Two days ago, I witnessed an incredibly disturbing situation. I was waiting in a line for lemonade, surrounded by thousands upon thousands of people at our city’s Fourth of July celebration. I heard a child screaming, “NO! STOP! NO! DON’T!” in a distressed voice through sobs. I turned around to see an adult male, hovering over a young girl who was cowering on the ground. He was yelling inches from her face. It was obvious he was trying to leave the area with her and she was resisting.
Remember those thousands of community members in the surrounding area? Most people didn’t even acknowledge the situation and some people just stared.
YOU SEE IT HAPPENING! THIS ISN’T NORMAL! DO SOMETHING!
Without hesitation, I approached, made eye contact with the adult male and simply asked, “Excuse me, is everything okay?” while physically inserting myself between he and the child as she screamed, “I’M SCARED! DON’T HURT ME! I’M SCARED!”
Shoutout to the other woman in the park who knew something wasn’t right and hopped up to find a couple of nearby officers. While waiting for the officers, I sat with the little girl and I talked with the man (her dad). The officers arrived and took things over from there (thank you, gentlemen).
STOP… because there are so many things we need to address here.
There were THOUSANDS of people around. More than 100 people saw this happen and were well within earshot. Two people reacted. Two.
As a mother… shit… as a HUMAN… I find this terrifying. Are we seriously so caught up in our own little worlds and selfish existence to help another human – especially a CHILD?
And – while this man did ended up being the child’s father… please don’t be naive about the realities of kidnapping and human trafficking. I need to know that if my child is screaming things like, “Help, I’m scared! Don’t hurt me!” that someone will come to his aid.
We also need to talk about parents finding their village. I am not in any way defending this man’s actions – but every parent will admit to high-stress levels at times. Top that with a long day in the heat, monstrous crowds, hunger/thirst, and exhaustion… it’s not going to be pretty. We need people we can call on for support and this dad was missing that.
I know because I asked. I asked a lot of questions. I kept him talking. I encouraged him to call the child’s mother, which he willingly did while I engaged his daughter in conversation. I reminded everyone to keep taking deep breaths.
I don’t know the outcome of last night’s situation and I likely never will, but there are a few things I’m certain of. Getting involved wasn’t difficult. Getting involved let that little girl know the treatment she was receiving is NOT okay. Getting involved let that little girl know her voice is heard.
If that were my baby on the ground… I’d want people to come running to his rescue. Wouldn’t you?
There’s a reason people don’t respond in an emergency when others are nearby. It’s referred to as the Bystander Effect. (Click that link and educate your face.)