Saturday, December 11, 2010

Child Abuse - The Signs (Pt.2)

(Continued from December 4, 2010) ......... One of Mr. Roberts' biggest disappointments with Matt is that he let all of the students down by missing a concert during his final year, as he did not show for school one day or for the concert later that night. As he provided the bottom of the Band sound, his absence was noticed by all and it changed the level of success for the program.

The next day, Matt bounced in all excited to see his favorite teacher, as though nothing wrong had occurred. Mr. Roberts asked him to have a seat, so that they could discuss his absence. Matt explained that he had been absent from school and, as such, he did not have to attend the concert. By being absent from school, he was guaranteed that his grade would not suffer! For a dedicated Band student, this explanation just did not make any sense.

He was right about his grade, but what about his responsibility to the other students, the overall Band, and to Mr. Roberts – especially after he had just about given him everything that he had over nearly 3 years? Mr. Roberts told him that he was extremely disappointed in him, that life was about more than taking care of one’s own needs, and that, if he had known that he was going to pull this stunt, he would have given the Bass Clarinet to another student.

He laughed a little (not the reaction for which Mr. Roberts was hoping!), before attempting to blow off the whole affair with a shrug. The teacher then verbally, and a little more loudly than normal, chastised him for missing the concert and for his flippant attitude on the day after. FINALLY, he seemed to get through to him, as he Matt FINALLY seemed to realize that he had blown it in a big way with Mr. Roberts!

A few months later, the school year ended and so did Matt’s time with Mr. Roberts. It was time for him to move on to the high school. On the final day, Mr. Roberts told him that he wanted him to keep in touch and to visit often. He hugged Mr. Roberts quite hard (Truth be told, it was possible that Matt could have cleaned Mr. Roberts' clock, had that been his desire!) and Matt told him that he would miss him!

Mr. Roberts saw Matt a few times after that final day. He came to visit him after school and he came to a few concerts. But, eventually, he stopped coming around and Mr. Roberts had moved on with other kids.

However, even after his visits stopped, Mr. Roberts often thought about why he had never been able to figure out why Matt had totally blown off the concert, especially after all of the bonding that the two of them had done. Mr. Roberts could also never quite figure out Matt's massive mood swings. Even though Matt and Mr. Roberts had patched things up at the end of that final year, the teacher never quite got over Matt's behavior ……. until a few years later.

Several years later, long after Mr. Roberts had left teaching and had become a Principal and after Matt had entered adulthood and the working force, Matt suddenly showed up one day! They embraced, told each other that they had missed each other, and began to share stories of days-gone-by!

After about an hour of sharing the good times and several laughs, Mr. Roberts just had to pop the question. He just had to get an answer as to why the now 21-year-old Matt had blown off the concert way back in 8th grade. His response still sends chills up and down Mr. Roberts' spine each time that he thinks of it.

He told Mr. Roberts that his mother regularly and severely beat him when he was a child, always in places that could not be seen while wearing normal clothing. The night before the missed concert, his mother had beaten him so badly, that he had been unable to come to school the next day and he had been afraid to ask his mother to allow him to go to the concert out of fear that he would get beaten again.

Although he seemed to be telling the truth, Mr. Roberts still asked some leading questions, such as why didn’t he tell him when he had been standing by his side for 3 years? Why didn’t he tell anybody? And why didn’t he call protective services?

You can probably already guess the answers. It is the same old story. He didn’t tell Mr. Roberts, because he knew that he would have done something about it. He also knew that, at some point, he would be left alone with his mother to face the music on his confession and he feared more beatings. He didn’t tell other adults for the same reason.

He HAD called protective services on a few occasions, but he had been coached by his mother as to what to say – he said nothing other than that life was fine and that his mother never beat him. This often-repeated lie to the authorities spared him more beatings.

After all of those years, Mr. Roberts had finally learned of the reasons for Matt’s changing moods while in school and he had learned of his reason for missing the concert. This fine, young man, the kid who was always with Mr. Roberts for 3 years and needed the teacher for direction in life, was regularly and severely beaten by his mother …… and nobody ever saw it, as he had mastered the art of hiding the activities.

(Please come back next Saturday for the final part and to learn of the signs of child abuse)

Paul W. Reeves

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