Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Her Name is Luka

I am going to put a serious call out for advice right now, because I'm pretty sure I'm having my first encounter with domestic violence and I don't know what to do about it. At all.

There is this mother of one of the children at Simon's preschool who I'm pretty friendly with. She has even watched Charlotte for me a couple of times, last year. Which, oh my GOD, totally gives me the shivers now. I also had lunch with her a couple of times.

Once, last year, as I was entering the church (early) to pick Simon up, she ran in all freaked out. She had a black eye. She was shaking. She told me that she had been returning a book at the library, and a scary homeless guy came up to her in the parking lot, and punched her and stole her wedding ring. !! I remember giving her a hug, and expressing my shock, and offering to do whatever she needed to do, but I also remember wondering why she wasn't still with the police, filing a report, or doing whatever one does when one is beat up and mugged. Also, I remember thinking that she just wasn't acting exactly as I would act if that had happened to me. Like, she wasn't upset enough, if that makes sense. No tears or anything.

But that's as much as I felt. I bring it up now, because it's a piece I am putting into a puzzle.

Last year, I never really saw her husband very much. But when I did, he seemed very quiet and mild, and he is cute, with this very baby face, and soft, clear skin. He also looks REALLY young. Honestly, my sometimes ESP was not pinging, even a tiny bit.

But this year, suddenly he's around a lot, like, shepherding the woman through the halls, with his hand on the small of her back, and when I go to talk to them, he never makes eye contact. Which is HUGE creepiness factor for me. (BGH does it too.) He never says a word. He's just there. I just thought maybe he's got a night job now, or something.

Normally this woman is very very cheery and friendly and happy and she LOVES Charlotte SO much. She brings her 4 year old daughter to Simon's class 3 days a week, and her 2 1/2 year old boy a couple of days a week. A couple of weeks ago, the daughter had been absent from Simon's class like twice in a row, but the mother was there delivering the boy, and I asked her what was up with the girl, and she told me she had woken up screaming and crying, and they don't know what's wrong, yada yada, they're doing tests and think it may be migraines.

In a 4 year old? I asked. Wow. Weird.

And she agrees, and says she has them herself. And the mom seems really... tired? down? introverted when usually she's quite extroverted? I don't know exactly. Just different. Less.

Then, out in the parking lot, we were talking and she was kind of distracted, and said she herself wasn't feeling well, and said goodbye. After I strapped my 2 into the van, as I was driving off, I noticed that she was still there. Her little boy was sitting in his car seat, and she was in the driver's seat, with the seat reclined, and her sunglasses on, and her hands up on her forehead.

And something about that day gave me chills of weirdness. My spidey sense was tinging in a major way.

That was Friday. I haven't seen her, or her son or daughter since.

Today, though, as I was going in to pick up Simon, I saw her husband taking the boy out. I stopped him with a friendly "Hi!" and here's the conversation that ensued:

ME: "How are xyz and abc doing?" (big friendly smile on my face - names changed, obviously)

HIM: "....................with?............" (it was a long, drawn-out 'wiiiiith' that had a questioning tone to it, like he had no idea to what the fuck I was referring.)


HIM: "Uh yeah, well, she's, uh, doing better, yeah."

ME: (knowing I've got an opportunity to watch his reactions here while seeming completely clueless) "And when I saw xyz on Friday, she wasn't feeling well either. "

HIM: "Yeahwellshewenttothedoctorandgotsomemedicinesoshe'sdoingbetter. Come on 123, let's go."

ME: "Tell xyz and abc I said hi, and I hope they feel better soon!"

I think that abc might have a black eye too, and that's why she hasn't been to school in 2 weeks.

All my instincts tell me something is very wrong here. My bullshit detector has been going off since the beginning, but now I have more pieces, and I definitely have a puzzle.

My fears are:

(1) I'm totally off-base.
(2) There is something wrong, but it's not what I think. I suppose they could be in the witness protection program, or something.
(3) If I dig around, or let her know of my concern, or clue him in that I'm aware something is up, mom and daughter and possibly son will bear the brunt of my nosiness/concern.
(4) If there is domestic abuse here, and I suspect it but don't do anything about it, one of those children, or the mom could end up seriously hurt.

Check out #s 3 & 4 there. That's my dilemma. If I do something - they may be hurt. If I don't do something - they may be hurt.

Also, I wouldn't want to blow the whistle on a situation I am TOTALLY misreading. That would be terrible!

I feel like I don't know enough to call it either way. I can't just call the police and be like, "Officers, my womanly intuition tells me there is something amiss here. Would you please disregard probable cause and check it out?"

Ack!! I quite sincerely am at a loss.

Please let me know what you think I should do, if anything.


Blogger Tracy Lynn said...

I think you should talk to the people at your son's school and I think you should call the Department of Child Services and tell them exactly what you wrote down. Someone other than you needs to look into this. Sometimes men who are abusive will act out on people they perceive to be interfering, so you should NOT be the one to look into this.
There is probably a domestic abuse agency in your area, you might want to call them and see what they say.
I am pretty sure you could do this anonymously.
Feel free to email if you want to talk further.

2:08 PM  
Anonymous Erica said...

I second Tracy Lynn's advice, with the caveat that you think carefully about whether or not you trust the director/staff of the preschool to maintain confidentiality. Preschools are like small towns in that it's nigh impossible to keep things secret.

7:15 PM  
Blogger yucaree said...

i third what tracy lynn says. the school may see other things during the day in the children's behavior that you haven't, and together with what you've seen after school it may paint a clearer picture. the school is obligated under the law (at least in california, where i am) to report any abuse to child services.

and, as tracy lynn has said, you can report things anonymously to child services. maybe they already have a file for this family and it would encourage them to look more carefully. you never know.

and if you talk to a domestic abuse agency, at least you can find out what things you should be looking for in that family's behavior.

but i have to say that it's better to be safe than sorry. so, you may not be able to be friends with this woman if you happen to be wrong. but what if you're right?

11:19 AM  
Blogger grudge girl said...

Thanks for your advice, guys. Today Simon has class, so I'll get to see if the girl or her mom are back yet. I'm going to play it by ear.

I hesitate to call Child Services only because in our state, they are REALLY bad. Like, children DISAPPEAR in the system and no one knows about it or seems to care. It's bad.

I've consulted with a friend who's a school counselor/social worker person, and sees a lot of this, and she's given me some good ideas.

You're right, Tracy Lynn, that I need to think about my own personal safety. I hadn't even thought about that. Yeesh.

I'll update here, as the situation changes.

5:54 AM  
Blogger Kara said...

so so so sad. This is my first time on your blog so I don't want to pontificate (too much) but your profile says you're a teacher, right?
In Massachusetts, where I live, all teachers are "mandated reporters" of abuse, If we "think" we see it, we have to report. If we don't, then we can be considered accessories after the fact.
And it takes A LOT to have children removed from the home.
Good luck.

4:43 AM  

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