I sat in the stands of a sporting event with my heart breaking for a mother I hadn’t met or seen. Near me a group of women were gossiping about this mother and her child. From their loud conversation, I gathered that the child had been seen leaving the locker room after a practice with a large bruise on her arm and crying. The women were sure that the mother had caused this, because she followed after daughter out of the locker room that day, and had been shouting at her, “to wait.”
These women were positive this mother was a monster, yet none of them had seen how the child received the bruise. Having experienced something like this in my youth, I know how very hurtful an assumption can be.
My family played a lot of baseball through the years. My father coached many of my brothers little league teams. During one of those games, one of my brothers struck out. In a fit of rage, he stomped back into the dugout and chucked his bat. The thing ricocheted off the cinder blocks of the dugout and smacked him in the face, causing his nose to bleed profusely. My brother’s strike out had been the third for the team, so my father left his place as the first-base coach and went back into the dugout. When my brother emerged from the dugout to play catcher, someone in the stands saw the tissue in his nose and the blood on his uniform and decided my father must have done it because he struck out.
The wisest course of action would have been to ask my brother what happened. Instead this person wrote an anonymous letter to the police, giving their assumption filled account of the event.
My poor father was investigated, and all of us were interrogated. I can’t tell you how awesome it was to be called out of class to be questioned by a couple of police officers about my father. No matter how many times I said, “My father doesn’t beat us.” They just kept on pressing, as if I was covering up the truth.
It took months, but eventually the investigation ended. The police could never find proof, because there was none to be found, but it still hurt my family deeply, especially my father and mother.
I’m not saying we should turn a blind eye to abuse. Just make sure what you’re looking at was really abuse before you go spreading rumors. And no, an outspoken mother is not proof enough. The only way to know for sure, ask the child, “How did you get the bruise?”