I'm Tracey, a CARE House Volunteer, and I want to tell you the story of two very different girls.
Angie was 12, and she was a problem child. In her third school, because she'd been removed from 2 other schools for behavioral problems, she was about to get expelled again. She had built up a thick file, filled with reports on the numerous incidents of her getting into trouble. Her anger came out in the form of fighting, and other negative behaviors – like hitting her classmates, kicking in doors, and being generally disruptive and uncooperative. She had been labeled a bad girl, and she was living up to her reputation.
Then, one day at a Stewards of Children Training for school liaison officers, as one officer was learning the signs and symptoms of child sexual abuse, and of his responsibility to protect children and report suspected abuse, he kept thinking about Angie. The puzzle pieces suddenly came together and it all fit in his mind – he was sure that Angie was an abused child.
The officer made a point to talk to Angie soon after the training and she confirmed his suspicions. He reported what Angie had told him, and he made an appointment to bring Angie and her mother to CARE House, to talk about what was happening to her.
I was the volunteer that day, when a young girl named Angela came to CARE House. I was the one who opened the door and welcomed her into CARE House.
I spent several hours with Angela that day. We talked and played games, before and after her interview. During her interview, she told about being abused by her step-father. She told me that her mother knew about the abuse, but did nothing to stop it. She also told me that recently, her younger brother had been introduced into her sexual abuse.
Because her mother had failed to protect her daughter, Angela could not go back home. Her grandmother from northern Michigan was called, and she drove to CARE House that day to get Angela. While we waited for her grandma, Angela was so relieved to be free from her terrible secret, that she became very relaxed and nearly fell asleep.
After many hours of waiting, grandma arrived. She said that she knew something bad was happening to Angela, she just didn't know until now what it was.
After Angela left to go home with her grandmother, I had our debriefing meeting with the intervention staff. I told them how much I enjoyed spending time with Angela and that, in the 9 years I had been a CARE House Volunteer, Angela was one of the sweetest children I had known there.
I didn't know then about a very different young girl named Angie, whose bad behavior was really just her crying out for help.
And this is what CARE House does – it gives abused children a safe place where their voices can be heard.
And, because one person went to our Stewards of Children training, and acted on what he had learned, that made all the difference. Angie was rescued and brought to safety, and Angela was given a new and better life.