How should I have dealt with witnessing child abuse?

by LG
(Location Undisclosed)

Today, I was shopping with my baby at my local grocery store, when I saw a father whack his daughter--about 6 or 7--over the head for stepping away from the sit-down cart. The girl immediately saw my jaw drop upon his hitting her.

I got so furious that I marched up to him and called him a bully and told him he had no right to hit his daughter like that--he mumbled something like--don't tell me how to...but I just yelled at him, "Learn how to be a parent!" He was visibly shocked by my confronting him. I was so angry--it took me a while to calm down.

How should people react in these situations?

My mother-in-law told me that I was crazy to confront a stranger like that--especially with my baby in the cart, that people carry guns and could be nuts. Part of me agrees with her, but I couldn't control myself. I couldn't just stand there and pretend I didn't see anything.

Note from Darlene: The above was originally posted as a comment under a commentary written by a visitor titled I Witnessed Child Abuse in a Wal-Mart Parking Lot. I've taken the comments above and created its own commentary page here in order to use it as an opportunity to provide more information to LG and my other visitors.

Reply to LG from Darlene: I applaud that you intervened to further protect this child. Your motives were definitely honourable. I can relate to being desperately angry, almost to the point of being out-of-control, at witnessing a parent physically abusing a child. It is human nature to be so outraged. Children DO need to be kept safe from harm; and it is EVERYONE'S responsibility to do their part in ensuring that children are kept safe. Having said this, it is also important to understand that OUR actions as an observer of abuse can further affect the child we are attempting to protect.

It is possible that what you said to this man was enough to shock him into appropriate parenting mode, but that could easily have backfired. As your mother-in-law pointed out, your safety and that of your own child could have been in jeopardy, but the safety of HIS child was at stake as well.

Remainder of reply from Darlene on this child abuse commentary and question "How should I have dealt with witnessing child abuse?" can be found at Comments below this submission. Depending on system activity, there are sometimes delays in comments going live on my site; but rest assured, they do eventually appear. So if you don't yet see them, I hope you will return later to read what I, and possibly others, have written. I thank you for your patience and understanding.

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