Server Flavaine Carvalho was waiting to be done with her last table of the night at Mrs. Potatohead’s, a family restaurant in Orlando, Florida when she noticed something peculiar
The parents of an 11-year-old boy were ordering food but told the waitress the child would be having his dinner later that night at home. She glanced at the boy who was wearing a hoodie, glasses, and a face mask, and noticed that there was a small scratch between his eyes
A bruise was also on his temple.
So Carvalho walked away from the table and wrote on a sheet of paper, “Do you need help?” She then flashed it at the boy at an angle where only he could see it.
At first, the boy shook his head ‘No’ but the waitress wasn’t convinced things were fine.
She then made two more attempts until the boy nodded yes.
The server called the manager of the restaurant to let her know that she would be contacting the police on the boy’s behalf.
The police arrived and arrested the boy’s stepfather on one count of third-degree child abuse. The mother of a boy named was arrested on charges related to child neglect.
Detectives interviewed the boy, who was 20 pounds underweight. They found that the couple had frequently withheld food from him as punishment. Moreover, his body was covered in bruises.
The boy told police that his stepdad had recently beat him with a broomstick and back scratcher. Moreover, the boy also told detectives that he was once hung upside down by his ankles in a door frame by his father and had been restrained by being strapped to a furniture dolly.
Per police, the boy and a four-year-old girl who didn’t appear to have been abused were removed from the couple’s custody.
“To be honest what this child had gone through was torture,” Detective Erin Lawler said. “There was no justification for it in any realm of the world. I’m a mother and seeing what that 11-year-old had to go through, it shocks your soul.”
Carvalho’s quick thinking and bravery may have saved two children from years of physical injury as well as serious irreversible mental and psychological abuse – or worse.
SEE SOMETHING SAY SOMETHING: An Orlando waitress saw a family withholding food from a boy at a table. She noticed bruises on his body and created this sign to secretly ask the child if he needed help. When he signaled “Yes” she called us. The stepfather & mother were arrested. pic.twitter.com/hJNT1nm0vI— Orlando Police (@OrlandoPolice) January 14, 2021
“This could have been a homicide situation if she had not have intervened,” Orlando Police Chief Orlando Rolon said.
“The lesson here for all of us is to recognize when we see something that isn’t right to act on it… This saved the life of a child,” he added.
“We understand that this has to encourage other people that when you see something, say something,” Cabede said. “We know when we see a situation that is wrong, we know what’s the right thing to do. We know that speaking up is the right thing to do. But it takes more than acknowledging it. It takes courage.
Rafaela Cabede, the proprietor of the restaurant, is optimistic that Carvalho’s courageous act will motivate others to be more attentive and aware of the indications of abuse. By standing up against the abuser and protecting the victim, Carvalho has set an example of how individuals can make a difference in someone’s life.