I saw something the other day that shocked me and I felt helpless… 217



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child abuse

Yesterday I was sitting outside the entrance to the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital eating my lunch while waiting for the next patient-transport job on my list, when I was confronted by a situation about which I was totally ill-prepared to do anything about.

A rough-looking man was walking past me shouting, very loudly, in abusive tones at his young (about 7 or 8 years old) son who was obviously petrified of his father. The poor kid was shouting back at his father that he didn’t want to go with him, keeping his distance the while. The poor boy was obviously distressed, didn’t want to “get his arse over there” and while walking in the same direction as his father, was loath to catch up with him.

The father eventually caught the young boy, wrenched his arm and told him to “bloody behave or he’d get it” or something similar.
My reaction was the same as the dozen or more people on the footpath at that time. We all looked on, knowing that something should be done, but not wanting to “interfere”.
I looked around for security, but there was no-one about. Calling ‘000’ seemed to be overkill, but surely there should be somebody we could call to protect that poor boy from his abusive father. By the time I had given the matter some thought the father, with the boy in tow, had disappeared.

I was left with a feeling of utter helplessness in the face of that situation, one which we see all too often.
As I am in my mid-70s, a physical confrontation is out of the question. Reasoning with such a man as that father would achieve absolutely nothing, as he was of such demeanour as not to listen. Anyway, he probably would have just told me to f**k off, or hit me, or both. Maybe I should have called ‘000’.

What do you think I should have done? What would you have done in that situation? Is there a child-abuse hotline to call which would result in immediate help for that poor boy?

Ric Allberry

Born in Scotland in 1940 just after the commencement of WWII, Richard grew up mostly blissfully unaware of what was happening to The UK during those years. He emigrated to Australia with his family as a "Ten-Pound Pom" in October, 1947, and pursued a multitude of different careers, retiring in 2005 to a life of travel, grandkids, genealogical research, a bit of woodwork, and some writing – mostly about his family.

  1. Very distressing to watch a child in fear of their parent/guardian. In the circumstances you described, I would probably have tried to follow at a distance and see if they got into a car, made a note of the registration number and called the local police station. There are many kinds of child abuse. Emotional abuse is one. Under the circumstances you describe, if the registration number leads them to the owner / address and the descriptions of the man and child involved, they will conduct a ‘safety check’ on the child (and check out the environment). Police will do that. Of course that all falls flat if he doesn’t have a car, but that is my suggestion.

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