In our program, we have had a young child name Katy.
Katy had experienced abuse in her home. Sadly, this abuse was sexual and it was from people she should have been able to trust. The first day she arrived at our program, she would only hum and rock. Part way through the morning, she began with loud, high pitched sounds.
The teacher came upstairs to the office and asked for help as Katy was beginning to frighten the other children. I went down to the class and, in the end, realized that I would have to pick her up and carry her upstairs.
I was conscious of several things. First, that I would have to hold her in a manner that gave her little choice. And second, that I would have to close the door. I explained to Katy that I would need to take her upstairs. I carried her, and when I reached the top, I closed the door and explained.
At this time, I looked at her and said “I need you to understand that all doors that close don’t mean bad things, and everyone who touches you is not going to hurt you. We are here to help you learn this.” I let her loose in my office and she scurried into a corner, sat there and scowled at me.
I did what I usually do at times like this. I picked up a children’s book and began to read, adding in sections that I knew were safe and that Katy would be interested in. I showed her pictures, and asked her questions. She scurried further into the corner.
A while into the story, she began to peek at me over her hands that were covering her eyes. She was beginning to experience some sense of safety. We did this for the better part of an hour, until the school bus arrived to pick up the children. Up to this point, she’d made guttural sounds and used no language, not that morning or any other time that we’d known her.
Once the school bus arrived, I stood up, looked out the window and said “Katy the school bus is here. It is time to go home. I will see you again tomorrow.” She stood up, walked over to me and took my hand. She said, “You may help me with my coat.” Her language was perfect.
And that was the beginning of our work with Katy.
We realized that much of the difficulty she later had in her academics in school was a result of memory suppression. It is very common for children of this type of abuse to repress memory in order not to remember traumatic happenings. We tutored her throughout her earlier grades at school and Katy progressed. Her home life stabilized and she seemed to be holding her own. Katy came back to summer camp each year.