“Bethany is seven years old now. Like many girls her age, she loves princesses and anything that sparkles. She is an only child. Her mom, Linda, worked before she had Bethany, but opted to stay home after that. By the time Bethany was about three, Linda was feeling fairly depressed and isolated, so Bethany’s dad, Ben, arranged his work schedule so Linda could have two afternoons a week to pursue her own interests. Soon, Ben started encouraging Linda to take even more time away from home – evenings and weekends. Ben quit his job and began working from home. Linda was happy for the break, and proud of how close Ben and Bethany were. They made up elaborate games together, and Linda would often find them whispering secrets to each other. They even made up their own code language.
And then Bethany turned six, and Ben and Linda enrolled her in kindergarten. Life changed in an instant. Bethany was different.
She began to be defiant with Ben; reports started trickling in from the school about her aggressive and inappropriate behavior. And then the unthinkable happened – Linda got a call from a child protection caseworker asking her to come to Bethany’s school so that they could all go to the child advocacy center together.
“I felt like my whole world collapsed,” says Linda now. Her eyes take on a faraway look. “I know I drove to the school, and I know I went with Bethany and the caseworker to the advocacy center, but I have no idea how I got from here to there. It was all such a blur.”
When they got to the advocacy center, they were met by a victim advocate.
“She told me that she would help me through this, that I wasn’t in it alone. I don’t remember a lot of what she said, but that stuck.”
In the interview, Bethany disclosed that her father had been sexually abusing her – that the “games” were always a precursor to abuse, and that the code language was really a way of keeping it secret from Linda. What Ben didn’t count on was that Bethany would try to play the same “games” with her friends at school – they were, after all, her “normal” activities. After several incidents, Bethany’s teacher sat down with her to say, “this isn’t ok” – to which Bethany responded “it’s ok with my daddy. This is what we do.”
Ben is now in jail, where he will be spending the bulk of his adult life. “
Children’s Advocacy Centers, like Jeff Gordon Children’s Hospital’s, exist nationwide to provide a safe environment for children who have been abused to come and share their history of abuse one time with everyone who needs to hear it, including the trained certified pediatric interviewer”.
If you suspect a child is being abused and is in danger, please call Child Protective Services:
Child Protective Services (8 a.m. – 5 p.m.): 704-920-2277
After hours on-call social worker: 704-920-3000
*The names, identifying details and photos have been changed to protect the privacy of the children and individuals in the story.