My almost 10 year-old daughter and I bicker constantly. We also love each other fiercely. I have always tried to encourage her to talk to me about important stuff. As she gets older, I tell her that she doesn't have to share every single bit of information with me, but to always tell me about things that are serious or may put her in danger. And she does confide in me a lot. I hope it continues to be that way as she gets older.
She tells me about things that happen in school, episodes in the lives of friends or classmates that cause concern, sadness or shock. Two years ago she was in the same class as a boy whose father had killed his mother by shooting her in the head right in front of the boy. The father was in jail and the boy was being raised by his grandmother. You can imagine what an angry and confused boy he was. She has also seen a boy being teased mercilessly by other boys because he is effeminate. She's had a girl tell her that she can't be friends with someone who does not go to church. And so on and so forth.
Usually when she tells me these things I try to put them in perspective and help her learn something from them. We talk about right and wrong, about compassion, about tolerance. Yesterday's revelation, however, has left ME shocked and trying to figure out what to do next. One of her friends from our neighborhood, who lives in the street adjacent to ours, confided in her yesterday. And what she told my daughter is the kind of secret that one can't sit on.
My daughter's friend told her that she had been raped by her grandmother's ex-husband from the time she was a baby until she was 8 years old. Since then, her grandma divorced the guy, so he is out of the picture now. But for years she was molested by this man, and she has not told anybody in her family about it. It seems my daughter is the first person she has told about this, and she swore her to secrecy. But Paula knew this was something critical, so she came to me for advice. I will not go into specifics, but based on some of the details Paula relayed, it is obvious that she is not making this up.
Now I am sitting here, with this knowledge, wondering what to do about it, how exactly to proceed. I do not know her parents, so I do not know how to approach them. But I know that if it was my daughter who was in this situation, I would want to know. So I am trying to figure out what is the best next step.
This is what I have done so far. I have asked Paula to be completely discreet and not comment about this with any of her friends in school. She was not planning on telling anybody, but it is good to reinforce the message. Next, I asked her to encourage her friend to talk to her parents. In fact, that was the first thing Paula suggested when her friend made her revelation yesterday, but her friend is afraid her parents will be mad at her. My daughter kept on telling her it wasn't her fault, that her parents will not be mad, that the person they will be mad at is the grownup who took advantage of her. I was very proud of Paula for this.
I also asked Paula to do is suggest to her friend that if she doesn't feel comfortable talking to her parents yet, that she should talk to the school counselor. I know the counselor would be bound by law to notify her parents. Last, I said to Paula to ask her friend if she wanted me to talk to the mom. As I said before, I do not know her, but I can reach out as a fellow mother. I just do not want to do it unless the little girl feels comfortable with me doing that.
My heart breaks for this girl. She seems very well-adjusted, if a little shy. She does not show any signs of anger or inappropriate sexuality. She is a normal kid, interested in playing with my daughter, riding her bike, hanging out. And yet, she cries herself to sleep every night, confused and scared by the memory of the horrors she went through. Something needs to be done.