Abuse in a restaurant booth

Published 8:52 pm Friday, October 15, 2010

Driving home from a week’s vacation in the north Georgia mountains last week, we stopped for lunch at a restaurant in Troy, Ala.

We were in a booth. A few minutes later, a couple and a young boy entered the restaurant, and sat in the booth directly behind us.

Before even getting seated, the mother and the boy, about 10 years old, got into a verbal battle.

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It wasn’t simply a few words of fussing from mother to son, it was a mean, physical verbal battle that continued unabated.

The man, apparently not the boy’s father, sat across from them, completely unmoved and oblivious to their continued rantings. The mother on several occasions kept telling the boy, if he didn’t shut up, she was going to “knock him through the wall.”

Knocking him “through the wall” was a threat she used several times, but the boy continued talking, threat or no threat.

The man sat there and said and did nothing.

Finally, the mother, a rather large woman of about 35, got up and said, “I’m leaving,” and she exited the restaurant. Then the boy got upset that she was gone, and began pleading loudly with the man to “go get her,” and bring her back.

The man said “No,” and continued to tell the boy to “shut up!”

The boy wouldn’t “shut up,” kept pleading for the man to “go get her,” to which, the adult man, replied, “I said shut up,” balled up his fist and took a swing at the boy.

Luckily, the boy ducked, because if the man had hit him with the roundhouse punch he threw, the boy would have been seriously hurt.

The boy went outside to get his mother.

They returned. The battle began anew.

He pleaded to her that he was sorry. She said “shut up.” The boy kept saying he was sorry. And she kept saying, “If you don’t shut up, I’m going to knock you through the wall.”

At this point, I had had enough.

Slamming my knife down loudly on my plate, I said, “What is wrong with you people?”

To which the man replied, “He’s on medication.”

The mother got up and left again, We got up and prepared to leave the restaurant.

The cashier said, “I noticed you said something to them. They come in here all the time, and it’s always like that.”

We paid our tab, got in our car, and drove home to Bainbridge.

But my thoughts of the incident would not go away.

With the near violence I witnessed, I believed sooner or later they would either seriously physically abuse the boy or kill him in the process.

A few days ago, I paid a visit to local Children and Family Services, discussing the incident with a child abuse counselor.

“Lots of people see child abuse, but don’t report it,” he said, “Because they don’t want to get involved. There’s police reports, court hearings and other legalities that they would have to testify against the incident.”

My recourse is to notify the child abuse people in Troy, tell them the story, and try to track these people down. I suggest they go to the restaurant, and have them notify the police next time they come in. If they are frequent visitors to the restaurant, then they should be observed and confronted.

So what do we do if we witness child abuse?

Do we ignore the abuse because we do not wish to become involved, to avoid court hearings, or a summons to testify as to what we saw, to give evidence why this boy or any child should be placed in protective custody away from abusive parents or guardians?

Do we look the other way and hope someone else will see it, and report it and get involved?

Each time we look the other way, another young person lives with abuse, grows into adulthood, and parenthood, with statistics showing that they themselves then become abusive. It’s a proven pattern.

The counselor said child abuse is epidemic. Abuse is rampant, reports are on the increase, but the reports as compared to the actual incidents are far apart.

In the meantime, young lives are in danger.

Some won’t make it to adulthood.

I hope this boy does, but I seriously doubt it.