Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sunday, July 25, 2010
Hiding The Evidence
I'm reading SECRETS OF EDEN by Chris Bohjalian. Very well written book and interesting to me because it shows the effect of domestic violence on a teen girl and the horror of her father killing her mother, then her having to live with the question of did he "suicide" or did someone else murder him?

Only occasionally do I get a teen in one of my small groups who is ready and almost anxious to talk about what s/he's been through. A while ago, an older teen and his sibs moved into our shelter. They were attractive, intelligent, and highly traumatized. That night, there were also two other older kids in their group, two who usually say little, but listen well. I'm glad they were there.

I did my usual confidentiality speech, then asked the older teen and his sibs why they were here. The older teen said, "We had to get away from my stepfather." Since they'd come from a town at considerable distance from the shelter, red flags went up. Women and kids who come from a distant state, P.R., or another country have often, in my experience,been involved in the most dangerous situations with abusers who are at the most radical, mentally ill end of the abuser continuum.

In this case, the teen and one of his sibs saved their mother's life when their stepparent was killing her. They did this violently, desperately, and with no thought to their own safety. And they saved her life.

That night, though it was the first time they met me, they did not hide their feelings, their fears, their hatred of the abuser, their love for their mother. They were not the least bit ambivalent about the abuser or confused about their mother which is more typical when kids first enter the shelter.

After hearing their story, I gave no suggestions for their disregard of their own personal safety, no admonitions about how they could have been killed as well, no "wisdom" of any kind.

They didn't hide what happened because they knew they'd saved their mother's life, were proud of what they did and (probably rightly) felt they had no alternative.

Sometimes I wonder if those who have not had their lives or loved ones' lives threatened in such a way can possibly understand that morality may not be part of survival. That if we expect morality in a life-and-death situation, we may be echoing the beliefs of 18nth and 19nth Century Europeans who hung or cut off the hands of starving children who stole a loaf of bread.

Therefore, who are we to criticize survival or impose standards based on an entirely different life experience?

I can only believe it is smarter and kinder to listen and to learn than to set down the "right way" or judge decisions when our own ignorance may get in the way of survival or change.

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