Thursday, September 9, 2010

I'm looking at you Mr.!

I grew up sincerely believing that I was the only girl in America that had a father that did what mine did. Well, my sisters and I shared this poor excuse for a man but you get my meaning. It just wasn't possible for there to be ANOTHER father out there that took the abusive liberties that mine did on a daily basis.

I realize, of course, that that isn't true but when your a child your world consist of you and those who affect it on a daily basis. Generally your immediate family. Your world IS your family. The rest of the world is "fairytale". What I mean by that is your world is centered on what happens to YOU...nothing else matters. Even if there was another little girl out there suffering as I suffered, she never crossed my mind because I was busy surviving my own Hell on Earth.

Once I grew up and opened my eyes to the rest of the world and learned that, yes, in fact there were lots of fathers just like mine. Some even worse, if that was possible. Far too many to be sure. The news metes out a daily litany of fathers who have done horrendous things to their own children as well as to children that belong to friends, family and strangers alike. If we are to believe the media then our next door neighbor, that friendly teacher in school all the kids love, the local Boy Scout leader, and even our local respected religious leader, is just a child predator that hasn't been caught yet. It's only a matter of time.

Of course this was brought home even more so when I discovered that my own husband (ex) was a wolf in sheep's clothing as well. Apparently that old adage that we "marry" the parent that had the most impact on us as children holds true. I sincerely hope that isn't completely true as my own children are reaching marriagable age and I would hate for that particular adage to become a family tradition of sorts. So far, it's not looking good.

Anyhow, the point of this post is to relate something that crossed my mind last night while working in the store. What I saw and how I reacted to it.

A man came in with a boy around 7 years old. At first all seemed well. The man was choosing what he wanted...and the boy was trailing behind silently watching him. The man kept asking the boy if he wanted this or that and the boy would always say no. For some reason this struck me as odd...what kid anywhere says NO when offered candy, gum, chips etc? I paid more attention as my radar was on now...something just felt "off" to me.

At first I thought they were related, father son sort of thing, but then through their exchange I realized the boy was the son of the man's friend/girlfriend (not exactly sure) The boy kept saying, "my mom" doesn't like me to have that stuff...regarding whatever the man would offer him.

Finally they came up to the counter. The guy had brought many different sort of things to buy...most of them were things he had offered to get the boy but which the boy had refused...still he got them. This seemed odd to me as well. (don't ask me why)

He asked the boy one last time if he wanted anything and the boy said that he had his own money as his mom had given him some. The guy paid for his things and they turned to leave. It was then that the guy reached out to put his hand on the boys shoulder and the boy virtually flinched under his hand. It was a hard thing for me to watch knowing what I know about the world...and about many of the men who walk among us disguised as men but really harbor beasts within them.

Now, granted I could have been reading way too much into what I witnessed. Also, it's hard to convey the atmosphere that the boy just didn't want to be with the man for whatever reason. Not to mention the guy was trying so hard to "reward" the boy with some sort of treat that the boy had already claimed he wasn't allowed to have.

So here are my questions.

1. I quite often find myself watching grown ups with children now all the time. Generally in ordinary settings but I now watch with the eyes of a "been there done that" that in my eyes, you can't trust anyone anymore with children. I seem to be hyper vigilant to every little nuance, every little word, body movement, innuendo (in my mind anyhow) that plays out between an adult and child. I quite often hear or see things that make me want to react...but then I stop and ask I REALLY seeing or hearing that...or is my previously abused self and mother of abused children making myself see or hear that? It's a question I ask myself ALL the time.

2. Short of asking the boy outright, "son, do you want to be with this man," which could open a whole can of worms (if I'm wrong...and even if I'm right) what else could I do if I feel something is "off"? What would you do if you witnessed a scene between an adult and a child that just left you feeling odd?

I don't trust men anymore. Period. I don't want to view ALL men as potential abusers...but so far in my small world...that is what they have always turned out to be and so I find myself looking at a perfectly normal man and wondering if he's as normal on the inside as what he portrays on the outside. I can't help it...I've been reprogrammed to be suspicious of even the most "innocent" looking of men.

In one way I'm sure this a good survival instinct...being alert to potential danger etc can't be a bad thing...but it actually colors my view of the world now. The eyes I look out from are now jaded and sceptical about the inherent "goodness" of man. I think to myself that the "good" guys are few and far between and the bad guys are around every corner and under every bed. I don't want to be like this...but there it is.

I also happen to know that there have been times we absolutely knew we should have said something, did something, reacted in some way to something we witnessed...and yet we held back for fear of being called out on it. We then regret our inaction and vow to do better next time. With children it is always a hard decision to make because not only are you accusing an adult and causing drama are dragging a child into that drama...for better or for worse (better if your right, worse if your wrong) you hesitate...and watch as that child walks away with what you hope to God is not another abuser in disguise.

What do you do people? How do you decide when and if you should stand up and say something? How do you decide that it's YOUR responsibility to say, "hey now, what the hells going on here?" The ramifications of that statement can be devastating to all concerned.

I don't feel good about watching that little boy walk away with that man. It didn't feel "right" to me...but I couldn't pinpoint anything specifically that was "wrong" was more how the whole little scene played out that didn't sit well with me.

Then could have just been a 7 year old that didn't like his mother's new boyfriend and was showing it in his small rebellious way?

*I only refer to men as abusers as that is MY particular experience. I DO know that women abuse as well. For my purposes of this post regarding MY experiences...I only speak of men as abusers.


Anonymous said...

What a difficult situation with the little boy. I know that feeling of being hyper-attentive to things that are "not quite right" but never knowing how to actually deal with them. I pretty much always tend to chicken out about saying anything, especially if it's a man with the child, but I always wish I was braver and more creative in thinking of something to say.

On another note, I like your new template. It's very soothing.

Chiara said...

I think you are right. Statistically this is far more likely to be your issue than that of the particular relationship with the boyfriend and the son. It seems the guy was doing his very best to be nice, and the kid was having none of it.

Hmmmm only son and single mom--they NEVER like the new guy in mom's life, not without a lot of patience and understanding. After a time they may come to really love them.

Your world experience of fathers is exception, as in exceptionally bad. You really can't be jumping to conclusions based on that. Especially not in such a scenario. I have a picture of my friend's 12 year old daughter with her dad ie biological father. He has his arm around her. She is recoiled in horror. It is juxtaposed with a wonderful laughing one with her mom taken minutes earlier. He has never done anything to her--except abandon her as an infant, and call, visit rarely and unreliably. No funny stuff. Just not a good dad in the least.

I like the new template too! I don't have to put on my sunglasses to comment. :P

oby said...

gosh this story reminds me of a situation that I sort of found my self in and the thoughts that raced through my head.

A couple of years ago my daughter and I were driving back from Florida and stopped at one of those official highway rest stops. As we were walking in, she way ahead of me, a man with two girls aged about 13 and 16 walked out of the rest stop and walked past us. The older girl was walking ahead with a horrible scowl on her face, downcast eyes, slumped shoulders,hands jammed into her pockets...she seemed more downtrodden than angry, but there was a level of "pissed off" simmering anger there. Behind her was the man with his arm casually slung over the younger girls shoulders and she smiling and seeming very OK. WHY I have no idea, but when they walked past me, I got such a feeling of dread that it almost took my breath was like a blanket being thrown over my head the feeling was so palpable. It felt like sexual abuse or some other physical abuse...but the main and overwhelming component was sexual abuse...I have never been abused sexually so it wouldn't be a case of transferrance on my part. In fact, even as my daughter kept going toward the bathroom, I stopped walking and turned around to watch them walk away. I stayed outside the door of the rest area to mull over what to do. It had such a feeling of desperation. I thought about different plausible scenarios in the seconds that I had before they got to their pick up truck. I decided I was going to try "mistaken identity" and try to get the girl talking if for no reason other than to judge her and her "father's" reaction. Meanwhile my daughter, whom I am very protective of, had since gone into the ladies room and I have left her there in a strange place alone because I was so "pulled" toward this trio.

As I started walking toward them the pickup roared to life and they started to pull away. I would have had to run and shout to catch them as the distance from the rest area to the parking lot was rather large.

To this day I still think of them and wonder what it was that my subconscious saw that made me feel the way I did.

First was the feeling of the sexual abuse vibe that was VERY strong.

Then the reaction of the older girl and the way she was carrying herself.

Then the "just a bit too friendly" way the man has his arm casually slung over the younger girl's shoulder.

The way the older girl deliberately got into the that age my sister and I were fighting about who would get the front seat not voluntarily giving it up.

I almost felt that the older girl had been abused and now the man was "grooming" the younger one for that sort of treatment and it had either not started yet or just started and she was currying favor with the man.

In those literally few moments what the hell was I looking at? Maybe nothing. But I am not a conspiracy theorist and don't often assign evil to people, so the fact that the whole thing almost physically hit me in the gut made me stop and take notice. And to this day I wish I had been more proactive in the few seconds that I had.

caraboska said...

Bismillah. I probably would have at very least refused to sell him the items that the boy said his mother had forbidden him. And then watched VERY carefully how the interactions between the man and the boy played out. At the first sign of trouble, I am on the phone to the police. Indeed, it seems to me that it probably isn't legal for him to be purposefully trying to get the boy to disobey his mother.

Chiara said...

There is nothing illegal about offering options to a child and having the child refuse them on the grounds that mother said no. There is nothing illegal about purchasing those items.

Forcing them down the child's throat would be assault, unless one is the parent and legal guardian. Then it may or may not be child abuse.

Most store employees don't have the authority to refuse to sell items on the grounds in the scenario. For all anyone knows the man is taking them to someone else.

Anonymous said...

It's easy to project one's own experience upon strangers in a store. That's because you knew absolutely nothing about the man and the boy, therefore your mind was free to assign whatever meanings characterized your own past experience as a child with her father.

That doesn't mean he wasn't an abuser. It merely means you had no way of knowing anything.

Me, too, I love your new template.

Angel Darling said...

I was abused as a child too. I am also hypersensative about men in general.

As an adult I've grown into my own inner voice. Sometimes I feel that because I never listened to that voice, the abuse continued, but now whenever that "funny feeling" comes around, I speak up, especially when it comes to my own children. I roar then.

I have said and done things in recent years that I thought I'd never say and do... I will not be silenced anymore. I don't care what those around me think anymore. When I need to speak up I do. But I also COMPLETELY understand the feeling of paralysis when confronted with a situation like you described. I've been there too.

Anonymous said...

Read the book "The Gift Of Fear"

its life changing and talks about what is discussed here. When you have a bad feeling ALWAYS GO WIH IT, the worst u can do is embarrass someone...... usually a stranger who u will never see again.

Anonymous said...

When I was walking along a road of a village where there were a few shops,

I saw the barber was watching my head, when I pass by a hair cutting saloon.

I saw the sales man of the shoe shop was watching my shoe.

When I was walking along a readymade shop, the salesman was watching at my dress which I was wearing that time.

it is all in your mind
Think positively.

Anonymous said...

Think positively until something bad happens to the boy or his mother.

coolred38 said...

theamerarabwife...I understand completely. It can be a hard decision to make to overcome our socializing that taught us to "mind our own business". Even when we have that gut feeling...our socializing almost always over rides it.

I like the new blog look too. ty

chiara...I only have my own experiences to "jump too", LOL so whats a girl to do about that "feeling" when viewing such things that make me feel something is off? Ignore it and hope to hell Im wrong? What if Im not?

oby..that sounds like it would make for a horrible feeling. Sometimes we just see something and right away just KNOW that something isnt kosher here...but we also feel a sense of helplessness and the potential for rejection is we save face by deciding "its nothing" and hope we can live with that decision. Its really hard. an employee I can only refuse to sell alcohol to an obviously drunk patron. Regular items have no such restrictions on them. Much as I would love to refuse to sell condoms to underage teen boys (or girls)...I cant...but I make myself feel better by least they are being responsible.


marahm...I agree which is why I..and many of us...hesitate. We question whether we are actually seeing the truth..or our version of the truth.

angel and me both. My voice has become a hell of a lot louder now then it ever was in the past. At the same time, I still have my limits. One as an employee...and one as a mother myself. Everything I say or do has consequences in one of those as much as I want to speak out sometimes...I have to also take care and remember the potential consequences. Which doesnt make it any easier to assume the boy left with an abuser and I did nothing ....but its the only defense I have just now.

anon...Ive heard of that book. I might just look into it. Thank you.

anon #2...its not always in my mind...sometimes our very worst imaginings come true...and so while thinking positively is a good doesnt always keep a bad situation from getting worse.

oby said...

I have read the book "The Gift of Fear". It was a fabulous book and I think it is a must read for everyone, especially women. We really need to listen to our own "little voice" and not always discount our gut instinct.

After reading that book years ago... I was walking from a parking lot to my apartment when I noticed a man walking behind me...he seemed to take every turn I did.(the lot was a few blocks away) He kept pace behind me. I lived in a basement apartment and anyone who has ever lived in a big city (in this case Chicago)knows that in many cases they are accessed by stairs that go down off of the street and this forms a little "box" with walls on two sides, the stairs on one side and the door on the fourth side so there is no escape and it is unseen from the street. The door led to a hallway that could access all the apartments in the building. I started down the stairs figuring he would pass on by but he didn't. He started down the stairs right behind me. Now I am trapped and I panicked. I whirled around on my heels and shouted as loudly as I could "why are you following me? What do you want?" Shocked, he stood there speechless for a moment and then said, "I live here". Oooops...I was red faced and embarrassed for a moment, but I still don't regret my actions. I bet he wouldn't mess with me after that! LOL! Embarrassment should never be the criteria for not speaking out. Better safe than sorry...especially when you have nothing to lose.