Because I am a teacher, I know the ins and outs of what happens at a school. I also know the legal requirements and the rationale behind them. One of those requirements is that anyone who works with children is considered a “mandated reporter” by DCF. This means that if they suspect any type of child abuse… at all…. they are mandated by law to report their suspicions to DCF so that it can be properly investigated.
I kept waiting patiently for someone… anyone… to help my family. I had hope at one point that the police would provide us help. There was a time that I was actually wishing that John would follow through with his threatening behavior and cross the line physically with me…. leaving visible marks…. so that I could get my kids away from the constant emotional abuse and the physical abuse that was just shy from being enough to lock John up. The police had already proven that even with John crossing the line and shoving me around, it wasn’t enough “proof” that we needed their protection.
I started to notice bruises that looked like hand prints or finger marks on James’ arms. He would always say he didn’t know where they came from and then a few hours later, after spending time with John, he would say the teachers at school were putting their hands on him and hurting him.
At first, I believed him. He has autism and sometimes needs to be escorted to a quiet area because of his violent behavior. I called the school. I complained about the fact that they were bruising my child. I was ready to go to war with them. After all… this was my baby we were talking about.
The school staff always seemed surprised. They never seemed to know where the bruises had come from. It took me a while to see the pattern, but once I did it was quite predictable. I’d find a mark on James… he’d claim he had no idea where it came from… he’d spend time with John…. James would change his story to blame the school. I’m sure at this point you are coming to the same conclusions that I had.
I prayed at night that James or Quinn would share something with their teachers. I asked God to direct their teacher’s eyes to the mysterious bruises that showed up on my child’s bodies prior to John seeing them and getting them to say the school caused the bruising. And then one day my prayers were answered.
James finally opened up to his teachers. He told them that he was angry and felt unsafe because John had hit him. James had shared this after calming down from a violent fit at school. It was right at dismissal time and it was his father’s day to pick him up.
The teachers called me 30 minutes after school had let out to fill me in. As they were telling me the story my mind was screaming in relief, “Finally! They’re mandated reporters. They’re about to tell me they made the call. My kids will finally get help!”
I listened as they told me that they had explained to James that they needed to go speak to his father. They reported that James asked them if they were going to tell John and when they replied yes that he told them “He’s just going to lie.”
I waited patiently on the other side of the phone to hear “so we had to make the call”…. but those words never came. They had released James into John’s care. The mandated reporters didn’t follow through on their obligation.
By the time James returned to me at 6:00 Quinn jetted past him to tell me that “James lied!”. James followed in with his head hanging and said, “Mommy, I’m sorry… I lied. I promised Daddy I’d tell you and the teachers I lied.” But I know in my heart that he didn’t lie. The school handed James over to his abuser after he finally became brave enough to ask for help. He finally opened up and told the truth and they responded by angering John and releasing James into his custody.
I was sick to my stomach. Will no one help my children?! I hugged James. I told him I believed him… that I will always believe him…. and that I loved him. He looked defeated. I felt defeated. There was no protection. No guardian angels. No help from mandated reporters.