Wednesday, March 28, 2007

when the other shoe drops...

In January, a friend called me after the unthinkable happened: Her son had probably been molested by a teenage boy that she had nannied for years.

She reported the incident to CPS, as required by law, and they closed the case because the perportrator did not live with them and would no longer have any access to her son. It has been three months now. Three difficult months. She called me one day suicidal. I convinced her to call her doctor for some xanax and I learned that she had stopped her anti-depressant abruptly a month before. I had no idea she even took anything. She got the meds and got those back underway. The next day I went to her house and made her call an excellent Christian counselor and she began to see her weekly. Throughout this time, the subject of her son and what had happened came up periodically, but when I pressed her about what she was going to do, she was vague. In the mean time her grandmother, who she was very close to, passed away. I decided not to say anything further about her son's situation. I knew it had to be her decision and in her time.

Today, she called me to come over and help her email some things. Her son was home from school recovering from strep, so it was the girls and I and the two of them. Her younger daughter was at preschool. We were visiting at her table and she said that the doctor they had an appointment with to figure out how to talk to their son and how to proceed had told her that he could not see them until she called a local advocacy agency. She told me she had called the agency and they told her they could not speak to her unless she had an open case with CPS or the police department. She asked me, "What should I do?" I reached across the table and put my hand on hers and answered, "You know what you have to do." She said, "What about right now?" And I nodded.

She made the call. The dispatcher sent out a policewoman right away and what had started out an ordinary day took an unexpected turn.

I called my SIL who lives nearby and asked her if I could bring her the girls for awhile. Mercifully, she agreed without asking any questions. Shortly after I returned from dropping them off at her house, the police arrived at my friend's door.

We situated her son in another room and the policewoman began the interview. She told my friend that she had to speak to her son and would have to ask some blunt questions. I asked her if she knew anything about autism and then explained a few things that she should expect when interviewing an autistic child. I told her that he was not impaired cognitively, but his expressive language was impaired. I wanted her to know that if his answers were round about or unusual, that it did not mean that he didn't understand what was going on or that he was lying. Then we brought the boy in and the police officer began to speak with him about why she was there and the questioning began.

He did such a great job. He was so brave. I was very proud of him. Through the course of the interview, we learned that the molestation had been going on for a long time, at least a year and probably longer. It happened in their home, when his mother was there. It happened the day that she discovered her son in the bathroom with the teenager at a restaurant. It had happened a lot. He was naively explicit in his answers. It was gut wrenching to witness. His sweet face, his fidgeting, his subtle embarrassment. Oh my gosh. I will never forget his innocent expression while describing such a adult acts. It was the worst thing I have ever been party to. Ever. Not even the day the doctor told us Abby had autism was as awful as this scene was.

Afterwards, the policewoman told us what to expect next. In the mean time, my friend's husband came home from work. He was not in the room for the interview. He kept their daughter entertained while their boy spoke to the policewoman and then their boy left us and her husband joined us while the officer explained how things would proceed. The policewoman left and my friend said to her husband, "It definitely happened. It happened many, many times." He said nothing. My friend turned to me and asked me if we could go for a drive, so we left.

We got in the car and she was silently crying, fighting to maintain her composure. I told her she did not have to keep it together for me. I told her to let it out because when she went back in her house, she had to behave very normally. Her son cannot make an association that by talking to the police he had made his mother upset. She collapsed, sobbing. I was crying along with her on the inside. On the outside, all I could do was hold her hand and listen.

We began to drive, driving with nowhere to go. There was nowhere to go to get away from this. She said, "How could this happen? What kind of mother am I not to know that this was happening? In my house? In my own backyard (literally)?" I tried to reassure her that even fathers do this kind of thing and the wives do not know. I told her that the people who perportrate these kinds of heinous acts are so manipulative and intentional that they ingratiate themselves to the caregiver while they groom the child for molestation. I tried to assure her that this was not her fault. That her family was an innocent victim, that she was not complicit. That this disturbed boy acted on his own. Then she asked me if I ever got so mad at God. I answered truthfully that I have and that God and me have gotten into more than one Mexican standoff. I told her that He knows that she is mad and that He wants her to talk to Him about her anger, that He does not want her to keep silent and carry this alone. I told her that God can handle her anger, that He is big enough to take it and I begged her to give it to Him. Everything I said to her, I was saying to myself. I am angry at God too. I don't understand this kind of thing. Why doesn't He stop it? Why would He allow this to happen to any child, much less a disabled child? Lord have mercy. This world is so broken and there is nothing we can do to fix it.

Please pray for my friend and her precious family. Please pray for all of the people who are about to come into their lives as this ordeal really begins to get underway. Please pray for me.

This horrible incident has been so eye-opening for me. I have been forced to face some terrible truths about how vulnerable my children are. How wicked the world is. Inexplicably, unbearably wicked.

I do have to share one humorous moment that occurred in the midst of this horror show. After the policewoman had finished interviewing my friend's son, she asked him if there was anything he wanted to ask her. He solemnly answered, "Yes." We were all on the edge of our seats waiting for what he would ask. He looked her dead in the eye and asked, "What's your favorite flavor of ice cream?" And without missing a beat she replied, "Why chocolate of course. What about you?"

"I like chocolate too. With sprinkles."

We are pressed but not crushed,
perplexed but don't despair.
We are persecuted but not abandoned
We are no longer slaves
we are daughters and sons,
and when we are weak
we are very strong

And neither death nor life
nor present nor future
nor depth nor height
can keep us from the love of Christ
And the Word I need
is the Word that was
who put on flesh to dwell with us.
In the beginning....

~From Word, by Sara Groves
  • International Day of Prayer for Autism & Asperger's Syndrome