I thought it was normal to have regular appointments with your junior high guidance counselor. I thought every kid was taken out of class to talk about what their life was like outside of the brick walls of the school building. It took a specific day for me to realize that meeting with Ms. Jefferies wasn’t normal, and neither was my life at home.
Ms. Jefferies was a bubbly blonde whose hair had seen one too many perm treatments. She was genuine and kind and remarkably unstylish, even to a 12 year old. But she sat across from me every week, hands folded in her lap, knee to knee with me and asked how I was. She asked how my brother and sisters were, how school was going, and how my weekend went. I had no idea this wasn’t routine for everyone. I never wondered why I was there or why she was asking how I was, I simply sat in the safety of her office and chatted openly wherever the conversation led.
I was brought to Ms. Jefferies office in the middle of class. You remember that moment? The electrifying moment when someone shows up in your classroom door with that little white piece of paper and reads, “Meagan Holland, Ms. Jefferies wants to see you.” In those moments you don’t even care why or who or what, you’re just excited you get to skip out on whatever was going on in class that day.
Walking into her office felt different this time. I didn’t know why, but she looked serious. The door closed and she took her usual place across from me, knees almost touching.
“Tell me about your Stepdad.”
What did she want to know that I haven’t already said? I didn’t like him. He didn’t treat me well. He didn’t treat any of us well.
“Has he ever hurt you?”
My eyes widened. No one has asked me that question. How do I answer it? Is it safe to tell the truth?
The truth was, yes. My mouth opened and the words dropped out like anvils on my chest. It didn’t feel freeing, it felt terrifying. What would happen if he found out I told?
I don’t remember if I cried. I remember walking away wondering what that was all about and how she knew. I still to this day don’t know why she talked to me so pointedly that morning.
“Did you call Child Protective Services?!” My Mom asked when I got home from school.
“What? No! I would nev….” Wait. Is THAT why Ms.Jefferies pulled me aside? Did she call CPS? She must have.
I have to pause right here and tell you about my Mom. My Mom is one of my favorite humans on the face of this planet. My Mom has not had it easy, and she worked hard to give us the best life she could. I love my Mom. But in this moment, my Mom was more scared than I was. She had married a wolf in sheep’s clothing. And she was pregnant with his baby. Turns out there are a whole lot of legal issues (like who gets custody) if you attempt divorce while pregnant, if the court will even grant you a divorce in the first place. She was stuck.
CPS had come and they had gone. The only thing that changed was my Stepdad now knew I blabbed to other people. That’s the thing about manipulative sociopaths (my personal diagnosis for him), they’re charming as hell. They have good jobs. They smile…a lot. And they can certainly talk you out of the viability of the words of a 12 year old girl.
But Ms. Jefferies believed me. She didn’t stop meeting with me, and she didn’t stop asking me questions, and she didn’t stop giving me hall passes when I had absolutely no reason for them. She didn’t stop until I changed grades and changed schools, but I’ve never forgotten her.
I’m so grateful for people that fought and prayed over me. For people like Ms. Jefferies who probably felt incapable, but did what she could with what she had. For people like my Mom who shrewdly navigated the tricky waters of our judicial system to protect her not-yet-born baby.
We’re meant to stand in the gap of injustice. We’re meant to step outside of the comfort of our living rooms and into the guidance counselor offices of junior high kids who are so lost they don’t even know what found is.
That’s how rescue comes. It comes through us.
“You’re here to defend the defenseless…Your job is to stand up for the powerless.” Psalm 82:3-4 (MSG)