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" attitude...in 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 myself...am 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 there..you are dragging a child into that drama...for better or for worse (better if your right, worse if your wrong)...so 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"...it was more how the whole little scene played out that didn't sit well with me.
Then again...it 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.