77: Young and Brave

77: Young and Brave

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Empowered Woman

Young and Brave

I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.

~Rosa Parks

As a mother of four children, I spend a lot of time thinking about the values I want my children to find important. I want them to not only respect others, but also be brave enough to stand up for themselves when something is affecting their wellbeing or moral compass. I always hoped they listened as I got eye rolls and cheeky responses, but it was the day my daughter told me she was assaulted by her teacher that I realized just how important it would all be.

A few days before Christmas break, I picked up my youngest child from middle school. When she got in the car, the usually bubbly girl didn’t say anything, and her head was hanging down. We started to drive toward home, and that is when she finally spoke. Through teary eyes, she said I would be getting a phone call from the principal that evening.

My first thought was, What did you do? Then more tears started, and I could tell this was much deeper than a simple late-to-class or dress-code violation. My daughter told me the events of the day, and I was simply speechless. She had gone into the science room before class to ask a question. While standing at the desk, the teacher attempted to run his hand up her shirt. When she tried to back away from him, he grabbed her by her belt buckle so she couldn’t get away. Luckily, the door was open, and another student witnessed the events and ran to get the principal.

An investigation started immediately, and it was a Pandora’s box. This had been going on since the first day of school, and not with just our child. He had been inappropriate with eight girls. The school and police acted swiftly, and we are grateful. He was initially charged with twenty-six counts, three of them felonies. Unfortunately, some investigative compromise occurred, and all charges were dropped except for two felonies: our daughter and one other girl.

We had a long talk with our daughter, as we were concerned that a trial would be hard on her. She was only fourteen, and the town was already taking sides. She didn’t even need to think about it. She told me he needed to be stopped, and if it would keep him from hurting another girl, she not only would testify, she wanted to testify. I realized she was wise beyond her years.

The court process was long with many court hearings. Our daughter gained new strength with every court hearing. Being able to tell her story and seeing her former teacher face charges empowered her. When he was sentenced by the judge, I could see the satisfaction in her face. The judge made sure he would not be around children again and also mandated that he go through extensive therapy for many years. These were two things that our daughter wanted because she felt it was the best way to stop him from resuming his behavior.

This story started with a girl who was victimized, and as a victim felt powerless. However, by her own strength and courage, she took back her power. She made sure her teacher knew his behavior was unacceptable, and she was not allowing him to hurt her or anyone else. This empowered woman will carry this strength with her for the rest of her life.

~Michelle Bruce

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