When You Should Mind “Other People’s Business”
By Diane Tegarden
August 6, 2010
But few weeks ago by husband and I were at one of my favorite breakfast hangouts in Pasadena. The booths are designed for maximum comfort and have padded seat cushions, there is even a place where a large family can sit at two tables connected by one long padded bench.
The space of the area I just described would a man came in with four children, one was a two-year-old baby he carried in his arms. The other three were older and didn’t look much like him, their ages ranging from 12, 8 and the youngest one was 5. Her mother was nowhere in sight and father seemed to be interested only in the baby. The other three, which he sat at the table across from him and the baby, were well mannered quiet, but the father spoke up place several times to the middle child (the 8-year-old girl). Although the three kids seemed to be getting along fine, suddenly without warning, but others would, across the bench connecting the two tables, where the eight-year-old was sitting. He squeezed her into the corner and laid his head against her head.
Speaking quietly, but with a lot of intensity, he warned her to behave herself. He seemed to be in a quiet rage, his voice and face taut with anger, eyes flashing. While he didn’t put his hands on her, he was squeezing her into a corner with his body and had his head pushing down onto her head. She started to cry quietly, obviously in fear, and I felt unsettled to have witnessed the exchange. My husband saw me watching them and got a very sour look on his face, he didn’t want me to get involved.
When the mom finally showed up, that took the baby to the restroom and I had my chance to warn the mom. I walked up to her and bent down to whisper in her ear.
“If your husband abuses the kids, or lays a hand on them while I’m here, I will call the police for you.” I got back into my seat before the husband could return.
The mom looked blank for a second, and then asked incredulously, “what are you talking about?”
I explained what had happened while she was gone and she didn’t say a word, but got that closed look on her face of a person in denial. I reached into my purse and pointedly laid my cell phone on the table.
When her husband came back from the restroom with the baby (he held her in his arms as he got up to confront me).
“How dare you say I laid a hand on my kids!” he exclaimed.
“I never said any such thing. I merely let your wife know that if you did lay a hand on her, I’d call the police” I maintained.
“Fair enough” he calmly replied “but it’s really none of your business.”
At this point, the woman, who was visibly angry, raised her voice and said “How dare you say this in front of my kids!”
“You are the one who has made an issue of it in front of your kids. I approached you and whispered in your ear, they never had to hear any of this.”
The father returned to their table and sat down, willing to let it go. The 12-year-old son, a polite young man, then murmured “thank you for your opinion”, which I thought was a very telling remark.
The mom yelled at him to be quiet and then told me “this is really none of your business.”
“Yes, I heard you the first two times you’ve repeated yourself” I calmly replied.
My husband was shaking his head at me back and forth, but the father caught the gesture and stood up, stepping toward my husband in a threatening manner.
“So, do you agree with your wife?”
“No” I instantly responded. “He’s shaking his head at me for getting involved. He agrees with you two.”
That shut the man up , and he sat down as his wife kept giving me dirty looks.
You might agree with the man and his wife, however according to the Almanac of Policy issues “Each of the 50 states has enacted laws defining child abuse and maltreatment, determining when outside intervention is required, and establishing administrative and judicial structures to deal with maltreatment when it is identified.
According to data from the Administration on Children and Families, in 1998 there were an estimated 2,806,000 referrals of child abuse or neglect to relevant state or local agencies. These referrals resulted in an estimated 903,000 confirmed victims of maltreatment, a rate of 12.9 per 1,000 children nationwide. Of these, 11.5 percent suffered sexual abuse, 22.7 percent suffered physical abuse, and 53.5 percent suffered neglect. A quarter were victims of more than one type of maltreatment. Additionally, approximately 1,100 children died of abuse or neglect, a rate of 1.6 deaths per 100,000 children. Of all forms of abuse, about three quarters of the perpetrators were parents.”
In most cases an initial report of abuse or neglect can come from anyone. In 1998, a little over half of all reports (53.1%) came from professionals, including medical and mental health professionals, teachers, child care providers, social service providers, and law enforcement officials. The remainder (46.7%) came from nonprofessionals, including family members and other members of the community.” (1)
So, demonstrating violence in public toward children (or adults, for that matter) is against the law, and therefore is the business of the person witnessing it.
You’ll often hear the horror stories about people being beaten, or even shot and killed, and the insensitive crowds of people who ignore it. These people who are “minding their own business” will simply step over the body or walk around it, continuing to casually chat on their cell phones.
Well, I’m not one of those people. Although not endowed with size or physical strength, I’ve been given a spit-fire personality and the courage of a lion, stepping up to defend those who can’t or won’t defend themselves.
I fight for the underdogs of society; the week or ill, the underprivileged or abused, the young or elderly, and the disabled in mind or body. I’ll probably die in a violent manner some day because of this, but I’ll lie easy in my grave knowing I protected the innocent.
Source cited: (1) http://www.policyalmanac.org/social_welfare/child_abuse.shtml