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  • The first choice I had to make, when I saw the man that grabbed his son way to hard around the upper arm on the beach today, was whether or not to interfere.

    You know, you try to calculate the factors in your head: is this abuse, or am I just too sensitive? Will I make it worse? Are there other people involved? I decided to say something, so I started walking towards them. We were further out in the water, so I took Folkes little hand and started to move closer, kind of towing him in his inflatable bathing ring.

    Then the man pushed the boy, with quite a lot of force, throwing him to the ground. Thrusted a few feet by the force, crying out. I was startled. This was way worse than I had initially thought. I walked past him, partly because I needed to somehow recalculate the situation, and partly because it was troublesome to have my three year old son in the water, when I needed to focus on the situation. I wanted to get us up on solid ground. As I did, he grabbed the boys arm again, and jerked him up from the ground, kept holding him very hard, shaking him and yelling. Apparently, for destroying his kid sisters sand castle.

    Another mom walked up to the man and said something. He calmed down. The whole family of mom, dad, boy and girl moved away a bit. My cousin Annika, who I was there to meet up with, showed up. I didn’t even say hello, just went straight to telling her what had happened.
    – I can make a phone call, and have a patrol car here shortly, she said. She is a police officer. But this is her second day of vacation. She later told me that she saw right away that something had happened, just before she arrived, because of the intensity of angry looks from different moms, all directed in the same course.
    – I don’t know, I said. I’ll go talk to them.

    So I made the second choice, to confront the man. I did it mostly because it would be humiliating for the boy if there wasn’t a strong reaction, clearly visible to and understandable by him, against what his father had done to him.
    The family was now sitting on a rocky knoll, a little bit away from the activities and the crowd on the beach. I walked over there. The whole time, I held Folke by his hand, and he followed, silently and without protest. He didn’t really get what was going on, but it was one of those rare times he realized that questions could be saved for later. I was thinking about whether or not bringing a patrol car was the right move.

    As I arrived, I told them that I was thinking of reporting this to the police.
    – I understand, the dad said, with clenched teeth. I know what I did was wrong, and I regret it deeply.
    The little sister, maybe three-four years old, was sitting next to dad, tense and silent.
    The boy, maybe seven years old, was still crying. Sitting in his mothers lap. The mother, with tightening jaws, said nothing.
    – Does this happen a lot? I asked her.
    – No, she said, with a kind of compressed voice, it doesn't.
    I talked to them some more, and then me and Folke went back to Annika. The third choice, about police involvement, left me doubtful. I don’t know why, really. Mabye a lack of faith in the police? Mabye cowardice?

    I told her what they said. And that I didn’t know what was right to do. But she said:
    – I already made the phone call. A patrol car is coming. You know I’m obligated to report. You can not tell me something like this, and expect me not to.

    I felt relieved. As soon as I knew it was done, I instantly realized that it was the right thing to do. When the patrol car came, I thought that the man and his family had already left, without me noticing. The beach was busy and crowded, and I had to focus on Folke, playing in the water. But the skilled inspector that is my cousin, knew exactly where he was, and that he had changed clothes, to avoid detection. So had the rest of his family. I gave the police my report about what had happened, and they went off to talk to the man. It was all over.

    Crucial choices, affecting other peoples lives. And what is most confusing to me in hindsight, is why the choices weren’t easier to make. I hope this was a one time occurrence. But I doubt it. As Annika said:
    – If he does this to his son in public, what do you think he does when they are alone?

    (The picture is taken short after the event, and is just a picture of the beach)
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