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Name: margalit
Location: Massachusetts, United States Professional writer, educational advocate, opinionated ultra liberal mother of 18 year old twins, living life in the slow lane due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and diabetes.

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Friday, June 22, 2007

Hypothetically, a crisis is in motion

You know how hypothetically you know something that you need to act on, but hypothetically you feel completely conflicted about acting on such hypothetical information? As in, I have something to talk about but, hypothetically, it's not really real, ahem.

My kid has a best friend. This person has been a best friend for a couple of years. My kid spends a lot of time at best friend's house, but best friend is rarely if ever allowed to spend time at our house. Or any else's house, for that matter. It isn't us, it's BF's family, which appears a bit sketchy. Mom is out of the picture for salacious reasons, dad and dad's mom are raising BF. OK, got that so far?

BF has a lot of issues. Self-esteem is at the top of the pile, but there are many others. I happen to like BF, but when I see BF I'm often telling BF motherly advice that seems to be totally missing from BF's life. If BF, for example, is feeling poorly, BF will call me for advice. BF asks for school advice from me sometimes. BF doesn't seem to have any adult advisors to turn to.

Today, my kid was very very upset most of the day. At dinner, my kid was so upset that my kid ran upstairs in tears. This is not a usual occurrence. I sent other kid away, and talked to my kid, and what came out really disturbed me.

BF is being physically abused at home. BF's father hits, evidently a lot. Grandma is unable to help because, hypothetically, he hits her too. It turns out that BF's father is a bit off, not just sketchy, but clearly not mentally healthy. Which kinda makes sense, although my kid has kept most of this information private and has not shared this with me, which is unusual. It just fits in with all the strange information I've heard from my kid over the past couple of years. One week BF is moving cross country, next they aren't. One week BF's dad has a new business, next week, not so much. Crazy mother, crazy father, history of abuse. Adds up to a very sketchy family.

The catalyst for all this is that BF had a 'dinner date' tonight with BF's love interest and love interest's parents. They tried to call BF to solidify plans and BF kept hanging up and saying that it wasn't a good time to talk. BF was crying during each phone call. So love interest went to BF's house to take BF to dinner, and BF's dad was hitting her right in front of love interest. Love interest scuttles off with parents, who do nothing.

Love interest calls my kid in tears, my kid admits that the abuse has been known for some time to love interest, and then love interest talks to his/her parents, who don't know what to do. So they do nothing.

I'm from an abusive family. My father beat the shit out of me as a kid. Often. I know what it did to me. I know how dangerous and dysfunctional it is to grow up in a family like this. Like my father, BF's dad has the "don't tell anyone what goes on inside our house" policy, which, although common, is incredibly damaging. It teaches mistrust.

OK, deep breath here.

I need to think through what I should do with this information. My options are, hypothetically:

  1. Call police and have them go to house next time there appears to be physical abuse
  2. Call DSS and report abuse to them anonymously
  3. Call father and tell him I know what's going on and if it doesn't stop I will involve DSS
  4. Take BF aside and tell BF to contact me the next time there is abuse so I can call for help
  5. Talk to Grandma and tell her I know what's going, etc.
  6. Do nothing, mind my own business, and let my kid suffer with BF

Obviously, all of these options are difficult and will involve some ugliness on our part. First, hypothetically, the only people that know about the hypothetical abuse are my kid, me, love interest, and now love interest's parents. It will be VERY obvious who will report this family if I do it. And I do fear repercussions. This isn't a stable family, and in the time I've 'known' them (I don't know them at all) I've had serious doubts about letting my kid remain involved.

My kid reports that BF wants friends over all the time because Dad is not abusive if other kids are in the house. Thus, my kid has never hypothetically witnessed the physical abuse. Because my kids are not up on hitting, having not experienced that themselves, they aren't great judges of what is and what isn't physical abuse. But because BF is virtually a prisoner in their home, the abuse isn't easily observable by other parents that might be suspicious and looking for it. So I question restricting my kid from BF's house, even though I'd much rather my kid not be involved. But BF needs someone safe to talk to, right?

What I do know is that this is a situation that is untenable for me. Having been that abused kid, I can't just sit back and allow it to happen as the adults in my life did to me. I need to tell someone. I'm going to discuss this with our family therapist this upcoming week, but I'd like some words of wisdom here. What do you think I should do, and what would you do?

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14 Comments:

Blogger JaniceNW said...

Tough issue. Having been a preschool teacher, a lifeguard, a swim teacher, and volunteered at church and school district I would feel obligated to report this. I happen to know several people who work at DSHS here and I think I'd hypothetically ask their advice but I'd tell someone.

I hope you don't mind if I pray for you to have wisdom and discernment.

Janice

23/6/07 1:15 AM  
Blogger theotherbear said...

How dreadful, but how lucky you found out so you can do something.

From the actions you listed, I would do 1, 2, and 4.

Good luck.

23/6/07 1:47 AM  
Blogger OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

Thgis is a really difficult situation, Margalit...As I read all the options you laid out I thought most of them were appropriate options, though, very difficult in the possible reprucussoion department.
I will be very interested to read what your therapistfeels about this....This is a really tough problem...I am sorry I have no words of wisdom...I wish I did.

23/6/07 3:01 AM  
Blogger boogiemum said...

I would suggest 1 & 2. If you talk to the father of g-ma they will just tell you what you want to hear and take it out on BF later. If you have BF call you for help during abuse and father finds out once again BF will probably get it for that. If you are seriously concerned for your family if you report, than I would also file a restraining order.

23/6/07 6:17 AM  
Blogger paper napkin said...

I vote for 4, and 5. Then you can take it from there.

23/6/07 6:41 AM  
Blogger sarah cool said...

Oh, dang. That situation sucks, all around.

Obviously, I can tell that you're going to report it, but I guess a good question is how to best protect YOUR interests (ie: your family) after reporting it.

I'm 26, so my advice will consist solely of "yeah, talk to your family therapist, good idea." But I wanted to say that I'm glad you're reporting this, because that little girl needs your help in that way. Way to go beyond the typical caring (demonstrated by love interests' parents) of "oh, that's awful" and actually taking steps to protect this little girl.

Hypothetically, of course.

23/6/07 10:35 AM  
Blogger Jill said...

Damn. Like you, I come from an abusive family. My step-father was VERY abusive, and like most abusive homes, we had the don't tell anyone what is going on inside this house policy, also.

Looking at your options, right off the bat-some of these aren't even options in my book, and I will explain my reasoning on that.

Number3-If you tell BF's father, chances are this will cause MUCH more harm than good. He will be PISSED, and who will pay for it? BF, certainly. Maybe he will move them, so that you won't know where they are, maybe he will threaten you or your children. Not an option, in my book.

Number5-Grandma KNOWS what is going on, possibly being abused herself. If she was able and/or willing to do something about it, she should have already done so. If she is being abused, she isn't speaking out, and if you talk to her-she may tell BF's father. If she isn't being abused, she is standing by and letting this happen to BF anyway...she has a reason to keep this quiet. Not an option, in my book.

Number6-For every reason under the sun, NOT AN OPTION. And BF's love interests parents? Should wake up. I remember many days and nights that I would pray someone would help me. Right now, BF may not be able to see through the Pain/shame/guilt, and she is scared TO DEATH. If you tell her you want to tell someone, chances are she will BEG you not to tell. That is just the way it is when you are being abused.

One and two? You should run, not walk-RIGHT NOW, and do both of these things. You know what it is like to suffer at the hands of an abusive parent. You have the chance to stop this girls pain. Will there be repercussions? Possibly. But isn't the chance that you can save this girl's life worth it? Without a doubt.

I am sorry BF is having to deal with this, and also sorry that your child is seeing her BF suffer. You already know what the right thing to do is, Margalit. You already know. Keep being strong, lady!

23/6/07 12:34 PM  
Blogger ~Cathy~ said...

Wow... I have to agree with the others that this should definitely be reported. I wouldn't want to be in your shoes. But even more than that, I wouldn't want to be in BF's shoes. Someone needs to stand up for her.

Michele sent me...

23/6/07 2:55 PM  
Blogger margalit said...

OMG, it gets worse and worse as the day goes on. Now that the dam is open, all this information is flowing that is making me literally sick to my stomach. You can't believe what I've been hearing.

I made the call. Anonymously. It was terrible. My heart is broken.

23/6/07 3:41 PM  
Blogger Thumper said...

You may have saved that kid's life, in every sense there is.

23/6/07 4:31 PM  
Blogger JaniceNW said...

Big HUGS for your bravery. It was the right thing to do.

23/6/07 6:24 PM  
Blogger margalit said...

What a huge mess this is turning out to be. Dad is ballistic (shocking, huh). Love interest is gone to camp in another state. I've spoken to his parents, who were HIGHLY upset by what happened, and agreed to back up a call to DSS. I guess the police and DSS showed up, and Dad had to deal with them. Then he called Love Interest's mom's cell phone (how he got the # is still a mystery) and screamed at her so loudly that they had to leave the restaurant where they were having dinner. She was very upset.

Then he started blaming this kid and that kid and being a real jerk (but never called us), took away BFs phone and is evidentally reading BF's text messages. Meanwhile, My kids friend got scared and texted BF saying friend made the call (which is ridiculous, if you think about it) so BF's dad would get off all the other kid's backs. Boyfriend is leaving for the summer so Dad can't really do anything to harm him.

We're VERY worried about BF, now that the dam has opened up I've heard all sorts of sordid things that I didn't know before, and the more we put things together the scarier it is. It's serious abuse. Not just physical.

It is so scary and intimidating. I pray that DSS sees through the family bullshit, of which they are experts, and will help this child.

Thanks for your support, everyone. I could really use the hugs. I'm freaking out.

23/6/07 10:24 PM  
Blogger margalit said...

An anonymous by request poster said:

I came from an abusive father situation too and for many many years, no one around us (my mother and I) did anything. And we had such a large family, we could have moved to any number of places, but my grandparents were old school. They would say to my mother, "You made your bed, now you must lie in it..." Which was the euphemistic way of saying, "Oh well, deal with it. Our job is done here." As a child, I was desperate for someone to intervene, but also terribly afraid, as was my mother. I attempted suicide at age 9. We all went to therapy with varying results (my father pretty much stayed the same.) Finally, after my mom went thru 7 years of therapy and I was a fed up 16-year-old who just wished he would die, she finally had the strength to tell him to leave and started divorce. These events were set in motion by one of my final beatings over my dad's jealousy that I wanted my boyfriend to take me to my orthodontist appointment. He was hitting me, my mom tried to intervene, he started hitting her, I was afraid for her, I shifted his attention back to me so he would hit me instead, because I could take it, etc. We went upstairs to my great grandmother's apt, where my mom called my uncle, who called the police. Then, we left the house. The law, unfortunately, dictated that my dad had 90 days to find a new place to live. After about 30-45 days of weekly social worker visits, it was determined that it was safe for me to go back home. (ha!) I was to report any new abuse. I only had to live thru another 45 days of him so I tried not to rock the boat -- even when there was some further abuse, I said nothing and waited. Finally it was done, but I have lived with the damage for many years now and only have started to feel healthy in my relationships in the last 5+/-? years (I am 37).

That all said, I would definitely not do #3!! It will only cause more rage, internal secrecy measures and family isolation which will probably increase the abuse. There is no need to engage him in a direct one-on-one conflict.

The bottom line is the man is going to be enraged no matter what you do. Don't worry about who he thinks reported him -- he's going to blame anyone and everyone because he is irrational. I would do #1, #2, #4 & (conditionally) #5 if you think the grandma can be trusted not to tell him everything -- which she may do as a mother out of loyalty to her son.

The most important thing is #4, then #1. And really, to help BF believe it is possible to escape this kind of nightmare, she will need to know that there is someplace safe to go. The idea of Foster Care often discourages kids from opening their mouths. If you are able, it would be great if you could offer to take her (and Grams?) in if the shit hits the fan. Possibly consult the close friends' parents so that you could have a meeting and create some sort of plan for sharing the load? (Revolving guest rooms are a much more stable environment than a home of terror!) You can DO SOMETHING -- you just have to decide what you can handle and ASK FOR HELP! The community can often pull together in amazing ways -- it just takes one person to swallow his/her fear and get the ball rolling...others will follow!

Be prepared that the man may turn violent toward you and those helping. Be vigilant and careful... and call the police every time so that this behavior is documented when it happens and you keep your family protected. It is frightening, but it is a mixed blessing -- the more he acts out, the better chance he has of getting arrested and kept away from his family -- which is better for them. Plus, it makes authorities more assured of the actions that must be taken the more evidence there is. Have everyone involved keep a log of times, dates, events, and even pictures if possible. The more documentation there is, the easier it is to build a case of abuse. This is invaluable to helping someone in this situation.

24/6/07 1:07 AM  
Blogger utenzi said...

Man, that's a rat's nest for sure. My girlfriend grew up in an environment like that and she'd call it in. Definitely. But she doesn't have kids and isn't as open for retribution as you are, Margalit. Given your circumstances, there's no easy answer.

24/6/07 6:54 PM  

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