By K. Hecht, P. Berman & A. Hosack
I still want Larry but…I feel less ashamed of it. I understand more why it’s so hard to let go.
Claire was back in her favorite spot in the woods behind the Carsons’ house. She had filled another five pages of her notebook. She had started a habit of spending twenty “mindful” moments after she did this. Trying to let her memories float through her head, recognizing the positive and negative ones but not judging herself for why she had these feelings.
Claire has written down more positive memories of Larry. She realized, they all involved when they had sex and Larry had been gentle afterwards. Gentle touches felt so good. Claire recognized now how much she was aware of her skin during the day. She wondered if it was because of all the times it had been torn and battered; aching all day, letting her know she was covered in it. Larry’s gentle touches had felt so healing to Claire’s tortured skin. Davy’s gentle kisses good night also had this wonderful feeling to them.
It makes sense that gentle touches feel good. I can get more of this “good touching.” I don’t have to tolerate violent touches to get them.
Her phone alarm went off, mindfulness time was over. Claire felt relaxed but tired. She had done a lot of work in the woods- really exploring her life. She still wanted Larry, but she wondered if this was because before, he was the only one who gave her gentle touches that warmed her heart. She wondered if she could start being more aware of the gentle touches Davy gave her and the warm hugs, she got from the Carsons? Maybe this would help ease her longing for Larry.
As she walked into the house, Claire thought a lot about the evening coming up and how much she was looking forward to sitting on the bench outside the house with the Carsons. Part of what she loved most was the feeling of beauty and peacefulness in the silence of the night. Her first few nights outside with the Carsons had been spooky- the darkness tended to trigger bad memories. As a child, night had been the loudest and scariest time.
Claire still shuddered whenever she remembered the times something had told her she had to get all the kids out of the house. She had somehow taught them to be completely silently whenever she had made this one gesture where she pointed sideways- it meant head out the back door. The backyard of the house was a huge field of weeds; it provided a natural haven for all living things trying to hide.
Sometimes her father, screaming abuse, would stagger drunkenly out into the weeds trying to find his kids, but the weeds grew thickly. Claire never hid them twice in the same spot because they left a compression in the weeds and her father might be able to scope out where they had been the next day. She had them lying flat in a pile cringing into the dirt. She maintained vigil, peeping through the weeds so she could tell if he was getting close. There had always come a time when he fell into the weeds, got up swearing at them, and then returned to the house.
Time would pass slowly waiting for a safe time to return to the house. The other kids would fall asleep, but Claire kept awake until she was sure her parents were dead to the world. Then, she would gently wake them up and lead them back into the house.
Claire could remember these events now without feeling overwhelmed. There would be a point where something in the memory triggered the old fear began to creep in; she would take deep breathes and pull herself out of it. She was safe now. It was such a wonderful, invisible thing, safety. She wanted Davy to grow up taking it for granted that he was loved and safe.
It’s an important sign of healing that Claire has learned how to regulate her fear and not be overwhelmed by her memories of abuse. But is it a good idea to take safety for granted? Statistics still show that the US has high rates of many forms of interpersonal violence. If everyone became an active bystander- and reported warning signs of interpersonal violence, we could help our friends, neighbors, and ourselves be safe. It isn’t always easy to know if something is dangerous or not. Consider reading this article about common criminal acts that harm others:
While most people call the police if they suspect something dangerous, if it involves acts of a parent or guardian against a minor child, child protective services should be contacted. In Pennsylvania, you can report, or anonymously report, that you suspect a child might be in danger by contacting childline. http://www.dhs.pa.gov/provider/childwelfareservices/childlineandabuseregistry/index.htm
You don’t need evidence; determining if the child is in danger is not your job. If you suspect danger to a child, you just need enough information to help the professionals find the child to make a safety assessment. If you only know an address, or a license plate- that can be enough. It is the job of Child Protective Services to determine if a child is being abused or neglected and needs help, if the family is not dangerous to their children but would benefit from some help, or if the reporter was just mistaken in thinking the child was at risk.