Over My Head

There is super casual neighborhood mothers page on Facebook that I belong to. Today someone else in the group posted an attachement to a letter written by a Mom accusing her babysitter of taking her 3 and 5 year old girls to the home of two male friends where they were separated from each other and sexually abused. 

It turns out I know the Mom and family. And from what I understand they have contacted the police and have been told there is nothing that can be done. 
The young woman had provided child care for at least one other mother in the thread. A long discussion ensued about the matter and several people weighed in to say it was inappropriate to have the conversation at all. We don’t know what happened, innocent until proven guilty, etc. 
I forwarded the letter to Z at work. He and I had a long talk and decided I should email the letter to neighborhood Moms we know. I did, I even included T’s preschool teacher. But I don’t know if it was the right thing to do. Am I participating in fear mongering? Is it responsible to share a pertinent situation with our neighbors, or is it irresponsible to spread rumors? 
I am really asking these questions. What do we do in this situation? What should we tell T? We haven’t even started talking about inappropriate touching. How do we bring it up without scaring the shit out of him?
And what is the right way to handle this if the police won’t help? Ultimately I decided that true or not I’d want to know that the issue was happening in our neighborhood. If the young woman and men are being falsely accused it is a terrible thing that could ruin their lives. If they did this I can’t wrap my mind around the fact that there is nothing the parents can do according to the police. A mother on the FB thread felt that sending the letter was an awful invasion of the privacy of the children who were suspected of being abused. But what is the alternative? Not to talk about it and risk it will happen again? 
I feel sick to my stomach. And completely and totally unprepared to deal with these issues as a parent. Friends, I am asking you, what do you think? What is the right thing to do? How to we protect our children? Today I am really scared. I don’t feel ready to handle this responsibility of leading people through this world where so many terrible things can happen. 
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16 thoughts on “Over My Head

  1. If you feel you could, maybe you and Z could talk to these people who were accused? But believe me, safe is better than sorry. We have one neighbor who has accused our across the street neighbor of abuse/wrongdoing in the past and she came to “warn me”. (Both have lived in the neighborhood for 40 years and have a history with each other.) I did a search of sex offenders, etc. and came up with nothing. I still talk to the neighbor who has been accused (actually it was neighbor's husband and/or son.) But I wouldn't send my kids over there by themselves.

  2. I don't know the specifics, but I vote for safe over sorry, in terms of alerting other parents who might have their kids in the woman's care and not know about the possible threat. When kids are involved, you need to know if there is a “heightened” threat in your neighborhood. On the other hand, I guess we need to be extra careful all the time regarding young children being supervised by others we don't know. Difficult situation, Karen. There is a program called “Kid Power” in our area–it might be somewhere in NY, as well. I did a parent-child workshop about “people safety” with my son at 3 years old and really liked the message. It was totally non-scary and gave him and me great tools, language to use in a lot of different people situations.

  3. I think you made the right decision, Karen. To me, over-communicating is better than under- or not communicating. I definitely would have done what you did. Sending the letter out was a wise choice, I think.

    I don't really have much to provide in the way of suggestions, however. I'm really confused as to why the police can't do anything? That doesn't sound right at all…

    I can't imagine having this talk with our almost three year old. She is so innocent. We are very protective of her and since we moved to a new area last year, she hasn't stayed alone with anyone that isn't family. I'm sure there are people who think that's too much but fortunately, we are her parents so we do what we think is best…not what they think is best.

    It's crushing, disgusting, and heart wrenching to think that these two girls already have their innocence taken away. It's awful.

  4. Thanks for your thoughts, R. We have had sitters for the boys since T was a few months old. When T was an infant it was for a few hours while I caught a nap upstairs. Now we have three young women that watch them during my class, or appointments. I trust them all. T adores them.

    Separate from all that, this has completely freaked me out.

  5. Wow, you seem to be in this type of scenario too often. I recall the man who approached you then came to your door, causing you to question safety vs. manners. It seems like a logical choice to choose safety, but in the face of uncertainty of guilt, those of us who want to believe in the good question our gut instinct to protect our children and ourselves. As I type this stream of consciousness, it occurs to me that it is further complicated by the example our choice sets for our kids. So is there some middle ground? Perhaps erring on the side of caution is the best course of action, but doing so without imposing a witch hunt is the compromise. As far as teaching your kids, you already have started. You communicate with them and encourage communication in return. Establishing trust so they will talk to you is critical. Setting boundaries as far as their behavior goes…Max loves shoving his hand down my shirt between my boobs. As a toddler, I just gently removed his hand. Now that he is more verbal, I can tell him that it's not okay to put his hands down peoples shirts. (A funny(er) example of this beginning of good touch/bad touch is when my mom was watching Max and let him pee before bed. He was wearing footy jammies and he tried to zip himself up and accidentally caught his weiner with the zipper. As with every other minor injury, Max asked my mom to kiss it better. Sooo we had to have that talk right away. Sometimes those situations just present themselves.) But in all seriousness, I don't think you have to explain why you're talking about body safety, other than you love your children and you want them to always be safe.
    Sorry I turned my comment into a pseudo-blog.

  6. I believe that people are innocent until proven guilty from a legal standpoint. I also believe that if you are wary of someone from either something you heard, or because you just get an off feeling, that as a parent you have to listen to that. You don't want your kid to be the one that gets hurt enough to legally prove someone guilty. (Obviously you don't want them hurt at all, I was just closing the loop on my first statement here). I don't think I would have sent around any information regarding the kids that may have been hurt or their parents without asking the parents first, but I don't know how practical that would have been for you.

  7. Oh, I think everyone has stuff happen. I just go ahead and write about it. Although honestly, this situation did not directly happen to me. I just know the people it did happen to. And yes, I agree trust and communication has a lot to do with empowering your kid to be safe.

  8. M-totally get your point. But the author of the letter welcomed the sharing of it among neighborhood parents. She seemed to want to not stigmatize what happend to her daughters-in fact she said they were not ashamed.

    I asked my mom about this-asked if she knew about a situation like this when we were young. She said no. Clearly people that we grew up with were abused. Statistically it makes sense. But I think people didn't talk about it then. I think that some parents today are more willing to be out there with the information-to act like it isn't a shameful thing. I don't want to speak for the author of the letter, but the sense I get is that is the direction she is taking.

    This is the kind of situation where there is no “right” answer. And it's so frustrating-I want a “right” answer so I can protect my kids and be fair at the same time.

  9. K – that totally makes sense, I misread your original post. Them wanting to share it takes away any worry I would have. My dad is a twin and his brother had someone babysit their boys. When they came home, it was clear that one of the boys had been beat up by the babysitter. Being in a small town, everyone convinced them not to say anything, she was from a good family, blah blah blah. Anyway, within a year she committed a terrible crime that my uncle still partly blames on himself for not exposing her before. You are doing a good thing to protect your kids.

  10. Oh man, M, that story is so frightening.

    And for what it is worth I feel pretty confident that the parties concerned in this matter won't see this. I'm not friends with many locals on FB (which I like). I might be fooling myself, this is the first thing that shows up when you google my name, but I think a lot of people here would assume my last name is Z's last name. I'm not trying to draw attention to the folks involved in this. I wrote about it because it is a universal problem that we all worry about. When faced with it in my neighborhood I find myself as a complete loss. I guess I feel like it's something we all should be thinking about. If that makes sense.

  11. “Innocent until proven guilty” really applies to legal consequences in my book. You're not in a court of law here.

    OJ Simpson is innocent but that doesn't mean I'm going to play golf with him.

    That said. Its a tough call. You could be wrong, you could be right. What matters is that you have given this considerable thought. You are thinking of consequences and benefit of doubt.

    I think you did the right thing.

  12. Well, I wish that when it finally came out that our (female) babysitter abused me and my brother, there would have been more response from the adults in our sphere.

    A very LOUD, outraged response.

    What there actually was ~~ sweep-it-under-the-rug. Silence.

    Because, you know, her Dad was a “powerful” physician in town.

    And who wants trouble with that family?

    Too messy.

    Yes, it certainly *has* been messy…in my brother's life.

    And mine,

    Cathy in Missouri

    P.S. Who knows what people think of how INfrequently I've ever gotten a sitter for my own kids? I don't care – or ask.

  13. I am so very sorry. And I know this is little consolation to you and your brother, but beyond the feelings of horror I think that the reason this feels so confusing is our generation is not willing to sweep it under the rug. That said, we don't really know what the right thing to do is-so we are all flying blind here. But I think the important part is we don't want to do nothing. That feels like progress.

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