Editorial: Remembering Bobby, a sexual abuse victim
Those of you reading my column may recall that I'm a former public school teacher. My master's is in education and I taught school for 10 years before going back to school to study journalism. If you didn't know that, well now you do.
Here's something else you may not know. I grew up in a military household. My mother divorced my father while my brother and I were still very young. We then went to live with my grandparents. My grandfather was a non-commissioned officer in the U.S. Air Force. My grandmother was a housewife. My mother went to work as a bookkeeper for an insurance company before getting several insurance licenses to become a commercial lines underwriter. That's the work she did until retiring for health issues.
For the most part, we lived on military bases. Sometimes housing wasn't available and we had to live off base. I loved growing up the way I did.
My brother and I weren't smothered with affection, but we were safe and well-cared for by a loving extended family. Some kids aren't that lucky.
It wasn't until I became a school teacher, that I saw first-hand how badly some children were treated.
One child I'll never forget is Bobby. I was Bobby's first grade teacher.
He had a violent temper. I remember telling my aide (now called a paraprofessional) that he's going to grow up and kill someone.
During one of his violent episodes, he tried to stab a sweet little boy named Henry with a sharpened pencil. I asked Bobby why he would do something like that.
Bobby said, "He looked at me funny."
When Bobby wasn't violent, he was quiet and tried to do his school work as best he could. He was a little slow and this was his second attempt at first grade. Sadly, I could see Bobby ending up in prison one day.
His little brother had already been expelled from kindergarten. I thought: Who gets expelled in kindergarten?
I talked to the kindergarten teacher – an excellent teacher loved by everyone. She said the child picked up a chair and threw it at her. It was one of many violent episodes that finally led to him being sent to a school for emotionally-disturbed children.
One day in the cafeteria, Bobby literally passed out face-first in his food asleep.
Another teacher helped me with my class while I wiped Bobby's face and asked him why he wasn't sleeping. I'll never forget what he told me.
"Those boys 'be' messing with me," is what he said.
Bobby was being sexually abused. He used his own crude words to describe what was happening. Every night he tried to stay awake and fight off his attackers. If he fell asleep, he would be raped.
I told Bobby that his body was his own and nobody had a right to hurt him. Of course I reported the incident to the authorities. Social workers made home visits and worked with Bobby's grandparents to make sure he was protected from harm.
Bobby's behavior got a little better. He never tried to stab anyone after that. Nor did he fall asleep in his food. I can only hope the abuse stopped, but I don't know for sure.
I'll never forget Bobby. It's shocking to me that there are so many children suffering like he did. Fortunately, there's something we can do to prevent it.
Last Friday I learned about an evidence-based program called "Stewards of Children." It's a sexual abuse prevention training program to empower us to protect children. It costs $10 per person and is available online at www.D2L.org.
Please sign up for the training. It takes approximately 2.5 to complete and it's something anyone can do to help a child like Bobby.
Lisa Yates is editor at Gonzales Weekly Citizen. Follow her on Twitter @Lisa_editor.