Child abuse is no accident
Child abuse comes in many forms; some so subtle they almost seem to be accidental. The following story is true. Only some of the names and places have been changed.
By David Kashimba
My family and I moved from San Francisco to San Rafael in the summer of 1981. I brought my 10-year-old daughter to her new school in September. Armee was shy when meeting new people and I was concerned.
We arrived early. As we entered the classroom, we noticed a girl with red curly hair and a ruffled black dress sitting in the front row. We smiled at her, but she didn’t smile back. She just watched us carefully.
“My name’s Rosalind and you are?” she asked looking at both of us.
“I’m Dave, and this is Armee,” I said a little startled at the adult tone of this young girl’s voice. “It’s a pleasure to meet you Rosalind. This is Armee’s first year at this school. How long have you attended classes here?”
“Oh, this is my first year also. My mother and I recently moved here from Los Angeles. My father still lives there.” She seemed to pause as though wanting to say more, so I waited a moment.
“My parents are divorced,” she said. Her tone was very mater-of-fact as though she was concealing her emotions.
“We’re sorry to hear that,” I said. “Would you mind if my daughter sat next to you?”
Armee still hadn’t said a word, but I could tell that she was curious about Rosalind. Her eyes always gave her away. There was intensity in them that actually furrowed her youthful brow whenever she found someone interesting.
“Please sit down Armee,” Rosalind said. “You have an unusual first name.”
“Yours is pretty,” Armee said. “Sounds like roses.”
“My father said my nave means beautiful roses,” she said with an enthusiasm I hadn’t heard from her before, but her tone quickly changed, becoming somber. “But he says a lot of things.”
When the teacher entered, we introduced ourselves briefly, then I said good-bye to Armee and Rosalind and left.
Rosalind became Armee’s first friend in her new school. They liked each other, but when Armee started to make other friends, Rosalind spent less time with Armee. I asked my daughter about this, and she explained that Rosalind didn’t like her other friends.
“Oh she still likes me, but we only get together when it can be just the two of us.”
“Is that okay with you”?
“Sure. She’s deep. I learn a lot from her. I can’t understand why she doesn’t get better grades!”
“So tell me something you learned recently.”
Armee smiled coyly. “Remember two weekends ago when you wouldn’t let me go shopping and to a movie with Jill and Gena?”
“That was because you had a book report due Monday and besides, you had just been shopping and to a movie with your friends last week.”
“Yeah, yeah. I know all that, but it didn’t make me feel any better at the time, so I complained about it to Rosalind.”
“‘You’re really lucky,’ I said to Rosalind. ‘Your mom gives you a lot more freedom than my dad gives me. You get to do anything you want.’” Armee looked up at the ceiling for a moment then back at me. “Do you know that she’s taking scuba diving lessons this weekend?”
“No I didn’t know that, but what was her response to your complaint?”
Armee looked down at her hands, clasped them, unclasped them and clasped them again. “She said that I didn’t realize how lucky I was to have someone that cared enough about me to place restrictions on me.”
“And how did you react to that?”
“I didn’t really say anything. She kind of caught me off guard. But it made me think. She showed me your side, in a new light, with that one phrase and made me appreciate something that I had thought I hated. She’s really deep!”
“Why don’t you invite Rosalind to come camping with us this summer vacation? I’m sure you’d have more fun with someone your own age.”
I must admit. I had ulterior motives. I thought that if we could spend some time with Rosalind, we might be able to give her something she was lacking due to circumstances beyond her control. But I had tried these types of invites before, and this time, like all the others, Rosalind politely refused.
Over the years Armee confided other things about Rosalind that were “deep.” One thing I found particularly interesting was that Rosalind didn’t believe in accidents. “Accidents happen,” she had said, “but there’s usually a deeper psychological meaning behind most accidents. Something’s not right in a person’s life, but they can’t seem to do anything about it. Yet that ‘wrong thing’ festers and has to come out, so it comes out in an accident. Maybe it’s because the person is troubled. Their defenses are down, and they tend to take more risks. Maybe it’s more than that. Maybe it’s God’s way of slowing them down or stopping them.”
A few months after Rosalind’s 16th birthday, she was driving the new car her father had given her as a birthday present. It was a narrow, winding road through a state park a few miles from her home. She was familiar with the road, yet the police report said that the car’s skid marks indicated that she was driving too fast when she lost control, skidded down the cliff and hit a large tree. The impact apparently knocked her unconscious and trapped her behind the wheel. The car ignited and burned.
My daughter bought a bouquet of beautiful roses and we placed them at the charred site of the accident.