Posted by: Marie | November 5, 2012

(742) One tough conversation – Part 3 of 5

Post #742
[Private journal entry written on Friday, December 9, 2011 at 11:30pm about a conversation between clients and me – continued from previous post]


Jane: Oh, my . . . I had no idea that she what she said was so dramatic . . . I can see why it raised an alarm for you. I’m glad you told us that – it would shake me up, too, if a child told me that.

Me: Thank you for acknowledging that. It was a very difficult choice for me . . . I knew what I had to do, but it was very difficult to actually do it. It was not an action I took frivolously.

I recognized that it was going to create pain for your entire family . . . regardless if my report was substantiated or not. I recognized that it would likely destroy the relationship between your family and me – that it would cost me business and revenue. However, protecting a child is far more important to me than preventing discomfort or saving a relationship or retaining a source of revenue. I’ll gladly give up some revenue if it means protecting a child from abuse.

The Tea Garden by Martin Chen

Jane: We had come to that same conclusion about you . . . we were very sure that you didn’t do this to be mean or to create trouble . . . we concluded that you did something that was very difficult for you to do. We decided that you must have really good reasons.

We just disagreed with how you handled it.

Me: It is easy for me to see why you might disagree with how I handled it.

Jane: And, by the way . . . thank you for caring about our daughter . . . our children . . . that much.

Me: That’s easy to do! Your children are precious!

Jane: Thank you!

Let me ask you this . . . did you observe something in our home that would cause you to suspect abuse . . . something beyond what Bailey said to you?

Here’s where my question is coming from . . . I believe we are very open people. We routinely invite people into our home – many people routinely observe how we operate as a family. And, how we operate in front of other people is exactly how we operate when we are alone as a family unit. We don’t have secrets.

It seems to me that, when Bailey said what she said, her words would be at odds with what you have observed of our family dynamic. It seems the weight of your general observations would offset the offensiveness of Bailey’s words.

Am I way off-base with that? I mean, did you observe something about our family dynamic that concerns you? I know we have problems like any other family, but I don’t think our issues rise to the level of abuse by any stretch of the imagination . . .

Me: Actually, no, I haven’t seen anything else that would indicate abuse. In fact, when I filed the report, I stressed that to the officer. I told him that Bailey’s words were discordant with what I have observed about your family. I told him that I wondered if she was exaggerating or making it up.

Jane: Then, why couldn’t you just come and talk to us instead of filing the report . . . or, at least, before you filed the report? If, after you talked to us, you still had grave concerns, you could have still filed the report. Why didn’t you give us chance to have this conversation before you contacted the police? We would have gladly had this conversation with you even if the police weren’t involved.

Me: There are several reasons for that . . .

First and foremost, I’m not qualified to conduct that type of investigation. I am trained on how to handle the initial disclosure, but I’m not trained to handle an investigation beyond that point.

Sometimes people try to be helpful in situations like this . . . sometimes they try to get more information . . . to confirm that abuse is occurring . . . by asking the child a lot of questions. Because they don’t understand how to conduct such an interview, they end up asking leading questions and planting ideas in a child’s mind.

When that happens, that child is a far less reliable witness. Any testimony the child provides is tainted. There is no way to rewind or undo that effect. The child’s testimony can never be fully trusted.

And, as a result, innocent people – the adults – get blamed for things they didn’t do. Or, if abuse is really happening, very little can be done about it.

When Bailey disclosed to me, I asked a few questions so I could get a better idea of what type of abuse – and the extent of the abuse – we might be dealing with here. I needed to confirm that she really was crying out for help – that I didn’t just misunderstand a passing comment.

I’ve had training on how to do that . . . I kept my questions very open-ended and I asked a minimal number of questions – I asked only what I needed to ask to confirm I had a reportable situation. Then, I stopped gathering information and turned over what I had to the authorities.

And, actually, I have no authority to ask more questions than that . . . to do so would be an invasion of privacy.

Because of the way I handled her disclosure, Bailey’s testimony was not tainted. Her interview was conducted by people qualified to do the interviewing . . . and that allowed the truth to come out. Had I asked her leading questions and planted ideas in her head, the results of Bailey’s interview may have been quite different.

As it turned out, the results of her interview are considered trustworthy . . . and within the legal realm, that is good news for you guys. It provides you a level of protection and exoneration you may not have had otherwise.

Jane: I hadn’t thought about it from that angle . . .

I hear what you are saying about your not being qualified to conduct an investigation. I agree with you . . . you shouldn’t be asked to conduct an investigation. But, was an investigation really necessary? Couldn’t you tell that there is no way we would do that to our kids?

[Continued in the next post . . . ]

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