Warning: This post, while not graphic, is about a sensitive topic.
It seemed an answered prayer for a little girl who was finding it hard to make good friends. Oh, there was no shortage of kids in the complex, yet those “friends” seemed better at fighting, pulling hair, teaching inappropriate language for a 7-year-old. So when a new school presented new friends, one in particular seemed like the friend she had prayed for oh so many times.
It was still a fresh friendship, while playing at her new friend’s house, when her friend closed and locked the bedroom door. That was the day she learned a new word. Equally as inappropriate as some of the language her other “friends” had taught her, but this word was a secret. Just between the two of them. No one else was allowed to know.
And with the new word came a new game. At first the game seemed like fun. However, it took a cruel turn. Pillow secrets were used as blackmail, pleasure turned into pain, friendship became a weird sort of bondage.
One day, her friend chased her out onto a ledge overlooking the marble stairs to the basement. Her friend had a broom in her hand and she was beating her over the head, back and arms. She didn’t understand why her friend would do this. She was saved by her friend’s mother returning unexpectedly from the neighbour’s house.
Her friend’s mother, not understanding the root of the issues, made the girls sit down and talk it out. But neither one spoke the truth of the matter. One was too afraid, the other… Well, that question has been unasked for a number of years.
A few years after the friendship began, it began to fade. The power that her friend had over her gradually lessened. She didn’t know that she was free yet. But the day that she told on her friend for hiding in the girls’ washroom during lunch break, she realized it over once and for all. Her friend accosted her after school, grabbing her arm with a pinch.
“I know you told on me. I thought we were friends!”
Shaking and terrified, she replied that she had done what she felt was right.
“I’m going to tell your mother, she’ll think you’re a tattle-tale!”
And with that one outburst, she knew her friend’s power over her was done. “My mum would tell me I did the right thing,” she said. Then she ran to the car where her mum was waiting to take her home from school.
It was years, still, before she recognized what that relationship had been. It was a youth service on a Sunday evening and a youth pastor was speaking about his childhood abuse. He started talking statistics and how some survivors repress memories. A sudden flashback of a closet, a closed and locked bedroom door, a broom floored her, she collapsed in tears.
Healing didn’t come easy. Recognition of the past brought it’s own kind of guilt and shame. Eventually she realized that her friend was most probably being abused by someone else and just acting out what she was experiencing. Yet there was always this one nagging question. Did her friend know what she was doing?
That is the $1,000,000 question, isn’t it? Would it be easier to forgive her friend if she was unknowingly perpetuating the cycle? Would it make any difference whatsoever?
Although most of those wounds have healed, she hasn’t forgotten. She worries about her own, looking for signs and symptoms that may or may not exist to tell of behaviour that goes on behind closed and locked doors, of secrets that should never be told to little ones.
Much of the above has been edited to protect the identity of those involved, though the root of the story is truth.