By A. Hosack & K. Hecht, & P. Berman
No! STOP! You are hurting my mommy! STOP!
Larry is punching Claire in the face and stomach. Davy is crouching behind the couch watching. He is screaming at the top of his lungs, but Larry doesn’t pay any attention. Davy is so scared his heart is pounding. He wants to disappear behind the couch. But he can’t tear his eyes away from his mommy and that bad man who is hitting her.
My mommy needs help. I must protect my mommy!
Davy is terrified but he rushes out from behind the couch and gets between his mommy and Larry. In an instant, Larry is picking Davy up and throwing him across the room. Davy hits the wall and then drops to the floor. He hurts all over. His groaning pulls Claire’s attention away from Larry’s face. She must help her Davy. She had been passively standing still against the wall as Larry punched her. Now, she bends over and runs at Larry, hitting him hard in the stomach with her head. He is startled and off balance.
As Larry stumbles backward, he trips over a chair that has fallen over. He falls hard, hitting his head on the wall; in a daze, Larry isn’t moving. Claire rushes over to Davy, picks him up and runs with him to the back door. They are outside in an instant. She runs with him into the dark woods at the back of the house. She has no idea where to go but she is going to get there as fast as possible.
Larry has staggered to his feet and is following them out the back door. He is screaming at her to come back or he will make her sorry. Claire is getting winded. She can’t keep running while carrying Davy. She searches the woods with her eyes and finally sees what she is looking for; a good hiding place. It is a big tree surrounded by low bushes.
“My Davy, you need to crawl into these bushes and hide against that big tree. You will be safe there. I am going to confuse the bad man, so he won’t have any idea where you are. Don’t worry. I am going to be sure he doesn’t touch you again. You stay here. Don’t come out till I come and call you.” Davy is terrified, he tries to hold on to his mommy. “Mommy hide here with me.” “I can’t Davy, my clothes will show through the bushes. I will come back. Keep quiet. Stay down.” Claire gently pushes Davy securely into his hiding place and then takes off into the woods.
The bad man is coming. Where is my mommy? She said to stay here. Where is my mommy?
Davy is well hidden from view, but he can see through the bushes. Larry is stumbling towards him but not looking down where Davy is hiding. Davy puts his hands over his own mouth to keep himself from screaming.
That bad man is looking for my mommy. Don’t let him find my mommy!
Larry stumbles and looks down as he catches himself. He sees Davy’s eyes staring at him from behind the bush. He pulls the bushes apart and grabs for Davy who begins to kick and scream at the top of his lungs.
Claire hears Davy screaming. She rushes into his room and turns on the light. She strokes his hair and says, “my Davy, wake up. You are safe. You are having a bad dream.” Davy’s eyes pop open. He looks terrified. Claire gathers him up in a big hug, “you are safe.” “Mommy, it was the bad man. I won’t have him as my daddy, I won’t.” Claire doesn’t know what to say so she just strokes his hair and tells him over and over that he is safe.
Davy buries his face in Claire’s chest. “I don’t want to see that bad man. Please don’t make me ever see that bad man.” Claire’s heart hurts. Her dreams of a happy family with Larry, are pushed even further into the land of the impossible. Even telling Davy about how Larry saved her, didn’t keep him from having another nightmare about him. She needed help with this. She didn’t want her Davy having dreams like this.
“Davy, I am your mommy. It is my job to keep you safe. Mr. and Mrs. Carson are also here to keep you safe. Everyone in this house loves you.” After a few more minutes, Davy falls asleep in her arms. Claire gently tucked him back under his covers and then went downstairs to think.
Davy’s experiences with Larry were traumatic. While he has been kept safe, the adults in his life assumed he would just “forget” all about what happened. Traumatic experiences aren’t just forgotten. Davy will need help understanding what happened that scary day with Larry and learn how to deal with the thoughts and feelings he gets about that day.
Davy is having nightmares because he has experienced the trauma of seeing his mother abused and being abused himself. However, children don’t have to be traumatized to have nightmares. Strategies have been developed that can help children feel safe in the dark and process their nightmares, so they won’t be afraid to go to sleep at night. To read more about these go to: