This article originally appeared on 01.15.21
Server Flavaine Carvalho was waiting on 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 her that 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 a scratch between his eyes.
A closer look revealed a bruise on his temple.
So Carvalho walked away from the table and wrote a note that said, "Do you need help?" and showed it to the boy from an angle where his parents couldn't see.
Mr.s Potatohead's in Orlando, Florida
The boy shook his head, no. "I knew it that he was afraid," she said.
Carvalho made two more attempts until the boy nodded yes.
The server then called the owner of the restaurant to let her know that she was going to call the police on the boy's parents.
“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.”
\u201cSEE 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.\u201d— Orlando Police (@Orlando Police) 1610638528
The police arrived and arrested the boy's father
on one count of third-degree child abuse. His mother Kristen Swann was arrested with two counts of child neglect. A four-year-old girl was taken from the family by authorities. They say she showed no signs of abuse.
Detectives spoke with the boy and learned his parents frequently withheld food from him as a form of punishment. He was 20 pounds underweight. After searching his body, they discovered that he was nearly covered in bruises.
His father had recently beat him with a broomstick and back scratcher.
via Orlando PD
The boy told detectives that he was once hung upside down from his ankles in a door frame by his father and had been restrained by being strapped to a furniture dolly.
"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."
“Chief Orlando Rolon, @OrlandoPolice, with waitress Flavaine Carvalho (middle) who saved an abused 11yo when he was dining with his family. They say the boy was “tortured.” The full details of his salvation on @fox35orlando at 5/6pm. #FOX35 #news #crime #update”
\u201cChief Orlando Rolon, @OrlandoPolice, with waitress Flavaine Carvalho (middle) who saved an abused 11yo when he was dining with his family. They say the boy was \u201ctortured.\u201d The full details of his salvation on @fox35orlando at 5/6pm. #FOX35 #news #crime #update\u201d— Matt Trezza FOX 35 (@Matt Trezza FOX 35) 1610650833
Carvalho's quick thinking and bravery may have saved the lives of two children.
"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.
The restaurant's owner, Rafaela Cabede, hopes that Carvalho's bravery inspires others to look out for signs of abuse as well.
"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.