Abuse prevention often means getting involved

Published 12:40 pm Monday, April 12, 2004

By Staff
As this editorial is being written, it's early Saturday afternoon -- a beautiful day. No doubt, the vast majority of people in our area are enjoying it in a safe, law abiding fashion. But there's a police scanner not far from where this is being written, and one need only listen to it briefly to realize there are potentially dangerous sitiuations unfolding around us much of the time.
Many of them we never see or hear of, as they're taken care of before anyone is hurt. This early afternoon, one such situation is taking place on Hwy. 31, north of Brewton. A driver headed south, into town, is driving erratically, running off the road frequently. The police dispatcher knows this because a motorist behind the driver has called in to report what's going on, in the hope that the person ahead can be stopped before his or her wrecklessness causes an accident.
Some speculation is required here, but it sounds like an attempt to report an intoxicated or otherwise impaired person who's gotten behind the wheel -- before something awful happens.
As we listen, the second driver, the one calling in, gets caught at a light, one the weaving vehicle ahead has just gone through. The concerned caller's last message to the dispatcher describes the out of control vehicle as continuing south, into the heart of town.
And that's where the story ends, as there is no further mention of it over the scanner. Perhaps the weaving motorist was stopped, questioned, the threat to other drivers rendered harmless. Perhaps not. What lingers with us after listening to the broadcast over the scanner is the effort of that second motorist to report the weaving driver -- his attempt to alter the outcome of a potentially tragic situation.
It brings to mind other ways in which the involvement of an outside party -- someone who could easily stay uninvolved, if they so chose -- is essential. One of those ways is front and center right now, as April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. Just as the second driver could easily have looked away, many who see signs of what may be child abuse often do the same. It's not their problem, after all. Who are they to become involved in affairs that don't concern them?
But Prevent Child Abuse America and other organizations fighting this problem name reporting suspected abuse or neglect as essential to getting at-risk children out of harm's way.
The driver who called police early Saturday afternoon may have helped prevent a traffic fatality because of his willingness to get involved. Like him, a person who reports suspected child abuse may head off emotional and physical damage that can scar a young person for life.
Sometimes a phone call is all it takes to make the world around you a safer, better place.

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