2 Young Girls… 2 Horror Stories… 2 Absolute Champions…

Posted: September 18, 2012 in For Educators, For Parents and Guardians, For Teenagers
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In one year, two 9th grade girls found the courage to speak words that no child should ever have to speak…

It guts you… absolutely rips at your insides, to hear children speak of being molested by someone in their family.

As a counselor, it was, and will always be, my job to temper my own emotions and reactions to the stories of others… so I can find the way to help them begin their healing. And this is no easy task.

With these two girls, it started with a gut feeling… and one that I get all too often in my line of work. The student(s) walk into my office, either on their own or because a teacher sent them to me, and I start my process. I make sure my own “stuff” is put to the side… and I pay attention. I look. I listen. I quiet things down inside myself to be sure that I don’t miss a cue. I mind my tone and my volume. I mind my expressions and my posture. I watch for their reactions to my presence and I make any necessary adjustments until I see ease on their faces and hear in their words the trust I need to hear to move forward.

I know how badly each child needs to be seen, and it’s my job to give them an adult who sees them. Sadly, to really see the students who come to me, I have to keep the horror stories close in mind. I need to keep the worst case scenarios accessible because for them, the words won’t come easy… at least not yet… and for the healing to begin, sometimes they need me to carefully guide them towards the places that scare them most.

But the steps they need to take won’t be taken unless they feel assured that that they’re no longer alone with their demons… and that I am not afraid of their demons.

My goal for these two girls who had experienced the most heartbreaking betrayal of trust imaginable, is the same goal that I have for any child I speak with about a hurt or a trauma they’ve experienced:

To move them through their hurt towards the strength that’s already inside them… so they can someday speak, with steady voice and strong eyes, about what they’ve endured… and have now overcome.

For three years, I made adjustments with these two amazing young ladies… separately… all the while following their leads and reading their needs. When to challenge. When to stir laughter. When to invite tears. When to validate strength… and when to face vulnerabilities.

For three years (and countless other big and small student issues), I had to know when to give space, when to reach out, when to look back at the past… and when to demand that they start looking forward. And for three years, I met with them separately in pursuit of that strength that allows people to one day own their scars and speak of them fearlessly.  Which each of them found.

I don’t remember exactly what made me suggest that they meet each other (which they both agreed to without hesitation)… but I suppose it was the way they could both speak to me about their pasts and their futures… with laughter… with humility… and with a perspective reserved for only those children who have known and faced demons we all wish they never had to.

And so there we were… the three of us. Some counselor guy, and these 2 beautiful, strong, intelligent champions.

Needless to say, it was super awkward. There I was sitting with 2 teenagers who had been molested by different family members (which remains hard to say, hard to write, and most definitely hard to hear)… and somehow, I had to kick things off. Which I did, with the same lightness and confidence that I knew they both possessed.

“So yes, I am fixing the two of you up, strange as that sounds, and from the looks on all our faces, mine included, this is pretty awkward… but we’ll get through it, ’cause you guys have gotten through stuff much harder (I say with my most reassuring smile)”

Chuckling ensued (not me, just them)… which eased the room.

“To move this forward, I’m just going to say it out loud… the two of you share a story, and have come so far, and I couldn’t be more proud… both of you, separately, have worked so hard and shown so much courage… I just felt that the two of you could give to each other a kind of support and understanding that I, for obvious reasons, just can’t… plus, you’re both just really cool kids who I thought would get along”

More smiling… and now, eye contact between the two of them…

“So how about we start with who it was that hurt you…”

And without hesitation, looking directly at each other…

“My father” says one…

“My brother” says the other…

And I sat back, eyes watering… humbled beyond words…seeing the tears run down their cheeks and the smiles on their faces… watching them gently listen to each other… and hearing them speak fearlessly about the shared stories they lived.

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