By JESSICA BROADBENT
Recently, I was at Southern Cross station in Melbourne. From the platform I was on, I could see a young boy, maybe 9 or 10 years old, making a bit of a fuss with his mother.
Then, it suddenly became much louder, attracting attention from everybody in earshot. I watched, separated by the railway tracks, as this young boy began to strike out at his mother, and to verbally abuse her. She held his arm firmly, trying to move him towards another area of the platform.
Off to the side, an older lady, perhaps the grandmother, waited, with a little girl in a pusher. They both seemed patient, resigned even. I averted my eyes, trying to give the family some privacy to deal with the meltdown.
But as I looked away, I wondered. I had no idea if the story I created in my head was true, or even close to being true. I was sure that the woman with him was his mother, and that he was simply overtired, or perhaps autistic, or had just had too much chocolate and was acting out – but how sure was I?
As I started to think about how to get involved, a station worker walked past me and we made eye contact. We exchanged cautious smiles and I even made a joke – that I was glad I wasn’t a parent. But I didn’t ask him to report it. I didn’t report it myself. I heard the announcement for my train and I stood up and got on it and rode away.
There have been a number of incidents recently which have been reported in the media and led people to wonder, “why didn’t someone intervene?”
Incidents such as Charles Saatchi’s abuse of Nigella Lawson, repeated abusive incidents on public transport and attempted abductions of children. But I don’t think it’s always as simple as “why didn’t someone intervene?” It’s about being prepared.
I’ve gotten involved before; in fact, my family has a long history of being the ones to get involved. I’m the one on public transport who tells people off when they’re smoking, who won’t stand for rude or racist remarks being made around me.
I think I get it from my parents – my Dad has intervened in public fights, stopped a woman from beating her little girl in public and been part of a group who kicked some teens off a crowded footy train, who were chroming (using inhalants) in front of kids; and my Mum has always taught us to stand up for ourselves if something isn’t right.