Washington, DC

Photo from PoPville flickr user fromcaliw/love

“Dear PoP,

I was walking down Irving St. towards Mt. P the other day when I glanced to my right down Hiatt Pl., only to see a woman slapping and punching the head of a young boy (presumably a son/nephew/younger relative?) while yelling at him (in Spanish so I couldn’t figure out what she was saying). I froze. Then I spent an anguished minute staring, trying to figure out what to do. To my shame, I ended up doing nothing and going on my way. No other passers-by seemed to notice or if they did, they didn’t react.

I felt strongly that I should have intervened, but I also felt that if it was a mother/son relationship, maybe it’s none of my business… What would you have done? What should I have done?”

These are the types of questions that will generate very strong reactions but I call these the “battle” questions. You never know how you’re going to react in battle until you are actually in battle. So I seriously don’t judge you for your reaction. This is an extremely difficult situation made more difficult by the fact that there was a language barrier. What I’d like to think I would have done is walk over and say no, firmly (since I don’t speak Spanish either). You may sometimes see a parent smack a child on the behind and if you don’t agree with it, I don’t think that would warrant an intervention. But the situation you describe with the child being hit about the head is completely over the line and dangerous for the child. But honestly, if I went over and said no to the mother, I’m not sure if that would help much. This level of aggression seems like social services might need to get involved. But back to your question, what should a witness do? I have no idea.

Should the police be alerted? Remember we are talking about a young child being hit about the head. What steps could/should be taken in order to best aid the young child?


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