May 14th, 2018 by Attorney Dan Carman
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. It’s something everyone should be aware of at all times. If you witness a child being abused, you’re not powerless. You may see it happening and know it’s wrong, but may be conflicted about what you should do. Is the perpetrator a friend? Family member? Stranger? What should you do if you’re the one abusing a child?
It’s common for people witnessing someone being abused to just turn away and keep on walking. An experiment in a public park involved the staged abuse of an elderly man. ABC News reports that though there were a hundred witnesses, only a few called the police to report it.
Over the roughly 100 people who walked past the scene, only 25 intervened in some way. Some witnesses were asked about their response afterward.
- “I just wasn’t sure if it was my place.”
- “I wish I could have done something, but I felt helpless. He was intimidating.”
- “The guy’s a lot bigger and a lot younger than me, and he was pretty hot-tempered.”
Some of these attitudes might also apply in the case of child abuse. If you witness or strongly suspect that a child is in real danger you should report it. If you think there may be immediate harm to the child, call 911. If you have concerns that aren’t time sensitive, you can call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-422-4453. It’s available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and staffed with professional crisis counselors. Callers remain anonymous.
If you witness child abuse, you may get the sense that the adult is overwhelmed somehow and it impacts his or her ability to parent effectively, writes Anita Kulick in the Philadelphia Inquirer. You may be torn between wanting to help the child and not wanting to challenge the adult’s authority or escalate the situation.
Any action, no matter how small, may protect a child. It’s also important not to embarrass the parent and to take actions you feel comfortable doing. If you witness a misbehaving child triggering a situation in a store that starts to get out of control, perhaps causing the parent to yell at and threaten the child, depending on your personal style you could . . .
- Smile at the parent, give an understanding nod and say that you understand how he or she feels.
- Talk to the child to distract him or her.
- Tell a store security guard.
Whatever the outcome, the important thing is that you’ve chosen to act. Everyday actions could have an important community-wide impact in curbing child abuse.
The Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline isn’t just for witnesses to abuse or those suffering from it. They also help parents who realize they have a problem with abusing their children and want to stop. Child abuse is a crime in Kentucky; depending on the circumstances, it can be a misdemeanor or a felony offense.
If you’re under investigation or have been accused of child abuse and have questions about how the law might apply to your situation, discuss it with one of the attorneys at the Lexington, Kentucky, based Carman Law Firm. As criminal defense attorneys with years of experience, we offer thorough, experienced representation. Contact us today to find out how we can help you.