They called her Wolf Girl on the psych ward at the hospital . No one had been able to approach her …much. She was like a wild animal. If you came too close to her, she would howl; if she was hungry she would stand at your table, looking at your tray with the puppy dog eyes, no one could refuse her. The staff was curious about her but all, without exception, fell in love with her especially when she would curl up into a ball in the fetus position on the centre of her bed…thumb in mouth, lights ON. If ever a staff member felt pity for anyone sleeping with those bright neon lights and turned it off in her room, she would sit up, howling, eyes wide, holding on to her blanket for dear life.
Her name was Torey. Child services brought her in 3 months ago to Emergency for a check up and after examination by doctors as well as the psycho-educator in chief, they assumed she would get her discharge no later than 3 days (which was customary in “those” cases). But she never got that release and Dr. Shelley, the Psycho-Educator in chief would not release her. She had a different reason at each court hearing…this last one was selective mutism, and that this youth was sexually assaulted multiple times for years.
Torey was 11 by now but what did, “hell did multiple times for years” even mean? Dr. Shelley just knew that this child should NOT be placed in foster care without guarantees she would be safe. The system had failed her in the past when this child had put her trust in adults who should have kept her safe. Dr. Shelley knew there were NO such guarantees. She took it upon herself to ensure she remain the ward of the court and in the children’s psychiatric ward indefinitely. She had hope that some day soon, she just may make a breakthrough. Torey may decide to talk.
It was December 24th, three and a half months since Torey’s admission, and she was in her daily interview with Dr. Shelley. This therapist had a unique approach with youths with selective mutism. Her past 10 years of experience working solely with teens who had autism spectrum had given her a new skill…EEP. Her colleagues, mostly professors at the local university scoffed at her when she said it was actually a skill that had to be learned with working with “exceptional” youths. EEL stands for Exceptional Empathetic Listening skills. Dr. Shelley had a knack of drawing out the most difficult and resistant child into trusting her enough to start talking…even if it was one hour a day, that was a miracle in many cases she had worked on.
Torey was different. She was brilliant. She had a way of knowing what adults were thinking and what they needed. This is how they discovered her exceptional talent or sixth sense you.
One day, Nurse Grant, who had been working on the pediatric ward on the psychiatric section for 20 years, walked on the floor with a limp wearing tinted glasses. Staff all inquired with sympathy what had happened to her over the weekend and she just brushed them off with a, “Ah just clumsy old me bumped into the glass bus shelter. With the darn sleet and snow mingled, I could not see an inch in front of me and I banged the corner of my left eye and slipped and sprained my ankle. Enough said, no need for pity from anyone, so I got these glasses to avoid your mushy sad looks. Now ya’ll get to work!” She did have a bit of a bark and everyone went back to work. No one asked her again and most of the staff avoided looking at her in the eye…or rather, glasses…except for Torey. She looked at her suspiciously, sucking her thumb. She circled around her looking up at her and raised her eyebrow.
Then she followed Nurse Grant into the nurse’s lobby and sat right next to her on the couch while she sipped her coffee. Torey looked up and did the most surreal thing…she spoke! “He gave it to you, didn’t he?” she said in a raspy voice. Nurse Grant almost spilled her coffee and looked at Torey wide eye, in shock.
“What are you talkin’ about young lady?!”
But Torey did not balk nor did she feel intimidated by Nurse Grant’s harsh tone. She just looked up at her with those puppy dog eyes and gave Nurse Grant a hug, whispering in her ear, “I know what them do to you.”
Nurse Grant froze at first, then relinquished to this precious moment because she had a feeling that Torey did, in fact, know. Torey’s compassion melted her heart.
Later that afternoon, Dr. Shelley was advised about Torey’s first spoken words in private by Nurse Grant who had to come clean of her own personal circumstances.
Dr. Shelley, called Torey to her office.
“Well, now, Torey. You certainly gave us a bit of a surprise today and I have to say a very nice surprise. I want to thank you.”
Torey had arrived arms crossed, ready to keep her silence but was cut off guard when Dr. Shelley was thanking her. She dropped her arms to her side and raised an eyebrow and waited…she was the prize of detectives…she had to know for sure…
Dr. Shelley continued, “Torey, Nurse Grant has been in an abusive relationship for years and no one but no one has ever had the courage to confront her and plead with her to get out and to a safer environment. Today, Nurse Grant came up to me asking to live in the nurses’ quarters for the night staff temporarily until she finds a new apartment. I want to thank you for doing something not one counsellor, nurse, doctor or psychologist was able to do until you did.”
Torey stared at her, sizing what she had just heard, and took her usual seat in front of Dr. Shelly’s arm chair and said, “Yeah, well, it’s about time she left that f…..g loser. She deserves better.”
That was the first session Torey felt she could trust Dr. Shelley and started disclosing the sexual abuse she had been exposed to by her father from the age of 7 to 10 and the abuse in foster care the months following her removal from her home.
Trust had to be earned. Torey was not fool enough to trust just anyone; she knew who could be trusted and she chose to speak to Nurse Grant because she saw an ally…a soldier in the fight against abuse in her. As for Dr. Shelley, well, Torey, knew she had an exceptional way of listening and she was just waiting for the right moment to feel she could actually trust her.
the frog tries to help
a scorpion cross the river
an act of kindness
halfway to the other side
scorpion shows its true nature
smell cunning cruelty
even words soaked in honey
instincts are wiser