I could tell from looking at her that she was a thousand miles away. Even though she avoided eye contact, she had that survivor's glaze in her stare. Resolute and shattered. None of the emergency department’s chaos seemed to phase her. Not the alarms, the monitor bells, the medics, nurses, or doctors rushing about. Nor the team of workers at her bedside there in the hallway. She turned her head slowly in a vague awareness of the noxious smells and shouts coming around the corner from the psych zone. Here she was, a disheveled 15-year-old assault victim banged up and bruised, some of her clothes torn as she tried her best to fix her hair and pull her arms in close around her.
As emergency personnel, we did our best to manage her immediate medical needs, but each of us knew that the real damage could never be found with a stethoscope or penlight. Not a hundred X-rays would ever find her brokenness, nor could all the medicine in our reach begin to soothe or heal the trauma that had been inflicted on this young girl.
And yet here she was, surrounded by caring attentive staff. A social worker, a case manager, two doctors, a security officer, a nurse, two staff from child protective services( CPS), and a chaplain. More than ten people came and went over the course of her first hour in the ED. She was provided protective shelter placement, got assigned to counseling services, and arranged to meet for therapy sessions at the women’s transitional housing where she would be escorted by CPS staff after her hospital encounter. If a pregnancy resulted from the rape, the girl will be offered free parenting classes and financial welfare, or safe termination of the pregnancy if she chooses, the choice is offered without judgment or disdain. Not to mention bandaging her wounds, given fresh clothes and a hot meal. Her path to recovery was handed to her in a basket with a ribbon and bow on it. Still, her healing was only just beginning. Research has proved that the human capacity to endure and process trauma cannot distinguish that trauma in terms of the degree of harm done. Whether it’s a mere slap in the face or a heavy beating, a groping touch or a violent rape, the brain processes either one along the same neural pathways and the psychological and spiritual scars bleed into a person's self-worth and identity regardless. Trauma, especially sexual trauma has a profound impact on an individual’s ability to relate to themselves and all those around them. Here in America we’ve begun to appreciate the sensitivity required, and have the tools at our disposal to address and care for someone as they walk on the path of hope towards recovery. Now transfer that same traumatic event done to a young girl in a jungle village on the slopes of Talamanca’s mountains. The isolated and primitive setting best describes the atmosphere not only around her but inside her as well. With only her scared and frightened mother and crying baby sister to console her, the scars of trauma deepen as she becomes aware that her mother herself cannot cope as she has not found healing for the harm done to her years before, that this very girl herself is a result of abuse cruelly handed down from the past.
She retreats to an uncle’s house for refuge, where the abuse and assaults continue. She may wander in the forest seeking someone to take her in, but there is no safe place. Later as the pregnancy advances, she walks into the woods and beats her belly with a rock in order to abort the baby, squatting to drop the fetus, then leaving it covered over with leaves. If she is forced to keep the child by her abuser, then she’ll have to fend for herself and the infant. All the while living with the real and imagined blame of bringing this crisis on herself and her family. How can this be? Two young girls experiencing a similar trauma, but given such different choices, such drastic different ends of the same rope. One which can tie a person’s life in knots, and may never be undone. In America that rope can be used to pull the girl up and out of danger, into a nurturing future where she can heal and seek recovery. For the young BriBri girl, that same rope can often tie her down in a life of bondage, or worse yet it can hang her, by the escape of suicide. Right now these things are happening to girls both here and in Talamanca, not to mention everywhere else. Right now there is a refuge, a shelter sitting empty and still on a morsel of jungle land. Its trees are growing tall, aspiring to be homes, and shelters, and warm kitchen fires.
Right now there are skillful builders hands lying idle waiting for a task to do.
Right now there are hearts bowing in prayer and eyes raised in hope that help is on the way. They say “wait” just a little longer sweet child, your help is on its way. In our hearts, The Nest is built and thriving. Its glow of hope warms our souls and drives our passion. And yet not a single stick has been moved, not a shovel of dirt set aside to make way for the seed of recovery to be planted. God is at work, my faith awakens to that truth. The rains of grace are literally pouring down from a plentiful sky.
I pray for seed, I pray for a need to be hidden in people's hearts and for God to burst them open with offerings of love and care. Do read between my lines of poetry. It’s said that the pen is mightier than the sword, but this is a righteous battle for justice, and swords are needed to win for the cause of love. The Nest needs soldiers at the ready, standing on the frontlines with drawn swords and open wallets. With hearts awakened and generous treasures offered to equip and ready the troops doing battle.
Start with me lord, in humility keep me grounded in the truth that these injustices are not unseen by you, that my excuses battle faith, but that love has overcome the world. To God be the glory. May your heart be moved to advance to our donate page and take up this fight. Let’s together take back the terrain that trauma has claimed on these dear ones. Let’s together form a protective line of fire to defend peace, to uphold love, and to make a stand for justice.
Author: James Beach, Co-founder