babies are small I tend to not get as involved with "other people's babies."

My 5yo was pretty upset that the baby was crying and no one was comforting her. The mother did eventually get her help and then come back to her children; if I remember right, she never picked up the baby, but I think the baby eventually stopped crying.

If I ever have a similar situation, I think I might ask if it's okay if I pick up and hold the crying baby -- and of course I have done that at times, and maybe I could've even done it while holding my own baby. I'm finding that as my children grow, I'm moving beyond just being so focused on my own babies, and actually feel I have something to give "other people's kids" (when my help is welcomed).

And maybe I'd also encourage my child (if this is welcome), to stroke a crying child or make some funny faces to cheer her up. I think being able to help would have been a positive thing for my 5yo that day.
post #29 of 70
I just wanted to come back and say that while my approach always involves empathy for the parent, I haven't been able to convince myself to say the things Dear Abby once recommended (such as, "They are so tough at this age," or "Kids! They can drive you crazy!"). I think the reason for that is that I know most victims of abuse internalize a lot of blame for their own abuse, and I guess I just don't want to contribute to that. I think there are other ways to empathize with the parent without making their actions sound justifiable or reasonable.
post #30 of 70
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sierra View Post
I just wanted to come back and say that while my approach always involves empathy for the parent, I haven't been able to convince myself to say the things Dear Abby once recommended (such as, "They are so tough at this age," or "Kids! They can drive you crazy!"). I think the reason for that is that I know most victims of abuse internalize a lot of blame for their own abuse, and I guess I just don't want to contribute to that. I think there are other ways to empathize with the parent without making their actions sound justifiable or reasonable.
Very true!
post #31 of 70
Quote:
Originally Posted by diamond lil View Post
I feel for you. As a former user of CTA, I have also witnessed similar situations and one time did I intervene. It was on the CTA train downtown to Oak Park.

It was a father letting his toddler daughter wander around the train car. Everytime she would get out of his sight, he would yell her name and loudly say "Get your *&#@! back here before I beat the #@$%^ out of you."

The bad language continued for several minutes and I could tell that another couple with a small child sitting nearby was getting uncomfortable hearing it. The swearing was really bad. We're talking f-words used as nouns, verbs, and adjectives.

I turned to the man and said in the nicest way possible, "Your daughter is adorable but your language is really ugly and it's upsetting."

Not only did he FLIP OUT, he got in my face, swore at me, called me a racist and continued to rant loudly until he got off on his stop.

So you're damned if you do and damned if you don't. Sorry you had to witness this.
I was born and raised in Chicago, so I know exactly what you are talking about . Honestly and I know this sounds bad but whereas living in a small town in Maine (where I am at the moment) I feel ok about saying something. Truth is on CTA, I would be very hesitant because sad to say you could end with someone trying to assault you.

I guess I would say use your best judgement about whether or not intervening feels safe at that time. I wish I had more to say.

Shay
post #32 of 70
I saw something today, that made me cry right in the sidewalk..

ds and I were cutting through a nice park with ducks and a lake, before we entered the area, I could hear, but not see something going on.. I heard a kid scream, then in German, a terrible mean voice, yelling "stop it", then a hard whack, you could tell they hit the kid, then the kid screamed again.. my ds decided he had to walk the way they were going, so I had to witness it the whole way around the lake.. the kid would start to say something or scream, and they would shout "stop it" at him.. they pulled and pushed and hit him around the whole lake.. when he walked by me, it seemed that maybe he had a disorder, and that maybe the yelling was a part of it.. how mean and cruel they were.. I was distraught all day..
post #33 of 70
This is really tough. I've learned a lot from PP's responses here. I too witness what i"d consider abuse on the bus and in the street/in the shops, but I'm quite afraid of aggression so I tend to steer clear. I do sometimes try to catch eyes with the mother to maybe give her support if she is just seeming very stressed (and i totally agree with what flapjack said, on the bus there is so much pressure to 'keep your kid quiet' and I too have felt that when my baby cries, worrying about what others think of me as a parent, etc, and its only bc I am more 'educated' about this stuff that i'm able to put that aside and still give DS what he needs regardless), but usually she is too angry.

I agree that people have bad days and that doesnt mean they're a bad parent generally,and that in looking on a situation we never know what preceded it, but physical abuse is a different matter...I don't know what I'd do if I saw it, but I've heard a lot that calling child protection can make things worse for a family (at least here in the u.k., i don't know about the u.s.)

Hugs to the OP...its so hard to see this stuff and feel helpless when you have a sore spot about it from your own past. I agree with trying to get involved in other ways, like charities/education, and just focusing on doing the best you can by YOUR kids, because sadly (and i rail against this all the time), we cannot do much about everyone else in the world.
post #34 of 70
I encounter things like this very very often. The cursing and yelling the smacking. I'm always to afraid to say anything because I don't know how the parent is going to react to me. I really don't care if I'm screamed at, but I'd hate to encounter someone who will get violent.
post #35 of 70
Thread Starter 
Thanks for all of the replies. I sent an email to the CTA today asking for their input. Hopefully they'll give me some good input.
post #36 of 70
This isn't anything about what you can do in this situation but the first story on here talks about helping parents change so that their children are more successful and stopping abuse is one of the things they work on.
It made me feel less afraid of the abuse for some reason and more empathetic to the human experience behind it. (Hard to explain)

http://www.thisamericanlife.org/Radi...spx?sched=1262
post #37 of 70
Quote:
Create a blog where you talk about these things you see - reference it.
This could be a good outlet anyway. Describe the people as well as you can, maybe someone they know will see it. Write letters to the editor of your local paper with stories of what you're seeing. Who knows, maybe you'll end up doing an "Abuse on the Bus" article series.
post #38 of 70
Quote:
For starters, confronting a parent who is angry/frustrated enough to treat their child in such a way is very likely to end up with them taking that anger out on you instead, possibly putting you in physical danger.
While it's a possibility, I think that's highly unlikely. I think that people are far more comfortable treating children badly than they would an adult.
post #39 of 70
I see this also, as I do ride the public bus. There are days that I just bring my Bible alone, or the children's Bible that always gave me comfort, so I can keep myself from jumping up and physically beating the crap out of those parents. I mean, who talks like that to a baby? Who? That children's Bible, because of its sentamental value, has proven to be extremely comforting in trying situations, and I make a practice of bringing it along when I KNOW I will be encountering something like this. It is like a focusing object. It is like something reassuring.

Right now, I'm discussing other outlets with my elders and mature sisters of my faith, as to how I can handle myself in those situations and what I can do when I feel rage coming up. Today, I was talking about this to a girlfriend of mine, and she suggested deep breathing and counting to ten. I know this has helped when I was upset about something: but, I have not had the chance to use it in a situation such as what you are speaking of, as it is new advice. I'm sure I'll have to use it very, very soon, as I'll be riding the public bus this afternoon. I can keep you updated as to how it works.

Thankfully, I've never gotten violent with the parents in these situations though I came pretty close. It helps that I know practically all the bus drivers since our county is small, and when they pull over the bus for break after the passengers are unloaded, I sometimes sit and talk to them and express my feelings. It helps that they listen.

I was abused when I was a little girl, so naturally, this stuff upsets me, especially when it is done to a baby who is helplessly dependent on their parents, and they cannot walk away when they don't like the way they are being treated let alone express it.
post #40 of 70
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nolamom View Post
For starters, confronting a parent who is angry/frustrated enough to treat their child in such a way is very likely to end up with them taking that anger out on you instead, possibly putting you in physical danger.

:

Also, these people are already taking life's disappointments and anger out on their LOs. My fear is that the anger they feel from any confrontation will later be taken out on the children. In other words, I'm afraid a confrontation will not only not solve the problem, but will go on to make it worse.

For these reasons, I usually choose not to confront the parent.


Agreed, which is why I do not get involved. I don't only want them to hurt me; I don't want them to hurt their child more than they already are. I give it to God in hopes justice will be done.
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