I missed it. I thought she had some quirks, some behavioral issues. I thought the parents didn’t monitor her as well as I thought they ought to. I thought… but I missed it. And now, looking back, I say, “Oh. I see now.”
Gratefully, my friend saw. She spent the summer investigating, asking questions. She paid attention to the bruises, the hunger, the parents who never, ever, ever wondered where Katherine had spent the past 14 hours. And she called Social Services, she called the police, the school and then she called Social Services again. And they’ve opened an investigation, so maybe Katherine will be able to talk to someone about what happens when her parents get so mad. Maybe her sister will get a cast on her hand, her fingers, her wrist. Maybe Katherine will eat breakfast and lunch and dinner on the same day. Maybe she’ll find a safe place to land.
And maybe idiots like me will pay better attention so that no one else has to be hit with a pipe across her side more than once. Maybe I’ll open my eyes wider, doubt parents more, so that no other classmate has to go to a friend’s house asking for ice for her privates. Because I do believe that it is my problem. And I believe that turning a parent in is far better than sending a child home to be locked in her room for, literally, weeks.