Monday, May 19, 2008


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.


  1. Oh My, that is just terrible. And you are definitely in a delicate situation.

    Maybe your daughter can encourage her friend by telling her that she will go WITH her to tell her parents or the school counselor?

    Someone has to say something...who knows who that man will hurt next.

  2. Eso que le sucedio a la amiga de tu hija pasa con mucha frecuencia, a mi me pasó. Uno le tiene miedo a causar problemas entre la familia. En mi caso le tuve miedo a que me regañaran por no decirlo cuando sucedió ya que mi mamá siempre me decía que cualquier cosa que me sucediera se lo podía decir, sentía que la había defraudado.

    Tienes una hija fabulosa. Espero, por el bien de la niña, que sea lo suficientemente fuerte como para pedir ayuda. Ahora posiblemente le esté afectando, pero una vez que llegue a la adolescencia será peor, deseará morir y posiblemente lo intente.

    Muy pocas personas conocen todo lo que sufrimos las víctimas de abuso sexual. Pero una vez el daño está hecho lo esencial es buscar ayuda de un psicólogo y contar con el apoyo de los padres. Cuando mis papás se enteraron, hace cerca de dos años y medio, me abrazaron, besaron, lloraron junto a mí y me dijeron que no había sido mi culpa y que me amaban y que siempre podía contar con ellos. Su apoyo fue muy importante para mí.

    Ojalá y tu hija logre convencerla. Le deseo mucho éxito.

  3. Gracias por compartir tu historia y perspectiva, ilusión Optica. Yo siento que tengo que hacer algo. Le pedí a Paula que le pregunte hoy de nuevo a su amiga si quiere que yo hable con su mamá. Ayer Paula se lo preguntó, y la niña dijo "maybe", así que yo creo que es posible que diga que sí eventualmente.

  4. It is terrible, Meleah. It is a good idea for Paula to suggest that maybe she can go with her to the school counselor.

    I am hoping that telling Paula is the first step in this girl's healing process. I hope she either goes to the counselor or opens up to me and lets me contact her mom. We'll see what happens.

  5. I think meleah's suggestion is a good one -- to go with the girl to a counselor or her parents. I think it's a really good sign that this girl decided to open up -- and says something special about your daughter that this girl chose to confide in her -- and something special about your relationship that your daughter came to you.

  6. Ingrid, este relato me ha llevado a las lágrimas. Cada vez que me entero de que un niño es abusado sexualmente siento un asco enorme. Esto es horroroso. Tu nena es admirable y muy madura, ojalá pueda lograr que la amiguita hable. Hay que ayudar a esa niña!!!

    Un abrazo grande para ambas,


  7. oh my. Bless her heart for telling Paula. and I am so glad that Paula confided in you.
    I agree that something has to be done. Maybe Paula can convince her to talk to you about it.
    so many kids are worried that their parents will be mad for not telling sooner. In fact some molesters tell the child that if they haven't told anyone about it, it must mean they wanted it. :( it is so sad.
    It is very important to help the child understand that it isn't their fault.

    Not only does this poor girl need some help. This man needs to be stopped.

    Hugs Ingrid. what a hard thing.

  8. This is such an awful situation, and must be so, so difficult for you to know what to do while respecting the young girl's privacy and feelings. I'm trying to place myself in this girl's parents' shoes and consider what I would want done. I would want to know immediately. I think at this point you almost have a moral (maybe legal too?) obligation to act. Would it be appropriate to approach the school counselor with this information, making it clear that you're not accusing anyone just yet, but only responding to what's come to your attention? I'd be careful about going directly to the mother/father first only because you don't have a relationship with them and may not know what their reaction would be. (I'm thinking vigilante justice.) The young girl needs some help and the man who did this to her needs to be held accountable and needs to be stopped--if in fact he has done this. Oh, it's a hard one! And you'll probably never know if you did the right thing, no matter what you do.