When Do You Stop One Abuse, And Can You Stop An Abuser?

Last month, Liv Tyler pulled over to check on the welfare of a child she saw being yelled at and got in a argument. NY Times writer Spence Halperin had the same thing happen to him on the subway.

He was standing on the train when he saw this:

A young woman, maybe 18, was standing against the opposite door. She slapped her daughter, who looked to be about 4. I looked away. Then she hit the child again. And again, and again.
(...)
She had a friend with her, perhaps 16. And when the child cried, the friend hit her, too. Five smacks now and counting - from two people.

This was all very public. People were watching them and I was watching the people while also watching the hitting. Someone, please, say something.

Hits 6, 7, 8. Harder.

On a subway full of people, Halperin (a self-described "54-year-old white Jewish guy") was watching a much-younger African-American woman abuse a child, and was hoping that someone, anyone would stop her.

But they didn't. So he did.

"Stop hitting that child!"

Who said that? Stepping toward her, I took a dive off a sky-high cliff - and there was no way back.

"Who are you to tell me not to hit my kid? She's my kid!"

"Don't hit that child again or I will call the police!"

"I will hit my child if I want. I know how to hit my child. Go ahead and call the police!"

Since the confrontation halted the abuse, Halperin ended the confrontation, comforted to see an older, African-American woman start a quieter conversation with the mother.

A woman sitting nearest to the young mother started a quieter conversation with her. I could not hear the entire thing, but it was clear that this woman, in her 50s, was counseling her on how to handle an unruly child without hitting.

"You don't know me," the younger woman said to the older one. "You don't know my child."

Although the woman's posture might have just been public defensiveness and bravado brought on by being corrected by older people in public, it certainly doesn't seem like she knew there was anything wrong with her behavior — but neither Halperin, the woman or the two other dudes who congratulated him for saying something contacted the police.

Most people — those on the street as Liv Tyler drove by (not to mention the paparazzos who took the shots) and those in the subway car with Halperin — don't want to get involved. They don't want to be yelled at, humiliated in public, to confront issues that, too often, fit within stereotyped roles. Halperin expresses discomfort at the racial politics of the situation, but what about the issue of their difference in age? Other questions:. How far do you go to stop a child abuse you're forced to witness in public? And when do you get the cops involved?

Complaint Box | Defending a Child [NY Times]

Related: Liv Tyler Rushes To Help A Troubled Baby! [Celebuzz]