Witnesses watched as a mom kicked and punched and threw her daughter into a cement wall at the zoo earlier this week. Police say the daughter is between the age of 3 and 5 years old. One witness tried to intervene and the mom starting yelling at her. The witness then told security about it and security called 9-1-1. By the time police arrived, the mom and child were gone. As I am writing this, the police are still looking for this mom.
I came across a similar incident at a department store one time. A woman was spanking and yelling at a young girl. It wasn't a clear sign of abuse like this zoo case but it seemed over the top to me. My friend and I struggled with our instincts to say something but wondered if it was our business. We also wondered what kind of trouble we could bring to ourselves if we stepped in. Or, if we might escalate the situation and bring more harm to the child. Thankfully, the woman stopped when we stared at her. At least, she stopped for the time being. I wish now I would have said something.
According to the Dept of Human Services Website, child abuse is defined as an injury to a child that is not accidental. The abuse is defined by the effect on the child and not by the motivation of the parents. The "effect" can include bruises or cuts, or burns or electrical shocks, or poisoning and of course, death. Spanking is not considered abuse but if it leaves a mark, it could be.
Portland police say the witness in the zoo case did the right thing. She tried to stop the abuse and then quickly told a security guard who called police.