*Trigger warning – this post contains material that may cause distress*
Often my work leaves me shaking my head. Today, in an open plan office, I put my head in my hands and cried at my desk. I cried for a little girl I have never met, whose name I will never know. I cried for her loss of innocence. I cried because of the fear that little girl must have endured. I cried because that little girl’s life has been shattered by a person who should have loved, cared and protected her. I cried because that little girl is one of countless victims.
The little girl I cried for was three and a half years old and allegedly sexually abused by her father. In her words ‘He put my bits and then he did this, he put it into my bits’ and later ‘Um, there was sauce in it’ and he ‘put his sauce into [her] mouth’. It’s a despicable and horrendous concept.
I won’t dwell on the legal details of the case but the court found, among other things, that the little girl gave inconsistent accounts about the sequence of her father’s alleged interference with her. I’m a lawyer. I get the whole ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ standard of proof. In fact, it’s fundamental to our criminal justice system. In this case, the Court decided there was a reasonable doubt about the father’s guilt. He was not convicted of any offences. I’m in no position to assess the validity of the courts decision. I didn’t hear the evidence. Still, it made me uneasy.
Today I wondered to myself, surely a three and a half year old can’t make this stuff up? I simply can’t imagine a child that age creating such an elaborate and sexualised story. The court questioned the reliability of the little girls evidence, yet isn’t it normal for a child to get the precise order of things muddled up?
I’m often asked how I cope at work, with the things that I read and hear. Most days I’m stoic, not today. Today was the first time I cried at my desk. There was something about that little girl’s story that upset me. It was a long way from the most heinous of stories I’ve heard. Yet it struck a nerve.
I do try to take some positives from my work. I try to arm myself with information about how to protect my children from sexual abuse. When I’m a little less emotional and feeling more robust, I might share a few of my insights with you. I’ve previously reviewed the book My Underpants Rule! which is a great way to introduce a tricky topic to your child. I know child sexual abuse is not a topic that is easy to discuss and it is hard stuff to digest. But, knowledge is power.
Linking up with Essentially Jess for #IBOT.