Posted by: Marie | November 6, 2012

(743) One tough conversation – Part 4 of 5

Post #743
[Private journal entry written on Friday, December 9, 2011 at 11:30pm about a conversation between clients and me – continued from previous post]


Me: Abuse occurs within the best of families. What occurs behind closed doors is often very different from what is projected to the world. In fact, it is most typical for families in which abuse is occurring to be considered pillars of the community – they are usually considered to be “very good” families. The abuse is the family’s big secret. The kids and the more passive adults are groomed to protect the secret at all costs.

I cannot assume abuse is not occurring just because I perceive your family as healthy and loving. The bottom line is that I have no way of really knowing if abuse is occurring in your home or not. I had to assume the worst and act accordingly.

I grew up in a good family – my family truly was a good, Christian family – my parents had a stable marriage, we always had a clean house to live in and good food to eat, there was no drug or alcohol abuse . . . and yet, I experienced significant physical abuse. I asked for help, but no one responded. I am still dealing with the emotional trauma from that abuse. It could have been different for me.

The Light of Angkor Wat by Martin Chen

Research shows that children typically do not lie or exaggerate about abuse when the disclosure is spontaneous. However, research also shows that children are typically not believed and their disclosures are typically discounted and ignored.

I refuse to be party to that. There is no way in this world I can ignore or discount a disclosure. I would rather overreact than to fail to do enough.

Keith: We wondered if you had experienced abuse yourself . . . we wondered if that was a contributing factor in your decision to respond as you did.

Me: Yes . . . I’m sure my own history had a significant impact on my decisions . . . at least, it made it easier for me to decide to file the report with the police.

I have enough faith in the investigatory process to believe the truth – good or bad – would come to light. I have seen how effectively they can identify and address harmful situations when one is indicated. And, they have the ability to identify when a harmful situation likely does not exist. The path I took was the path that promised the best long-term result.

If Bailey had been telling the truth, I would have put her at greater risk if I would have come to you first.

Keith: I’m not sure what you mean . . .

Me: Let me give you an extreme example . . .

Let’s say a person is kidnapped, assaulted and held against her will for weeks. One day, she finds a window that is open an inch. When someone walks by the window, she calls out for help. The person stops and asks what is wrong; she tells him. He says he can’t help and he walks away.

Another person walks by, she calls out, he stops to see what she needs, and she tells him. He promises to help. He walks around to the front door and rings the doorbell. The kidnapper opens the door. The man tells him there is a woman hollering for help on the back side of the house. The kidnapper thanks the man and says he will take care of things.

Obviously, the kidnapper is going to punish the woman for asking for help. The woman learns that it is more painful to ask for help than it is to just suffer in silence.

The same thing happens when abuse is occurring in a home and someone tries to talk to the adults of the household about it. The children don’t receive help and they learn they are powerless and they have no voice.

When there is no abuse and there is a healthy family environment, it would be okay to talk to the adults in the household because they will take a disclosure by one of their children as a sign that something in the family needs attention. The child would not be punished, instead the child’s concerns would be taken seriously and the exchange would be an opportunity to care for and build up the child.

By all appearances, your family seems to be a healthy one and your children seem well-cared for . . . but appearances can be very deceiving. I don’t have the authority and skills needed to make that determination. So, I had to assume the worst. I had to assume Bailey was telling the truth, and that the only way to stop the abuse was to bring in the appropriate authorities.

And, here is something else to think about . . . sometimes, when a child is being abused by someone other than her parents, she will cry out for help but will name someone else who is “safer” as the abuser – for example, a parent – because she is too afraid of the actual abuser. Instead, she names an alternate person of whom she is less afraid. I had no way of knowing if we were dealing with that type of situation or not.

I’m assuming that you would want the abuse to come to light if that were the situation with Bailey . . . correct? In that case, I’m sure you would have wanted me to respond the way I did, even if you were falsely accused in the process . . . true?

Keith: Of course! Of course!

Jane: I hadn’t thought about that . . .

Me: Does that make some sense? Did I answer you guys’ question?

Keith: Yes . . . I’m not saying that I agree with you, but you’ve given us a lot of information to think about . . . your reasons are powerful and persuasive.

Jane: Most of what you are telling us is new information for me . . . I had no idea child abuse is such a pervasive issue . . . I guess we live sheltered lives. I’ve never given a second thought about those issues . . . it’s never hit this close to home before.

Me: The good news is that Bailey is now aware that she has the power to reach out and pull in help if she ever needs it in the future. She knows she is not helpless. This experience has started building a network of adults to whom she can reach out for dependable and effective help – including, but not limited to her parents.

Keith: Can I ask you something?

Me: Sure.

Keith: At this point, are you still concerned about the welfare of our children? Do you think we are abusive towards our kids?

Me: Of course, I’ll never know for sure. But, I feel reasonably sure that abuse is not occurring within your home. This conversation has gone a long way towards moving me to that conclusion.

Keith: That means a lot to me. Thank you.

Me: You are most welcome. And, I appreciate that you guys have listened carefully to what I had to say. I appreciate that you are trying very hard to understand my motivation.

Jane: Well, this has been a very difficult situation to handle . . . but, I have to acknowledge that the system worked . . . our children are safe and the truth came out. We were vindicated. And, we learned a lot about something we probably should know more about for the sake of our children.

Me: True . . .

Jane: By the way, Bailey admitted that she lied to you . . . she said that she was just trying to get out of practicing piano.

Me: I wondered if that was the case. That was the first thing that ran through my mind when she said it. I just couldn’t take a chance that she was telling the truth.

Jane: Of course.

[Continued in the next post . . . ]


  1. Wow, this is amazing … it’s so great that they were open-minded about what you had to say. And the fact that you had this conversation with them might make a huge difference to a child in the future — not their kid, but maybe another child whom they will be able to advocate for in a way they didn’t understand previously.

    • Hey, David –

      I hadn’t thought about that . . . that they might turn around and use the information to help some other child . . . wow . . . neat . . .

      – Marie

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