So I take public transportation in Boston and I don't know if I have bad luck or am simply more observant than other people but I regularly see people abusing their children. I am not talking about people who may get frustrated at their kids or who are scolding them, I am talking about abuse. I worked as a DV counselor for years and was also abused as a child.
Today in North Station there was a woman sitting with her three kids. One of the younger ones (I am guessing he was 4) was asking questions about the trains. Normal curious kid questions. She then told him to shut up so loud that many people on the other side of the station turned to look. He got scared and started to cry. She then starting threatening him with physical violence. She said, among other things, that if he "didn't shut up should would smack him on the mouth so hard he would have a reason to cry". He stopped crying. Another woman arrived with food and she berated him again before slamming her arm into his chest while handing him the food. He looked so scared and helpless and I felt so awful for him. It reminded me of the many times my mom treated my sister and I like this in front of strangers.
When I was a DV advocate I wouldn't have had a choice. I would have had to go get an MBTA officer because I was by law a mandated reporter. But now that I am not I often don't know what to do in these situations (it happens like once every few months). I stayed until it seemed as though her anger had passed and she started chatting to the woman with her. And then I just got on the train and left them. Did I do the wrong thing? I just feel so terrible.
TL;DR: What should we do (if anything) if we witness someone abusing their kids in a public place?