In the dream, it is mid-winter cold. I don’t know where we are, but there is snow everywhere.

People are lined up in front of a long structure, as if at an amusement park awaiting their turn on a ride. The structure appears to be a conveyor belt of sorts – tilted slightly downward – upon which we are apparently meant to slide. When my turn comes, I dutifully hop up, and wait to see what will happen.

I’ve come here at the insistence of a friend from college. One whom, in my waking life, I haven’t seen in nearly five years. I still have the wedding gift I bought for her and never managed to give to her. It’s a beautiful teapot, painstakingly chosen to suit her unique sense of style. To this day, it sits in its box, waiting until we can get together again. She has a daughter of her own now. The wedding was a lifetime ago.

The attendant gives me a shove and I find myself careening down the snow-covered conveyor belt. At its end, the belt drops off and deposits me in a vat of icy, dirty water. I am soaked. And angry. I feel duped.

My jeans are drenched and sticking uncomfortably to my legs. It’s freezing outside. I’m miserable. Why on earth would anyone do this on purpose, I wonder.

I hear my friend coming down the belt. I turn to watch her. She’s propelling herself with her arms, pushing – faster, faster, faster. She’s barreling down the ramp. I want to scream to her, to warn her. It’s too late. Before I can speak, she’s soaked too.

I notice a hot tub a short distance away and consider getting in. I walk closer and find a clump of children in the tub. I see my girl, my Brooke, in the tub. She is naked. There is a little boy on top of her. His arms are around her shoulders, wrapping her in a tight hug.

She doesn’t protest. She loves hugs.

He kisses her on the lips, then gets up and moves out of the way.

I watch in slow motion – as this nightmare within a nightmare becomes clearer. There is a line of boys waiting for their turn.

Brooke has no idea what’s happening.

On Friday afternoon, my girl thought she had made two new friends on the school playground. She didn’t understand that they had been alternately teasing her and running away from her.

“You two are my best friends,” she had said, the moment before they finally turned their backs on her, whispered to one another, then turned back again only to roll their eyes at her before running away, leaving her standing alone.

As Luau tried to take her home, she said, “But we can’t leave my two best friends.”

I am woken by a jagged sob. It’s mine. My pillow is soaked with tears.

I am terrified.

47 thoughts on “untitled

  1. Oh Jess… a knife straight thru the heart. A terrible nightmare…shared by many of us. The fear for them is huge.

  2. Our nightmares are not always shared by our children.
    But it is up to us to prepare them and teach them as best we can.

    If only we could change the world just a bit faster…

  3. Ah gee, I can see that it isn’t a huge leap from Friday into the nightmare!

    How to keep our kids safe especially when they want to have friends – remember, it isn’t something that just our kids are subject to, it’s any child that is marginalised.

  4. Oh mama, I am so sorry. You fears, our fears for our children are magnified when we see just where they are socially and the exact pieces they are missing. These fears wake me up at night too. The thing about fear is that it will either propel you put your head in the sand, or work to change things for your girl, and I know you. You’re not a head in the sand kind of girl. Love you. xoxo

  5. Oh Jess…
    I can’t even write…I’m crying too hard..
    We will figure out a way to protect our kids and help them protect themselves. We will.

  6. I think I have had similar dreams. Oh, I am just so sorry! The dream is awful, but what those girls did is worse. Thatnk you for sharing this. So many people need to hear it.

  7. The ripple effect of what happened to Brooke is huge, in fact it’s not a ripple, more like a tsunami. DOAM, I am so sorry that you all experienced this, and I am grateful to GOD that Brooke had no idea.
    One love, xo.

  8. Oh, Jess, YES! It’s Jacob’s open-heartedness and naivete that frighten me the most about his future, how hard it is to keep him safe when he so desperately wants friends, and has absolutely no idea when he is being teased, taunted or tormented.

    This post is a knife in the heart, for sure. I wish I had words of wisdom and reassurance for you, but I have none. Just commiseration, and thanks that you of all people are working so hard to make this a safer world for our vulnerable, beautiful children.

  9. I am so sorry! Heartbreaking…so what happens? Do you talk to the principal? The parents? What did you and Luau?

  10. I completely understand. And it sucks. And I’m sorry. And I love you.

    And I wish, more than anything in the world, that I knew a way to keep our sweet, trusting babes safe in this horrific world.

  11. I know exactly how you feel.

    When my daughter was four years old, we went next door to hang out and have dinner with our neighbors. Our neighbor had three boys, the middle one about 8 months older than Zoe. He and his best friend were playing in the basement, and Zoe went downstairs to play with their toys. She’d been there a million times before, and my friend’s sons knew that while she might make a mess, she wouldn’t get in their way or mind any of their noise/roughhouse. She liked to play near them, but not with them.

    After about 20 minutes, I called her to come upstairs to use the bathroom. She was having accidents (still does, five years later), and she reluctantly came upstairs. I pulled her pants out from behind her to check if she had already had an accident, and there were black marks on her bottom.

    At first I thought they were signs of some weird physical ailment. Then I thought she had played with paint or something. Then, I got it. She couldn’t have done this herself.

    My neighbor called the two boys upstairs and asked them what had happened. It took a little while, a bit of hemming and hawing. Finally, my friend’s son told us that his friend wrote on Zoe’s bottom with a black magic marker. He said, “I told him not to, but he didn’t listen.” My friend and I just looked at the two of them. His friend defended himself,”She liked it!”

    The two boys were supposed to have a sleepover that night at the other boy’s house. My friend called the other boy’s mother and told her what had happened. The sleepover was cancelled, and the boys were punished. When her own son protested that HE hadn’t done anything wrong, his mother told him, “Zoe is your friend and you didn’t protect her. Friends do not let other friends treat each other this way.”

    That was my wake-up call. And I’ve been terrified ever since.

  12. The fear does not go away. Sending my 14 year old to high school in the fall. I’m so sorry this happened to Brooke. Your nightmare is unbearable. Sending you love.

  13. Jess, I just feel a lump in my throat thinking about this. I’m so sorry you have to feel this fear. We all protect our children the best we can, but my wish would be that our world was full of nothing but good and decent people. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. I worry about my son because he’s non-verbal. I wish I didn’t have to worry and could rest easy…I wish we all could.

    Even though this is painful for you, thank you for sharing your life with us. It makes me feel a little less alone.

  14. Jess ~ I feel like I might be sick. I am so sorry for your horrific nightmare. It is truly appalling and deeply frightening. I am sending virtual hugs and lots of prayers your way.

  15. This is to date the hardest post to read. I just cannot stand it when you hurt. And your writing always brings words to life for me so your fear so rawly exposed in your horrific nightmare just makes my body shake. With God as my witness I swear I will never allow a child or adult disrespect any vulnerable person (child or adult) in any way in my presence and I will do everything in my power to make sure that my children and every child who walks through my front door understand the importance of protecting others.

    I am so sorry for Princess Brooke’s experience on Friday. I hope those two children will be guided to better understanding and compassion.

  16. Don’t you wish you could just keep them home and protect them from the world? no comparing, no mean kids or parents for that matter. I’m so sorry

  17. Such a very real fear, especially for our girls. They seem like such easy targets. I can’t allow my daughter to go to school without a full-time aid and always walk her in to meet the aid, and pickup at the classroom door every day. It is no longer (at 12yrs old) about ABA or learning techniques, it is truly about safety-first and foremost. I cannot live with the thought of anyone having the opportunity to abuse her. SO glad that Brooke wasn’t hurt. And THANKYOUTHANKYOU to Zoe’s neighbor from comment 14 for actually teaching her children that doing nothing, is in fact wrong.

    • You know, that really helps — reminding me of the character and strength my neighbor and friend showed at the time. I elaborated on my comment and made it into my own blog post. Thank YOU, mamakp! momofzoe.com

  18. It’s an awful situation that happens to all Children , unfortunately our Children are a target and not prepared for such hurtful treatment .
    The most important thing we can spread while we continue to spread Autism Awareness Parents of Neurotypical Children
    Teach Compassion to your children

    Hugs to you were right there with you…

  19. What an awful dream and what an awful way for your daughter to be treated. We see all too often with my son. All he wants is to have friends and he gets rejected over and over again and doesn’t even realize it. I worry about when he’s older. About kids taking advantage or my son just giving up on wanting friends.

    Hugs to you. I wouldn’t sleep after a dream like that.

  20. I’m so so sorry. BUT…Knowing you (through your posts, anyway), you will turn this into more fuel for your fire for your daughter. I am afraid too, for my son, but a little cold water at the bottom of a belt, or two witchy little girls, or knbowing glances, or naivete, cannot EVER EVER EVER stop me from pushing. Your girl will continue to amaze you at her ability to be HERSELF. And she is above that stuff ALWAYS. Hugs for you.

  21. As painful as this is, I think it serves as an important reminder. Years ago, before I had my own child on the spectrum, an SLP was talking with me about how our kids are often targets for sexual abuse. At the time, I didn’t think about how cruel other children can be.

    With my own boy now five, I’ve been thrilled that he’s been DESPERATELY trying to fit in with his peers. Yes, there’s been the teasing and cruelty that he hasn’t understood. While he hasn’t yet been subjected (as far as I know) to anything like sweet Zoe, it’s something I must remember is a possibility.

    • Thanks for this response, Anne. You’re right — until we are forced to face it, most of us just don’t remember/recognize/realize how mean or ignorant kids can be.

  22. The things we try not to think about. My boy cannot speak clearly, and is adorable and scarily compliant at times. I shut my eyes as my throat closes, and I try as best I can to keep him safe.

  23. Do you know who the kids are? Can they be approached & educated? I assume your school has an antibullying umbrella and the school will do the right thing, then follow up AFTER they do the right thing? I found at least for my kid that kids teased when they didn’t know how to play with him/connect with him. Have you considered requesting an aide at recess and point out this example for why it’s needed (and I’m sure you have social goals on your IEP so that’s another reason)? Education & awareness for these kids are so huge. And: I am so sorry, and we are with you in your pain. That just hurts.

    • I don’t know what to say but I can’t just click the “x” and go on my way. On the “education and awareness” front, I can say I would want to know if my child had been a perpetrator. I know some parents would get defensive (and in my more honest moments I am afraid I would too – hopefully not) but at these kids’ ages they are still at a very teachable moment, at least compared to older children. As I wrote in my recent blog about cyberbullying, which I realize is a bit different that this situation, I think it is important to do more than “help the victims cope.” When possible, I think it is important to intervene with the kids making the horrible choices.

  24. Am I doing everything to help my son sometime I am up online trying to find anything new sometimes I lay in bed in cry cause I knw what it feels like to be the outcast FEAR

  25. So sorry. There is nothing I can think to say except you’re not alone. Some days the fear overwhelms me but most days it’s just hovering in the background where I try to force it to stay.

  26. These are the fears that stop me in my tracks. They are also the fears that propel me forward.

    Know that I love you, and that I’m with you every step of the way.

  27. Oh my God, Jess. My heart hurts for you…what a horrible experience…that dream! Sending love and understanding and knowing Brooke’s divine support.

  28. I don’t have the words, just the feeling in my gut of complete terror and rage and anguish. Sending you love.

  29. ((hugs)) I’m so sorry you guys are going through this. Its a haunting fear, and to have it realized is so very heartbreaking.

  30. I am so sorry to hear this. Are you familiar with Dave Hingsberger’s blog? http://davehingsburger.blogspot.com/ He does a lot of work for sexual abuse prevention for disabled people. He teaches people with disabilities how not to be a victim and advocate for themselves. He is quite good from what I hear and his blog is simply amazing.

  31. Heartbreak…terror…frustration…rage…just a few of the emotions so many of us know all too well. I wish I had more to offer than just saying I’m so sorry.

  32. Having put two step-daughters through high school, I know that,as parents, we worry more about girls, even if they’re NT. High school boys are unscrupulous! Having a daughter who is autistic enter into that situation is absolutely terrifying. But, here’s what I know. You are intelligent and proactive. And you will do any and every thing in order to protect her and teach her to protect herself. Brooke has the best possible advocate and teacher. Brooke is making huge strides and she’ll make 1000 more. And you’ll always be there for her. Your dream was absolutely gut-wrenching. I’m so very sorry for your pain. :(

  33. i’m sorry that she was bullied. i know the shades…the numerous and varied shades…of hurt and anger that days like that can elicit.

    what tends to make bullying most painful is the inability to understand why it happened. to the person bullied, it can be a deeply confusing thing. so the fact that she will have you guys there over the years, to help her through the days like this…to help her make sense of things…that will be an enormous comfort to her.

    still painful, still confusing, but she’s not alone with her experiences and that will count for a lot.

    i repeat: because of you and because of luau, she is not alone with her experiences and that will count for a lot.

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