By Cathy Paige
This all happened toward the end of Peter’s second grade. Summer vacation started shortly after that and by third grade the school had almost forgotten everything. After all, we were not the only ones who had bad experiences with Katie and her mother. And anyway I had certainly been a more visible member of the school community than Katie’s mother and I am sure any doubts anybody had about my character did eventually vanish. But the whole incident certainly hurt both Peter and me.
It also opened my eyes to some facts in what is going on today. First, in any incident involving girls, boys are presumed guilty. It didn’t matter that anybody who was at all involved with our school knew that Katie and her mother had a bad situation at home. It didn’t matter that just one look at Katie’s mother, and her assorted babies over the years, was enough to make your cringe at the kind of mother she was. It didn’t matter that Katie herself had started dressing and acting like her mother since first grade. It didn’t matter that my son and other boys had reported being stalked, etc. None of this mattered. The assumption that everybody operated on seemed to be that there had been some sexual violation against a girl and certainly the boy was guilty.
The second fact my eyes were opened to was that even when nobody thinks that a child is guilty of any serious infraction, if that child is a boy he must be punished. I mean, nobody – neither the principal, nor the police, nor sensible therapists – thought that the sexual curiosity of a couple of seven year-olds is much of a crime. Katie’s background of course did make her precocious sexuality very distasteful to all of us, but after all nothing had gone on between the two kids that was terribly and permanently damaging. It was just some typical childhood incident. If anything, it was the girl’s situation that was not completely innocent. Nevertheless, someone had to be punished and of course the boy was.
The third eye-opener was how certain women have learned to work various systems by exploiting their victimhood. Katie’s mother certainly was a victim. I am sure all her life she had been victimized by various men. But instead of taking steps to protect herself better she was not only exposing her daughter to the same abuse but her idea of fighting for her rights was to hurt and accuse others. It was also an eye-opener to see how groups and organizations whose mission is to protect women’s rights can be so wrong-headed. Instead of providing real help and support to women victims, their idea of advocacy is to distort the situation, be aggressive and vicious, and violate other people’s rights. So much for equal rights and social justice.
I will finish by relating something that I learned about Katie’s mother just recently. The mother of another girl from my son’s class told me that over the years she would occasionally take care of Katie after school. She was aware of Katie’s situation at home so whenever she could she would try to keep Katie from being left alone in the house with her mother’s boyfriends. When I talked to this woman about our experience with Katie and her mother she told me that a year ago (which was a couple of years after this incident with Peter) Katie’s mother moved to a new and better house. To qualify for better low-income housing she needed to show that her present housing situation was dangerous for her daughter. It was during this time that Katie’s mother would leave Katie at home alone with various guys. And sure enough, a number of abuse cases were developed. She reported those to the police and with the help of the advocacy organization she finally qualified for better housing.
This is what was going on when my son and I were drawn into the “situation,” as inspector Bradley put it. Clearly, the police knew what was going on and they were not falling for the victimization stories Katie’s mother was giving them. And perhaps that’s why the advocacy organization had gotten involved. But what seems for sure is that Katie’s mother was using her daughter in order to qualify for better housing. With help from the advocacy organization she went on the offensive against us, the school, and only the police know who else.
Katie’s mother got her apartment at the expense of sacrificing her daughter. And in the process not only we got dragged into an ugly and vicious situation but my son – who everybody knew had nothing to do with any of that – was the one who got punished. Not even the fully informed police could help him.