I've spoken to a few therapist types who have said it’s a defense mechanism that your body uses.

 It blacks out parts of our memories.

 They say there could have been more that I saw, more that happened next.. and don't remember.

    Sometimes I do have flashes of her parents, but I can’t think of a single solid memory of them. I pray to God there isn't anything worse, and if there is, I thank God for taking those images away. The ones I kept were enough to learn from, they are also enough to still interrupt a good night of sleep.

   Later I found out that my friend was taken away from her family by Child Protective Services not long after that day. The dog in the bed in her room was found to have been dead as well, I should have known before I ever got to the pig. I'm glad I didn't, at least the pig was in the trash, the dog was still in her bed.

     I have looked into all sorts of mental illnesses and psychosis and I still don't understand what makes two people decide to hold on to dead animals in their home. No matter how well the disorders surrounding it are explained. I don’t think I really ever want to fully understand that type of sickness. There’s a lot of things I don't want to think of, like all those marks on her body, but I’ll admit I do every time I see a child who’s a little more "bitten up" than usual. It still makes me want to cry to think of, I think more angry though.

     STill young I didn't yet know how evil some people could be, I thought that a childs’ mom was always good. I know now that's not true of course, and that many mothers are at the least very toxic to their children. I can’t imagine being such a mother to my son or my daughter today, they are my reason for so much of my growth, my reason for powering through so much.

      I did learn something powerful for a child like me that day, and it’s really the reason for this story I suppose. I learned that there were people out there that would come and take you away if your family hurt you and that those people could give you a new home, a new life. This was the first moment I saw someone else live through something as terrible as what I had been through, and they got help. That was a real revelation for me. I thought adults just did what they wanted and no one could really stop them. I knew you could run away but it was my first time realizing that you could also fight, that other adults would help you. All my mom really told me about the agency that saved my sweet friend was that “Those people come for bad parents, they give the kids to new families.” It didn’t matter though, I had seen what I needed to in order to know all I really needed to know.

      I have learned a lot since those days and while the program still needs some work, as do most governmental agencies, I am so grateful for them. I can remind myself that she got away when she comes to mind, and even if the home she ended up in wasn't the best it couldn't be as bad as the sad excuse for a home that she was living in. I pray she was blessed with a good home, a wonderful foster mom or even adopted into a good family. I also hope she doesn't remember the old one.

   I hope that she is blessed with the darkness. It may be a comfort that only those who have been gifted with it can understand, but if she ever reads this and does remember... Please, I'd love to know the rest of your story.

     There is a lot to be said for what we allow to become normal for our children. I had just seen something horrible happen to a friend my age, in my neighborhood, but the rest of the world didn't even knew it happened. No one talked about it with me really, no one seemed to talk about it at all. I think we even moved soon after, and my friend became a memory. I still see things like this happen today. Sure, with the invention of social media small town horror stories like the one I've just told you may make its way into some click bait type post with a dozen others, but most are looked at as stretched truths at best. I will tell you this one is true, every bit of it. Society has already been so desensitized to the actions of our very own real life monsters that we don't even get bothered by them any more. Not really bothered anyway, the type of bothered that makes you actually try to get involved and make a change.

    People will say how sad it is, or even how sickening. They maybe even go on a little mini rant on what should be done with the attacker; then they scroll to the next post and giggle about a cat chasing a dog without skipping a beat. They tell their children that there are no monsters under the bed but they don't tell them the monsters are real. They don't tell them that they could wear the mask of a loved one. They don't want to make them uncomfortable, they don't want them to be afraid.

    Telling your 7 year old that anyone they love could hurt them, and that if they do they need to tell someone they trust, is very hard.

    I think that unfortunately many neglectful or abusive parents exist and don't want their children equipped with such knowledge. Then there are the other types that even think its unnecessary to talk about such vile things. That it will needlessly frighten their children and give them nightmares. Part of me can understand that. I can look out and see a world that is "safe". I can see how the nice families in the suburbs with love and security systems feel like it’s not something they need to worry about. I can see how they feel like they can protect the children in their homes and that the world isn't so bad or scary to them. I'm aware that my experiences have shaped how I see the world but that doesn't make what I see any less real. Those monsters are real, and they can reach you. The sad part is, you usually let them right in through the front door.

     Even after all I had seen and been through it was still hard to tell my own children because to me, it took away a little piece of their innocence. It was one of those moments that logic had to over rule my emotions. I think being able to separate the two has saved me more than once. I wish I were equipped enough to write a "How to" book, filled with all the answers on how to talk to your children about these things but luckily for you all there are a number of licensed doctors and therapist who already have.

       I have told my children since birth it feels like, that some areas were special and that no one should touch them, but talking about other types of manipulations was harder for them to understand. It something that we still talk about when talking about different situations they end up in. They are teenagers now so it’s becoming even more relevant to them. Like myself when I was little, it just didn't make any sense for a long time that people would just hurt you. Why would anyone hurt someone else on propose? The only way I have ever been able to answer that question is that they all have different reasons, and that none of the reasons are good enough. I also try to drive home the idea that they are the first step to changing the world around them. They know so much more than I did when I was at their age, and for that, I am proud.

If this story does nothing more than convince a parent to start talking now, then I will feel like it served its purpose.

Yours,

Stephanie Marie

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