Posted by: Marie | November 4, 2012

(741) One tough conversation – Part 2 of 5

Post #741
[Private journal entry written on Friday, December 9, 2011 at 11:30pm about a conversation between clients and me – continued from previous post]

—————-

Me: (Looking at Keith) I can imagine it was shocking and embarrassing for you to receive that phone call! Your question as to why I went to the police first is a very fair one . . . the answer is complicated . . . I’ll do my best to explain my reasons . . .

I don’t know that my reasons will make sense to you, but I’ll do my best to explain . . .

Keith: Can I jump into the conversation? I have some things I’d like to say . . .

(Keith is a gentle, quiet man – a man of few words – so, I was glad when he piped up. Jane and I both quickly exclaimed, “Of course! Please do!”)

Photo by Martin Chen

Keith: When I received that phone call, it felt like my world turned upside down. I have always thought of myself as a really great dad. My identity is that I am a husband, a father . . . a true family man. My family is my whole world.

I could not imagine what in the world I could have done – what someone could have witnessed me doing – that would lead someone to think I was abusing my children in any way.

My sense of purpose and direction – and safety – came apart. In an instance, everything I knew to be true about my life and my world became tainted. Suddenly, I had to be afraid of all the trusted people in my inner circle. I couldn’t imagine who would accuse me of child abuse.

If someone else were abusing my kids, I definitely would want to know. I would move heaven and earth to protect them. But, what can I do when I’m the one being accused . . . what can I do when I know for absolute sure I am not abusing my kids?

(Emotion sneaking into his voice) I am powerless . . . my kids could be taken away from me and it would be outside my control. How can I fight against something like that?

It is devastating to me to think that someone actually believes I am capable of abusing my own children.

Me: (Once again fighting, unsuccessfully, to stop my own tears of empathy) I can only imagine what that must have been like for you. I am so sorry that things unfolded in that way for you . . .

Keith: I have the same question for you . . . why did you handle it that way? You could have just come to us directly . . .

Me: Your question is a very fair one . . . I knew you might be asking me that question, so over the past few days, I’ve been working to prepare an answer . . . I’ll do my best to explain my reasons . . . I ask that you be patient with me, please, as I haven’t gotten my thoughts well organized yet . . .

Let me start with this . . . are you familiar with “mandated reporter” laws?

Jane: No . . .

Me: Were you aware that I was a school bus driver here in [our town] for several years?

Jane: No . . .

Me: I resigned about a year ago. I used that income to pay my bills as I was establishing my piano lessons business.

Jane: Wow! Okay . . .

Me: Colorado state law assigns a label of “mandated reporter” to anyone who is an official or employee of a public or private school – as a bus driver, I was included in that category.

What that means is that, if a mandated reporter sees ANY sign of possible abuse, he or she must immediately – and formally – report it to the appropriate authorities. The threshold for reporting is pretty low . . . the person is required to report if even just a hint of abuse comes to light.

The system is set up to filter through valid and invalid reports . . . authorities watch for “big” singular signs of abuse and/or a pattern of “smaller” signs of abuse. For example, a pattern may emerge when multiple people report similar “smaller” signs concerning the same child. That’s why mandated reporters are encouraged to report even small signs.

Jane: Wow, I didn’t know all of that . . . I had no idea a system like that was in place.

How do you know what signs to watch for?

Me: Every year, we were given training of how to recognize signs of abuse, how to handle a disclosure, and how to file a report.

Jane: I see . . .

Me: So . . . because I’m no longer an employee of the school, and because Bailey’s disclosure occurred outside my employment with the school, I am not required to report what happened to authorities – at least, I’m not required by law to do so.

However . . . if a child on my bus would have said to me what Bailey said to me, I would have been required to file a report . . . it would have been clearly categorized as an outcry – a cry for help, which is considered a “significant” sign of abuse.

Knowing that, my conscience would not allow me to not file a report with the authorities. Even though I’m not required by law to file a report, my ethics required me to do so.

Jane: May I ask what Bailey said to you? No one has told us . . . not exactly, anyway . . .

Me: Oh, sure! I figured the police would have told you that.

Jane: No . . they didn’t even tell us who filed the report. I guess they don’t like to disclose that information if they don’t have to . . . it was Bailey who gave us that information.

Me: Oh . . . I wasn’t sure how all of that was going to unfold . . .

(I described what Bailey had said, including the exact phrases she had used.)

[Continued in the next post . . . ]


Responses

  1. This continues to be absolutely fascinating. It’s interesting, too, how people don’t realize why reporting protocols are in place the way they are … that genuine abusers, if confronted by a private party, are very likely to punish the child, whereas if the abusers are confronted by police or some type of civic authority, the child is less likely to suffer fallout from the disclosure.

    • Hey, David –

      I think I should have taken you with me! You are so good with your words!

      – Marie


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