Last year our family relocated from San Francisco to Israel. Our (then) 4-year-old started kindergarten upon arrival and we all took on the task of adjusting to new surroundings, making friends and acculturating.
One day while in the pediatrician's waiting room, we met his 4-year-old girl friend from preschool. Chatting with the girl's mother, "what are you here for?" eventually arose. She was there, as she had been on numerous occasions, to see about a "private parts" (not urinary tract) infection her daughter was suffering.
Later I got to thinking..particularly after the child's grandmother commented one day about the father being overly clingy and attached to the girl. The parents, by the way, are divorced.
One day I asked the girl's grandmother (who cared for her most of the time) whether she suspected foul play what with the recurring infections. Because, I told her, from what I knew it was unusual for a 4-year-old to have that sort of trouble over and over again unless...
No, No she replied adamantly.
And I felt the idiot. Because the relationship was never quite the same after I suggested what I suggested. They backed off. And I thought: Nice one. You come here with all of your fancy San Francisco ideas and butt into peoples' lives and who do you think you are?
At one point I even apologized to the grandmother for my suggestion. They have since moved to another city and we lost contact.
Last week a mutual friend e-mailed: The little girl's mom mentioned you. God, she's having a real time of it!
It took three days to remember which little girl my friend was referring to. But when I remembered, it was with a thud. Because the only reason that mother would bring up my name...
And I phoned the mutual friend and yes, I had been correct in my initial assumption.
I got off the phone and didn't know what to do with myself. Cry, hug my son, call my mother, call a friend, blog it...It was close to home and my god we're all vulnerable and poor child and poor mother and poor family and...
In the time since, I have asked several physicians - my father included - how it could be that no medical professional caught it. All returned similar answers i.e. perhaps someone did tell family members but they chose not to act, 4-year-olds have a habit of "exploring" and hands aren't always clean so infections can be an issue, etc.
It's nobody's fault. And the crappiest part is that based upon what I've read and learned, the father was probably a child victim himself.
Go here if you want to read up on warning signs of abuse.