According to a 2018 report by the National Children’s Alliance, nearly 700,000 children are victims of abuse each year in the U.S., and the most common form of child abuse is neglect.
Luckily, when a family of three sat down at a restaurant in Orlando, Florida, the manager spotted a disconcerting detail that led her to believe that something just wasn’t right.
Flavine Carvalho was working at Mrs. Potato on New Years Day when she served what seemed like a “regular” family. They sat down and ordered their food, but when it arrived Flavine noticed something strange.
In a video interview shared by The Orlando Police Department, Flavine said that she noticed some red flags that eventually led her to call 911.
The first red flag was that the parents didn’t give any of the food to their son.
“When the order came to the table, I observed that the boy was denied food. That was the first thing that get my attention,” Flaviane explained to the police during the interview.
Flaviane thought that it was very strange that the boy wasn’t given anything to eat, so she confronted his parents about it.
“I stepped in and ask if there was something wrong with the order because the food for the boy was missing,” Flaviane told police in the video.
The boy’s stepfather told her that there was nothing wrong with the order.
He explained that their son would be eating his dinner at home that night. But Flaviane couldn’t shake the feeling that something wasn’t right.
“It was super strange to me,” Flaviane said. “I could see that (the boy) was super quiet and sad.”
That’s when Flaviane noticed a few more telltale signs that the boy was being abused. She saw that he had a lot of bruises and a large scratch on his forehead.
She knew she had to do something, so she decided to write a secret sign for the boy to see if he needed help.
Flaviane wrote “are you ok?” on an A4 piece of paper and secretly flashed it to the boy. She held it up behind the boy’s parents’ backs so that they wouldn’t see it.
The 11-year-old boy saw the sign and slowly nodded his head, but Flaviane persisted.
“He didn’t convince me. A couple of minutes later I wrote another sign asking him if he needs help,” Flaviane said.
The boy nodded again, and that was all Flaviane needed to spring into action.
She went to the back of the restaurant and called 911.
Because of Flaviane’s quick thinking, the police investigated the situation and uncovered a history of abuse that included being denied food.
The Orlando Police Department was so impressed by Flaviane’s actions that they wrote a post on their Facebook page to honor her and encourage others to stand up to child abuse:
“By saying something when she saw something, Ms. Carvalho displayed courage and care for a child she had never even met before, and we’re proud someone like Ms. Carvalho lives and works in our community.”
But withholding food as a punishment wasn’t the only crime that the boy’s parents were guilty of.
The boy also spoke out about other forms of abuse at the hand of his parents when he spoke to the Orlando Police.
Thanks to Flaviane, the police investigation led to the boy’s stepfather, Timothy Wilson, being arrested and charged with child abuse and neglect.
The boy’s mother, Kristen Swann, was also arrested for failing to report the abuse and for failing to protect her son.
What’s worse is that the police said that the boy had suffered abuse since Christmas, and if the abuse hadn’t stopped, the boy would likely have lost his life.
Flaviane is now known as a hero in her community, and her story has gone viral.
Flaviane has been inundated with calls and gifts from well-wishers who want to thank her for stepping in.
According to WFTV, she has also been doing interviews every day to raise awareness for child abuse:
“I wish the whole story will make people be more aware, to look around themselves. To look into the community, to their neighbors and maybe have the opportunity to change a life too,” she said.
To watch Flaviane recount how she saved the boy’s life, watch the video below.
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