With shaky hands, I flipped off the ignition. My boots clicked loud along the breezeway causing eerie echoes to bounce off the walls. I pulled my coat tighter, clutching my handbag like a life buoy. Yank. Up. Courage.
Squaring my shoulders, I read the lettering on the double-glass doors “Support Advocacy & Resource Center”.
Although Mari’s wide smile and warm welcome confirmed the friendly woman I remembered, my heart hammered as I stammered through pleasantries. I ducked my head wiping the sweat forming on my upper lip, hoping she wouldn’t notice. You’ve interviewed dozens of people! My inner dialogue drowned out Mari’s cordial banter as I followed her through a narrow hallway.
She stopped and turned.
“I’m sorry, what?” I said.
“This is my office.”
She sat behind a desk and gestured to a seat across from her.
The trembling increased.
“I apologize, Mari. I don’t know why I’m so jittery.”
She smiled. “It’s okay. Now explain to me again why you wanted to talk with me?”
I swallowed hard and took a cleansing breath. “I’m writing a book.”
“Yes.” My face heated. “I wasn’t going to tell you that.”
“People tell me lots of things. It’s okay. Go on.”
“It’s a nonfiction book. Interviewing an expert is part of the process. I may use this information for an article and blog post, too. What I’m saying is, it will become public information.”
She stated her full name and official title of Forensic Child Interviewer. Her job includes working with law enforcement when there are allegations of child sex abuse.
While she has interviewed kids as young as toddlers, disclosure typically occurs during the “tween” years when puberty and its pressures begin. According to reports in the United States, one in three girls and one in five boys have been victimized. Some of the most common warning signs:
- Drug Use
“Do kids ever lie?” I asked.
“Nationally, the stats of kids who lie is 1%. An older kid might get in trouble for having sex so they fabricate a story. I haven’t seen any false allegations by younger kids. We’re very careful about false allegations.
“What about the perpetrators?”
“It’s not always who you think.” She strongly cautioned against boys as babysitters because there aren’t always premeditated motives just opportunity.
God, help me, please.
…”there are facts put together about what sex offenders want the public to know. It’s adults’ jobs to keep kids safe.”
She told me some case histories that were shocking and heartbreaking and while she continued talking in her easy way, my script lapsed.
“It’s sloppy,” I said.
“It’s okay.” She folded some colorful papers and slipped them into an envelope and added it to the stack of pamphlets she’d gathered for me. “These are for you.”
Puzzled, I nodded and thanked her.
While we walked the few blocks to lunch, I quietly confessed, “It happened to me.” As the words left my mouth, I startled. Pull yourself together!
She nodded and stated that everywhere and anywhere there are survivors who don’t talk about it.
All through our meal and on the way back, the familiar dread washed over me. In the resource library while perusing titles, I swayed and my vision blurred. Grabbing a chair, I fought to catch my breath.
“You okay?” Mari popped back into the room.
I nodded weakly.
Finally, I settled on a book (of all things!) for writers. As I checked it out, the woman recording my information said, “I didn’t even know we had this.”
When I got home, I hastily pulled the colorful papers out of the envelope:
- Child Victim’s Bill of Rights
- Where Can I Go for Help? www.wcsap.org
- Sexual Assault Trauma Syndrome
- Stress Reducers
- Positive Coping Skills
Coping skills for staying in the present
- Name five things you can see in the room with you.
- Name four things you can feel (“chair on my back” or feet on the floor”).
- Name three things you can hear right now (“clock ticking” or “traffic”).
- Name two things you can smell right now or two things you like the smell of.
- Name one good thing about yourself.
My breathing steadied and I relaxed.
“God, how am I supposed to help others when I still get rattled myself?” Then I remembered what I’d read in 2 Corinthians over and over again:
God comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.