Friday, February 26, 2010

Bystander

Reading this heartbreaking account of a boy's abuse by his stepfather with the tacit consent of his mother had me depressed for days. I found myself thinking about the summer weekends when my neighbor L and her two daughters splashed in the pool all day with her boyfriend. I always thought the man was a little too friendly with the girls who were eight and ten years old at the time.

Like their mother, they were both very beautiful, friendly and outgoing.Since L seemed comfortable with the interaction between her boyfriend and her daughters, I did not think it appropriate to voice any concerns - maybe I was just being paranoid and needlessly cynical.The mother was right there with them, it was not like he was alone with the girls. Surely, she would be able to tell right away if anything was amiss.

After reading Joel Johnson's story, I don't know anymore - maybe L, like his mother knew what was going on and chose to turn a blind eye. The need to have a man in her life may have been compelling enough for her to do so. Maybe I should have trusted my gut and sought help. My maternal instincts made me want to rush out and take L's daughters out of harm's way  - and I felt guilty about not doing anything. I needed very badly to believe I was wrong in thinking what I was about L's boyfriend and that everything was just fine. I feel an even greater need now.

L has moved out of the neighborhood. Last I heard, she was getting married to her boyfriend. I hope never to see the day when L's daughters share a story like Johnson's with the whole world - I pray they never have the need to do so.

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