“Mrs. Predmore, by law, I have to report this to the authorities.”
Those words were uttered by my sons pediatrician when he was being examined around 5 years of age at a routine check-up. The doctor had gotten to the part of the examine where he was checking his little boy area and at the same time did the usual explanation directly to my son about the appropriateness of who could and who could not look at him or touch him down there. It was that moment where my very confident son told him about “J” ….
It was the day before Easter 7 years ago. My son was 4 1/2 years old. He was spending a very rare occasion hanging out with his little friend right across the street. My mom was living with us at the time, and my husband and I were out shopping. She agreed to let him get his bathing suit so that he and the other 3 kids that lived there could play in the hot tub. When I got back home, my mom and I agreed to the invitation to color eggs with them. The mom and oldest teenage son were gone for the day. It was my mom and I, my son, their daughter (about 10), their son (about 4), and the stepson, “J” (about 14). The younger kids were out of their wet suits by now and back into their street clothes, and “J” was still in a bathrobe. They colored eggs and then we went home for the night.
My mom and I were cooking dinner a little while later, and my son, sitting up at the kitchen bar, utters, “J was hitting me with his big P.” Huh? I am picturing Grover from Sesame Street standing next to the oversized “P”. I don’t understand. “Excuse me, sweetie? What? He was hitting you with the letter P?” “No. He was hitting me with his big P. He was hitting me in the butt with his big hard P. He was trying to push his pee in my butt. He was trying to push and push and push.”
The million thoughts that went through my head when my son spoke that night…I still don’t know what carried me. My mom heard everything I did. We did not speak, but with one look at each other, this is sort of how the conversation would have went:
Me: Did you hear that??
Mom: Oh God, Yes!
Mom: Keep it together. Breathe. You need to watch what you say to him. You are going to scare him.
Me: What do I do now?
The rest of the evening was spent asking him periodic questions about what had happened. I did what I could to put all the pieces together and understand fully what may or may not have happened. I tried to keep it light when I asked him questions. I made sure I was gentle. I didn’t want to feed him answers. I wanted to make sure what he was saying was coming from him and not what I would lead him to say. How do I know he was telling the truth? Because a 4 year old doesn’t know about hard P’s, or pushing P’s into butts or being asked to touch big hard P’s…all while in a closet.
This situation could have been a whole lot worse. There was no penetration. I can’t even imagine what else could have happened. My son was lucky. He was a victim to what I can only conclude a very troubled young teen, facing his own identity issues, among all the other issues he dealt with himself growing up. I don’t know his full story, but looking back, I should have seen it.
When we confronted our neighbors with this, we were not too surprised at their reaction. Instantly, there was a divide. They put up their defenses and were not even willing to listen to what our son had told us. It was a nightmare. Their house was right in front of our house. Daily, we would have to cross paths. We could barely let our kids play outside for fear of any confrontation. The surrounding neighbors did not want to get involved and remained neutral. This only added to the enabling of this family to continue to deny what had happened.
Why did I not decide to go to the authorities? I was scared. I was afraid to put my son through the courts. It would be ugly. His mother was a fighter and never are her children in the wrong. “J” was her baby and she was always at his defense. I think she knew he was troubled and was trying so hard to protect him. My husband definitely discouraged me to go any further with the situation. He felt that our son was handling everything just fine and no sense in continuing to bring all of it up. He would have rather just forget about it. I played along with that, but it never went away for me. I felt the need to let my sons preschool teacher know what happened since my son talked very openly about the incident to anyone who would listen. It surprised me she didn’t feel it was her duty to contact the authorities. Looking back, I feel like she failed us. I didn’t want to battle the burden any longer. I wanted my son to be validated. I wanted “J” to get the help he so desperately needed, but his mom would never admit to. I didn’t want the burden of knowing “J” could do this to another child…or worse, his younger brother. Had this already been going on? I was stuck.
I could go on forever about more details and the incidents and confrontations that followed that day, but I think you get the idea. Living in such close proximity to that family was paralyzing.
It was well over a year later, my son was now 5, in the last days of his kindergarten year, and we were in the room with the pediatrician. “Mrs. Predmore, by law, I have to report this to the authorities.”
And just like that, the burden was no longer on me. I was scared, relieved, angry,… released. It was no longer my choice to sit quietly and watch and wonder when the world around us would finally crumble.
It was only hours before my phone rang and we were at the point of no return with detectives. The next day, my son was questioned at length all by himself about what had happened. My husband and I were interviewed as well. After his interview, the detective couldn’t believe at how consistent my boy was and how good his memory recall on detail was. I wasn’t surprised. By that point in time, he knew that what happened to him was wrong. He wanted “J” to be punished. He wanted to play outside without being afraid. The detective assured us that he knew my son was telling the truth and that charges were going to be brought up.
The next day, I was aware the police were going to pick-up “J”. He was expelled from school the remainder of the year over some other incident he got himself into at school and was home alone and taking care of the littlest brother so they didn’t have to pay to put him in daycare while the parents were working. When I saw the detectives arrive, I made sure my son was in his room where he could look out the window to see what was happening. He witnessed “J” being taken into custody. “The bad guys always get caught, sweetie.” Having my son see that was giving him justice. It didn’t matter what happened in court or what charges were brought. My little boy saw the cops catch the bad guy. His story had a happy ending.
While “J” did not admit guilt or have to stay in custody, he was put on probation. My son never had to appear in court. And a very short time later, a for sale sign was put up in their yard. I don’t know what happened to that family or if they did “J” a favor and sought counseling for him or the entire family for that matter.
Is this my burden now? 7 years later? I don’t know. It seems to stay with me. We don’t talk about it anymore as a family. I never discourage it if it ever comes up. I think time has eroded some of the memories away the way it does the little crystals of sand blowing through the desert. I am afraid to think there might be some residual thoughts in my sons mind. Why would I ask?