Today, I witnessed child abuse.
Today I experienced something terrible. Whilst browsing in my local Debenhams department store, I witnessed a man physically abusing his 4/5 year old son. He shouted at him, pushed him onto a display sofa, held him down and punched at him repeatedly with a closed fist. Jasper and I intervened, and despite the verbal abuse we received from the father of the boy, Archie, and another man, we stood our ground (although I did cry a lot). The man said that they were play-fighting, so I asked Archie if that were true. He shook his head. I asked him if his dad was mean to him and if he hit him. He nodded, and made punching motions with his fist. The father then asked his son if he loved him. He shook his head immediately. At this point I couldn’t handle seeing the child in that much distress, and asked him if he wanted a hug. He nodded, and so I picked him up, cuddled him for a minute and rocked him back and forth. Giving the boy back to his father was the hardest, most heartbreaking thing I’ve ever had to do, especially since Archie then hid from his father in a clothes rack, burrowing further in when the men tried to touch him. I insisted that the police were called, but the two men had already taken Archie back down the escalator. Archie was looking back up at me on the way down. Later, we then had to go down to the police station to give a full official statement. The father had since been arrested and been locked in a cell, and Archie was colouring pictures in police custody. It was an extremely traumatising experience, but I know that Archie will be better off now. His mother came to the station too (Archie’s parents are separated and the father has weekend custody) and although I didn’t see her or Archie again, the officer who took my statement said that the mother was thankful that Jasper and I intervened, and worried for the welfare of her son. I know I will never forget Archie’s name, or what it was like to hold him, or the heartbreaking, helpless feeling of letting him go.
If you witness child abuse, don’t ignore it. Make sure that the police are called, and do everything in your power to protect that child.