Wednesday, June 17, 2009

When Justice Fails the Children: Kristy's Story by Debra Sanders PART I


Let me tell you the story of Kristy, the girl who called me "mom". This is a painful story, but it is a story that must be told because it is a story that needs to be heard.

I can't tell you the story in one sitting--it's too complicated for that. But stick with me and you will get the basic story. And as you follow this story, I hope you will write me your thoughts. I would like to hear what you have to say. I would like to hear your opinions and your suggestions. If nothing else, I would like to hear your outrage.

Kristy would have been thirty-one this September. That she lived even this long is testament to the power of the spirit, the creative intelligence of the mind and what surely must have been her deeply innate will to survive. I say this because the abuse rained upon her in her lifetime would have killed most people a thousand times over; and the repeated failure of the justice system to protect her would have crushed most of our spirits long before we even hit puberty. Not so for Kristy.

At least not before now.

The middle of six children, at the age of four, Kristy—along with at least four and possibly all five of her siblings—was adopted into the home of The pastor and his wife. Kristy’s life intersected with mine nine years later when she was an out of control, over-sexualized, clearly disturbed but incredibly enchanting thirteen-year-old and I was the school psychologist in her middle school. As you read this story, I imagine you, like me, will find it hard to believe that there is not some Universal or heavenly hand involved in the intersecting of our lives.

Kristy, who was not called Kristy back then, and I easily established a powerful working relationship. Her behavior was getting under control and her relationship with me was quickly building into a trusting and effective partnership. Oddly enough, the stronger Kristy got, the stranger her parents appeared. Their behavior was so odd and disconcerting in fact, that I talked with both my principal and the district superintendent about some concerns I had for my own safety. The pastor and his wife subtly, but clearly, expressed a nearly palpable hatred toward me, which no one understood (least of all me) since Kristy was making progress and adored me.I wanted it on the record that I felt inexplicably threatened--that is how terribly strange their behavior was toward me.

The pastor and his wife told school personnel that they had rescued these children from a satanic cult which had ritualistically, sexually abused all of them and this is why they were so disturbed, especially Kristy. The oldest boy was so damaged--we were told--that he was institutionalized, where he would probably remain for the rest of his life. The good pastor and his wife placed all the children in counseling, but oddly enough, each with a different clinician and each given a clear directive that we were not to communicate with one another. Ever. Neither the pastor nor his wife would, no matter which clinician requested it, sign a release of information so that we could confer with one another about these very complicated children.

A not terribly long period of time passed and the pastor and his wife told the building principal that I looked like the birth mother of these children and was triggering Kristy who, though greatly improving in her school behavior, would get home and go completely and ballistically out of control.For this reason, they explained to the principal, they were pulling Kristy out of my counseling program and would no longer allow her to spend time in my office or talk with me.

Kristy had been instructed not to talk with me at all in school, and she was an obedient, but resourceful child so she started writing me letters and slipping them under my door. I saw no reason not to respond in kind and so although she never came to my office again and we never again had direct contact, we did exchange several letters. Sadly,the pastor and his wife discovered the letters and they pulled her out of school entirely.

“She’s too disturbed,” they told the principal. “We are going to home school her.”

For two and a half years, I never heard mention of Kristy, though I often worried for her. I had been quite sure she was getting very close to the point of disclosing important information to me when she was whisked away and as far as anyone could ascertain, hidden from view. It was a small town, not even 3000 people, yet she was never seen anywhere.

Then, one evening more than two years later (1994), I was called into the police station interrogation room and informed that this girl, Kristy, had made an accusation that I had sexually molested her in my office when we were working together. Although my head reeled and my stomach rebelled with flashing images of my ruined career, all I could think of then (and later) was, "Dear God, what have they been doing to her all this time to make her say such a terrible, terrible thing?"

TBC. Read of the letter Kristy wrote me, two years after the accusation, when she turned eighteen, explaining it and asking for my forgiveness.

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