Secrets and Lies

16 Dec

People tell me their secrets.

It’s a heavy thing. I don’t ask for it. I’d prefer not to know the things I’ve been told, the rape passed off as “sex”, the uncles who touched, the mother’s who didn’t. The fear, the pain-I’ve found myself in the past, full up on these things. Not mine, but the borrowed suffering I would inhale and take the burden of. They’d come to me without question, and I would accept it. Pain shared is pain lessened.

Today a mother told me a story of her daughter, and grandchildren. Her grandchildren, her grand babies, hurt, bruised, scared, her daughter changed, a woman who sounded so completely different from the one I met not four months ago. The vibrant, loving young lady, well mannered and full of laughter, described now as hateful, deliberately mean, shutting down and out. Protective of the very man who kicks a baby in a face, leaves hand shaped bruises on a toddler’s face.

This is all second hand. But who would make it up?

She’s close to tears this mother, and my heart tears at itself, it’s hands wringing themselves. My chest tightens and I swallow my tears, imaging my girls, my daughters, the lights of my life, under the thumb of a man, suffering after two pregnancies in 2 years, almost exactly. My fists draw themselves in at the thought of anyone ever, EVER harming my children, or their children. When I joke about taking the fucker into the woods with a rifle, I’m not quite joking. We put rabid dogs down after all. I leave my face impassive and sympathetic as the story falls from her mouth, stumbles almost. She busies herself with lunch, her scarf, her timer, anything to keep the weeping in check.

Her eyes are normally soft and full of laughter. Today they are tight, dilute like a watery grave. She’s not a close friend, but someone I’d fiercely defend as a friend, her heart is this good. Salt of the earth some might call her. To me, she’s just one of the best and kindest people I’ve ever met. And her kind heart is torn.

I had a friend call Social Services. If I call, she’ll know, and it will be worse. As it is, I worry she’s gonna just take off after SS has been there, and I’ll never see the babies again. I’ll never know.

I remind her to focus on what she can control, and nothing more. To use her EAP and consult a lawyer about the situation. To talk to a counseller about what’s happening, her fears, her worry, before it eats her alive.

She yells at me and tells me that if I call them, all she has to do is say “Don’t give them to my Mom!” and they’ll go in the system and she’ll never see them again!

I tell her I don’t know about that, but regardless, if there is abuse, if her daughter is in thrall to this “man”, she needs to speak to someone about custody for their safety. She needs to take pictures of the bruises, especially the hand shaped ones that she’s seen, so she has documentation. She needs to form a plan.

She needs to see if there’s anyway to have her daughter evaluated. The woman I met was neat and clean and engaged, giggly, a joy to be around, like her other daughters. Then, she went on vacation. Her daughter was firmly set to leave this “man”, had seen what he was.

A week later, when her mother came home, the sun revolved around his starry eyes, and her daughter was bewitched. Her previously well behaved, tidy daughter now leaves filth around, clothing strewn thought the house, dishes left for months, spills uncleaned and growing mold.

I make all the relevant sympathetic noises, murmur about postpartum, psych evals. I saw the lost look in this mother’s eyes, the helplessness and felt her pain for moments. The elastic nature of not knowing, the fear of a phone call, of picking up a dazed or screaming child…the worry of loss.

I want to reach out, I want to lay my arms on hers and make it right. I want to find the answer. I want to be able to explain to her why a woman would allow a man to slap a 1.5 year old across the face. But I can’t. I don’t know.  There’s no real answer is there?

I left her with nothing more than I started. Except a heavy heart.


Any advice, especially Canadians? She’s terrified, absolutely TERRIFIED about losing contact with these children and getting a pair of RCMP on her doorstep some night. And from what little she told me, I don’t wonder why.


19 Responses to “Secrets and Lies”

  1. Jennifer December 16, 2009 at 10:42 pm #

    Well, as a grandmother she has rights to see those kids. As a grandmother she has the right to be concerned. Someone could place a call anonymously. She has neighbors after all.

    In these situations, the mother is separated from the spouse/partner and therapy is pretty much forced on them.

    You have to remember that the social services networks see this kind of thing all the time, they know the “hook” they know how these abusers work. They can counsel her. Make sure she sees things as they are and not through rose tinted glasses.

  2. Kim December 16, 2009 at 11:08 pm #

    Sounds like there might be drugs involved, either with the mom or the boyfriend. Would explain the sudden change in behavior, hygiene and disregard for the children.

  3. ifbyyes December 17, 2009 at 2:04 am #

    I think it actually is better for her chances if she turns them in herself. If she is the one who alerted children’s services, that establishes a trust with them, does that make sense?

    Besides, they favour reunition with the family. She would certainly be given access

    When her daughter comes to her senses, she will forgive her mother.

    And she should ask herself this:

    What would make her feel worse? If she called, and they were taken away, and she didn’t see them again…

    …or if one of them got hit a little too hard one day, and no one could ever hold that child again…

    This link might also be very helpful:

  4. wn December 17, 2009 at 9:24 am #

    Wow, that’s a really tough situation…because of the emotions involved. Listen I am not talking as a lawyer here…more as a friend…but I *think* that your friend needs to report this. ASAP.

    Reporting is confidential…and is actually legally mandatory if you suspect child abuse. For adult abuse, it alot more grey. This might be a useful document for her. Made in NB for people living in NB. The last 1/4 of the document discusses reporting, etc…

    As for losing her own access (as a grandparent) yes…unfortunately it is possible. Grandparents have no rights and if a parent decides to cut them out, unfortunately they sometimes DO lose all visitation with their grandchildren….BUT I think that “ifbyyes” brings up a really good point….what is worse…losing the temporary trust of your child (to protect actual lives) or maintaining trust and potentially losing the life of everyone involved.

    I would be inclined (if I was in this situation, but I am not and I understand that this is easier said than done) to try to encourage my friend to report this herself. As the actual grandmother, she has:

    – past knowledge of her daughter’s personality
    – knowledge of how her daughter has changed
    – direct knowledge as to living conditions
    – has seen firsthand certain physical indications of violence
    – has seen firsthand certain indications of other kinds of violence.

    If she does not have the means to discuss this with a lawyer, she can start with Public Legal Education (PLEIS).. They maintain a free and confidential line and should be of assistance to her in terms of figuring out what she can do.

    here is the link to their Family Violence Line (1-888-236-2444)

    PS – the EAP is a great idea as well

    PPS – people tell me shit all the time too….alot of people think I enjoy being “in the know”…but honnestly…most times I would rather NOT know (especially these types of things)

    Hope this helps or provides a different perspective.

  5. slouchy December 17, 2009 at 9:39 am #

    Oh, I am SO glad wn weighed in. As tough as it’s going to be, it sounds as if the grandmother needs to report it.


  6. Maggie,dammit December 17, 2009 at 9:46 am #


    But look at all this good, solid advice already! That gives me hope, at least.

    I’m no expert, but.

    The fear of losing them, the threats, that is the very same stuff her abuser is using on her daughter, I’m certain. That’s how and why it works, why these things are prolonged. Your friend needs to ask herself a heartbreaking question and that is, which is worse? The kids in foster care or dead?

    I know it sounds awful but I guess I’m in a cynical place. In about 15 minutes a new post goes live on Violence UnSilenced. It’s a letter from Lisa to her little sister Tracy, who was killed December 3 by her abuser. He killed their 2 year old baby, too.

    Abused women are six times more likely to be killed AFTER they leave, so it’s far from simple. You’re all in over your heads. I pray the system works here.

    As for you, well. You are such a good friend. You are so smart and capable and you’re saying all the right things. I’m sure you are a tremndous comfort to her. I just hope you are taking care of yourself, especially with all you’re already going through. I’ve been learning about vicarious trauma. Your first paragraph cut me to the quick. I feel you, you who feels.

    I’ll be thinking of you all.

  7. amber December 17, 2009 at 10:25 am #

    No answers here. Just following maggie’s twitter link. I am sorry for everyone stuck in this situation…but speaking as a mom, I think that someone needs to report this. Now. I wish you all the best of luck.

  8. thordora December 17, 2009 at 10:31 am #

    So far as I understood, a friend of her called someone, and my friend was scared as to what she’d find when she went home…she was just terrified to be the one to call, which I get. She said she couldn’t believe she wasn’t calling.

    I’m hoping for good news, and that I can put to use the advice I’ve been given for her.

  9. Vicki December 17, 2009 at 10:42 am #

    I would call for you but seeing as how I’m not privy to the situation, I would not be a reliable source for Child Protective Services. I can speak from experience that she needs to get out NOW before something even worse happens. The grandmother needs to make the call if she has seen the abuse or marks of abuse. She would be a reliable witness because she has direct access to the family. They legally cannot tell her daughter who reported the abuse anyways so she should call NOW. They will not look positively upon her if it comes out that she knew and did nothing. Report it. Silence is what allows these beasts to continue what they do.

    Do not go quietly into that dark night…

  10. wn December 17, 2009 at 11:08 am #

    As you can appreciate, the law works differently from Country to Country…and also more importantly, from Province to Province.

    I’m not 100% sure that SD (Social Development) is bound to confidentiality in terms of reporting (I think so, I really do, but do not work in this field in NB…so am not totally certain)…the confidentiality question would be a good question for the Family Violence Helpline. I’m not trying to be difficult…I just want your friend to be fully informed and not take any well-meaning comments for a given. Again the law works differently from place to place…it’s important to get solid local advice on this issue if it is of concern.


  11. Elizabeth December 17, 2009 at 11:09 am #

    You helped just by listening and will continue to help by supporting your friend regardless of what happens next.

    I’m in the US so absolutely no clue of Canadian laws. I know here if a family member is available, ready & willing to take the kids, CPS will go there first. Tons of grandparents are raising their grandkids down here for that reason.

    You have been given great advice by others. You have given her great advice. All you can do is research the laws, gather info, & provide it to your friend along with a promise to support her decision. That is assuming you want to get further involved.

  12. Titanium December 17, 2009 at 1:43 pm #

    The amount of information and insight every single person has brought to the table here is profound. All I can add is that if each one of us does that one thing that we can do- no matter how seemingly small, it DOES make a difference.

    Your listening to a mother/grandmother’s greatest fears might have been just the strength she needed to take the next step. It is better to risk alienating a family member for a short while than to spend a lifetime grieving their permanent loss.

    My thoughts are with you- and with that family. My heart is heavy, along with yours.

  13. bromac December 17, 2009 at 2:31 pm #

    Just wanted to chime in and offer good thoughts. No clue on Canadian laws cause I don’t live there. My heart aches for your friend and her grandchildren and I hope they get out soon.

  14. magpie December 17, 2009 at 2:50 pm #

    I hope she and her children get to a safe place.

  15. Bon December 17, 2009 at 11:26 pm #

    any news?

    what a nightmare. except i know it’s all too real. am hopeful something positive has begun to happen.

    • thordora December 18, 2009 at 7:28 am #

      I can’t reach her, and won’t see her until Monday or maybe Wednesday. I don’t think she checks her email much…I’m hoping things are turning out for the best, but I don’t know….it sucks…

  16. Fuzzpedals December 18, 2009 at 8:22 pm #

    I ‘ve seen Ontario child protection cases in court. She should get in touch with CAS. She should also get in touch with a family law lawyer. If the description is accurate these are definitely children ‘at risk’. CAS should look first to grandparents or other family members as placements for children. If she calls CAS today they may either apprehend or place with her pending first available court date. She needs to make sure the kids are safe now. She can work on her relationship with her daughter and her daughter’s safety, next.

  17. thordora December 19, 2009 at 1:48 pm #

    I’ve passed along a bunch of this advice all-THANK YOU. I haven’t had a chance to talk to her yet, but I’m hoping she’ll at least know she’s not alone.

  18. lili December 23, 2009 at 10:37 pm #

    I have no idea about Canadian law but is it possible for the Grandma (once she reaches the daughter) to draw up papers to become the legal guardian of those kids (at least temporarily) until a suitable family member(or friend) can be found on the mother’s side? Otherwise I found some links…hopefully (the grandmother or the abused woman) can use them.

    Child abuse needs to be IMMEDIATELY reported. Usually the reporter can make it very,very clear that they want to be anonymous as the abuser is prone to violent acts to both adults and children.

    Child abuse concerns assertions can also be made by teachers.

    I have been through this unfortunately but I’m in the states.

    All I can say is call a woman’s abuse group(or have the Grandma do it) and get any and all information possible.

    I don’t know how much of a bully this guy is-but bully’s do know one thing-there are bigger bullies in prison.

    Good luck and every blessing

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