Please help--any advice welcome
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Author:  Colette [ Thu Dec 04, 2008 9:08 am ]
Post subject:  Please help--any advice welcome

Bonjour! I'm so glad I found this board. I don't know who to turn to.

I live in Nice. My husband and I are... okay, I should not be shy. We are immigrants, and not to France. We only share our travels with each other; it is enough, we are happy. Sometimes we see others with the map, but I feel it would be too dangerous to approach them. We are Christian and strongly believe in having a commitment to our marriage. (Before you ask, we have both always been faithful. I had the map before we were married, because of my previous husband cheating on me. I told Marc about it, and he agreed to marry me anyway, bless him.)

I work teaching English to children, as a private tutor. I lived in the U.S. for many years and taught French there in the public schools, where I received training in how to spot the victims of abuse. This summer, one of my students began showing up to class always wearing long sleeves, even when it was very hot out. I became suspicious--usually this means they are hiding bruises or other signs of mistreatment--but I could never convince her to roll up her sleeves. Then one day I was wearing a short skirt, and she saw the map on my thigh. "You have one too!" she exclaimed, and she pulled up her sleeve to show me the map on her arm. I asked her if it showed up one day like magic, and she said yes, she was embarrassed because she thought it was ugly, so she hid it. She said her parents took her to the doctor, who said it was just a mark and would probably fade over time. I did not have the heart to tell her that it would be there, and ink-black, forever.

This child is eleven years old. I can only assume she has been sexually abused by an adult who has the map. I don't know how to ask her whether she travels to the city in her dreams, so I don't know whether the abuse is ongoing. She shows no other signs of abuse; she is cheerful, outgoing, and physically healthy. Her parents seem like very nice people and they treat her well when I am around, and if they asked a doctor about the map, I guess they don't have it themselves. Perhaps it was a visiting relative or trusted family friend, or innocent play with another child who has been infected (if that is the right word). I really have no idea.

I don't know what to do. Should I report suspicion of sexual abuse? I have no proof other than the mark on her arm, and I can't imagine it would be accepted by a court as evidence. I fear the accusation falling wrongly upon her parents. I also fear that the case would be suppressed by those who wish to keep the city a secret. I posted to other message boards asking for advice and had the post deleted before anyone could reply. But this poor child! How can I help her?

Author:  Dvash [ Fri Dec 05, 2008 8:13 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Please help--any advice welcome

Oh, that poor child! I think you absolutely should report a suspicion of sexual abuse, just the same as if you saw suspicious bruises on her. Moreso, actually.

I suppose it's possible, since she seems otherwise healthy, that she got it from some sort of sexual activity with another child her own age. I can even imagine, hypothetically, that it got passed from a 20 year old to an 18 year old to a 16 year old and then on down to her, with no abuse along the way.

So, it's not absolute proof of abuse, but it is suspicious, and you're lucky to be in a position to look into it where so few people would even recognize what it was.

Do you have a relationship with the school or some sort of tutoring agency? Is there some sort of a school therapist or counselor you can tell?

And... forgive me for my selfishness, but there was a child with me on my first night traveling, who I met in the room with the red thread. That was this summer. I can't help but wonder.. still, I suppose there are probably plenty of children out there infected, sad as that is to believe.

Please keep us updated! I'll worry about her even more from afar if you don't, now that I've read this.

Author:  Farihah [ Sun Dec 07, 2008 8:01 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Please help--any advice welcome

Hmmm. I'm not sure about the French school system-are you able to give classes on what to do if sexual abuse occurs? (In very general language, of course). I seem to recall something like that in my own education, when I was a girl. Then again, I grew up in the United States, in a very large city, and it may not be the same everywhere.

I wonder also if there is another potential explanation. How old does the child /look/? Nice is prone to so many tourists, that I wonder if it could potentially have been an older visiting teen-perhaps as Dvash suggests, a gradual progression, but perhaps a 14 to 11 sort of thing. If the child appears mature, that might be an explanation that would account for it, without necessarily any actual abuse.

One reason I would hesitate on reporting it is that if it took place in a situation such as that, the child might be placed under suspicion by her parents, and might face other types of pain for being sexually active so young.

But then, I wonder how much of my advice is based in protecting the city. If it were just a new form of mark of STD, I would urge you to tell someone immediately. But strangely, I find myself not wanting the Public Health Boards to know about it, not wanting it to become a public affair. It's terrible, really-I want information to be accessible to me, but not to the general public. What could happen? Would we be hunted for our ability to travel, like we hunt each other but less kindly?

Author:  Colette [ Sat Dec 13, 2008 10:55 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Please help--any advice welcome

Thank you so very much for the kind and helpful words. I am sorry not to reply sooner.

I am a private tutor, not working with a school. It would not be appropriate for me to offer the child any sort of information about "bad touch," I think, and I do not have a way to suggest she see a counselor or a doctor.

Farihah, I am ashamed to admit it, but I also share your concerns about discovery. I keep telling myself that she seems happy, unharmed, not at all a victim. She has so many friends, and here young people are very affectionate in ways that are discouraged in America. (At the school where I was teaching, children were not allowed to embrace each other!) I want to believe that it was nothing more than an innocent kiss or caress from a schoolmate, perhaps as you say an older child. I want to believe that she is unharmed. I want to believe that I am right to keep this to myself and tell no one.

At her lesson on Thursday, we talked about city words: street and avenue and boulevard, apartment building, office tower, skyscraper, metro, taxi. I wanted to ask her whether she sometimes dreams of a city where one might use words like ruby, chariot, ostrich-woman, clockwork. What if she went there only once and never again? What if she sees it only when she touches herself in ways that an adult should not ask or know about? I thought I would scare her by knowing too much about her dreams or her private habits, or make her sad that she cannot go back to the beautiful strange city. I said nothing.

Perhaps I should suggest she find a new teacher. This is all so hard.

Author:  ThuliumMezzo [ Mon Jan 05, 2009 9:33 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Please help--any advice welcome

I don't have any advice, sadly, about what to do regarding the safety of the child. I don't really understand the dynamics of the tutor/child relationship, especially in France. I'm so sorry that you have to go through this, though.

I can tell you that it's a blessing that you two found each other. Think of this, at least: it's frightening enough when you wake up one morning, completely alienated and confused, shattered by the beauty and horror of your first night there as an adult. Can you imagine how conflicted and scared she might be, this eleven year old? That she dreamt it all and might have something wrong with her? The validation alone that you're able to provide might be a comfort to her for years to come.

Author:  AutumnTeaLeaf [ Tue Jan 06, 2009 11:28 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Please help--any advice welcome

I don't know much about kids, but I know about being confused and afraid.

Colette, I think it's great that you're there for her and that she feels safe with you. I don't think you should refer her to someone else. Sometimes it's just good to feel safe.

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