It was close to Christmas 1986 when I suspected my children could be victims of traumatic abuse.
Desperate to know the truth, I retraced the times we visited the suspected perpetrator and during those visits how often did he have access to my children? Was he at home at the time his wife babysat? Were my children ever alone with him? Were there marks on their bodies? Did they behave differently? I started a journal and documented what I found. But it was one visit, I recalled that presented more troubling details than any other.
It was the summer of 1986. I traveled north several hundred miles with our three small children, to the town where I grew up. Family and friends were gathering there to celebrate my parent’s 25th wedding anniversary. My husband planned to join us later in the week due to his work schedule.
With plenty of eager relatives to babysit, I planned an afternoon at the movies and lunch with my high school friends—Top Gun recently hit the theaters.
Before going, I knelt down to say “goodbye” and to remind the kiddos “to be good.” But my 20 month old daughter, Hannah, resisted. She climbed in my lap, wrapped her arms around my neck, and wouldn’t let go.
I assured her I would be back soon.
“No Mommy. Don’t go.” She squeezed harder.
Being left with a babysitter was not a normal part of her daily routine and she was in an unfamiliar place. I attributed her behavior to separation anxiety, a subject I studied in one of my Early Childhood Development classes in college. Read more about separation anxiety in children. Click here.
“You’ll have fun playing with your brother.” That settled her down and she climbed out of my lap composed.
I stood up to say my final goodbye, but as I opened the door Hannah wedged herself between the door.
“No mommy, don’t go.”
My four year old son, Jordan, held her hand and pulled her back.
I knelt down again but this time asked, "What's wrong?"
“I know what’s wrong, mommy.” Jordan answered, “She’s scared.”
“Scared of what?” I stepped back into the house.
He dropped his head and fiddled with his hands. “She’s scared of…”
Jordan didn't finish his sentence because, Ivan one of our relatives, walked into the room and scolded the kids, “Let Mommy go spend time with her friends that she hasn’t seen for years.”
I hesitated, but Ivan continued, “Now go. You’re making your daughter more upset by prolonging the goodbye.”
Looking back, discernment and intuition tried to warned me--my daughter’s tone of voice and expression on her face that communicated her fears. But I reasoned her fear for separation anxiety. Why did reasoning her separation anxiety over power my parental discernment?
What are signs of child abuse?
Signs of abuse may include:
Sudden change in behavior, observable changes on their body—bruises, irritations and rashes, small punctures, scratches etc., resistance to being with a specific person. Communicating or drawing maltreatment. Learn more about signs of abuse, click here.
Reason to respond on behalf of the child; sexual assault of any kind is a crime against the child.
Call your local law enforcement juvenile detective.
Be safe. Be accurate. Be brave