Sunday, May 29, 2011

Tell

On Friday, Leslie and I picked Elizabeth from school at the usual 3pm.  She had a great day, and we were all on our way to the dog park with the long weekend ahead of us.  She’s graduating from 8th grade next Thursday, and we’ve got to shop for shoes and a few other necessities.  The first thing Elizabeth told us is that one of her girlfriends made a frightening confession to a group of them over recess.   She said she’d been sexually molested by an 18 year old high school boy that she knew.  It happened the night before. He made her do things, and he wouldn’t let her out of the car.  More, the girl seemed terrified of telling her mother.

Thirty seconds went by, long enough to let this sink in.  And immediately I started to feel sick … and worried.  The knowledge of this child’s danger mixed with my own memories, feelings and impressions, created a nauseating stew. If you or anyone you know was predated in childhood like I was, if the veil of ignorance has been somehow lifted from you, you know this isn’t something to take lightly.  Elizabeth was intensely concerned and expected me to deal with it. In the background, her girlfriends did, as well.  But it was 3:30 p.m., I didn’t know this girl’s mother or how to reach her, and all the students left campus a half hour ago.  I called the school’s counselor and had to leave a voicemail. Then, I called the Vice-Principal a number of times until I finally reached her.

To her credit, the Vice-Principal was very concerned. I think her biggest worry was that the troubled girl, having left campus, was out of her reach.  And indeed from her perspective this was third hand information.  She said she had to discuss this with the guidance counselor and think on it.  That was good enough.

For maybe ten minutes.

The child’s safety began gnawing at me. I needed to know if she was alright. I needed to know. We all needed to know.

I couldn’t find her mother’s phone number. Information didn’t have it, and there was nothing on the internet. Elizabeth texted the girl, and she didn’t answer, so I called her phone myself, and kept trying every 30 minutes  or so. At first there was nothing.

At about 7:30 p.m., she returned my call.  She was crying hysterically and made little sense.  I couldn’t understand most of what she said, but I heard loud and clear that she thought her mother was going to beat her up.  Then, abruptly she hung up.  Moments later she was texting Elizabeth.  She berated her for telling, and said repeatedly she didn’t expect to live through the night.  Her anger and confusion was intense, but Elizabeth remained steadfast through the exchange. She knew her friend was in crisis and took none of her insults personally.  Then, the child began texting about suicide.

Elizabeth looked at me seriously and said, “Nana, she’s told me she knows how to kill herself if she has to. She knows where there are pills she would take.”

I called the police department, and they took my complaint very seriously. They knew where she lived, and I gave them all the details I knew of.  From what we could tell, and it was all gleaned from the text messages she never stopped sending, the police took her to the station and spoke with her about what happened.  On the phone with Elizabeth and in a holding room alone, she expressed continued anger and blame.  She was still afraid of her mother and kept declaring her life was over.  I felt relief knowing she was in a safe place, and even though her mother wasn’t in the picture yet, she wasn’t alone.

At 11:00 a.m., Elizabeth and I were watching a movie and the girl called one last time. She’d been admitted to spend the night in the hospital and was much calmer. Her mother was with her, and they both spoke with Elizabeth expressing their gratitude.   

I doubt the turmoil in that family is over.  Elizabeth still receives messages ranging from “you are my best friend” to “it’s all your fault”.  She understands it’s appropriate to take a step back.  I plan to take her into school first thing Tuesday, touch base with the Vice-Principal, and make sure there is no concern about retaliation of any kind.

While I’m rarely at a loss for words, I have trouble expressing how impressed I am with the strength, patience and perseverance our daughter demonstrated through this whole mess.  She never lost her perspective.   I know she’ll never forget this, and her friends, although one step away from what happened, will remember, as well. The girls will remember that no means no, and the boys will remember that the 18 year old high school kid is being held accountable for his actions.   

I am also extremely grateful that as I was struggling with my feelings, each time I thought I'd reached a dead end trying to contact someone, Leslie pushed me to take it one step further.

We hope it turns out alright for everyone involved, but we’ll never forget what we learned from this.

What do you do if your under age schoolmate tells you she’s been molested? 

Tell an adult.  Someone you can rely on.

Definitely.

Tell.

1 comment:

The Tarot Lady said...

Your daughter is a wise and caring soul. I'm so proud of her for taking these actions and telling. She did the right thing.

Years ago, I had a friend who was on drugs. His parents called looking for him and said they didn't understand what was wrong. I told them frankly that he was shooting heroin. They got him into treatment and he got sober. He thanked me for "butting in".

I hope this girl is on track to getting the help she'll need.

I'm really impressed with your daughter.

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