So I should write something I guess. Yesterday was a hectic day. It was hectic for mundane reasons. The principal wanted some editing done for a magazine he has been asked to do for the district and this being Country X, it needed to be done yesterday. And it was hectic for other reasons also.
C has a Facebook account now—I mentioned that before. I helped her set it up so that she could chat with IT Ma’am, because they are very close. But it is also a new and exciting thing when you are 13 years old and don’t have the internet at home, but you have a phone that has all of these capabilities you never used much before. And she also knows nothing about internet safety. I ought to have said something. I didn’t. I feel like a helicopter parent sometimes with her, and I stayed out of her online life.
To come to the point, she had 850 friends, 700 of whom she had never met. Many of them were adult men. Sunday night, one of them posted a pornographic picture on her timeline. I did not see it. I was sleeping, but on Monday morning, two other men did the same thing—one of them of a man having sex with what was clearly a child. Those I saw. I know her password. I logged in as her and removed them, but I also knew someone else would keep doing that to her. I was angry. Completely beside myself with rage, and that’s how my morning was. Enraged, but only the laundry saw. Only the kitchen utensils saw, although what I wanted to do was find something that would make some nice, satisfying shattering sound and break it.
It has been a long time since I felt inside me that absolute urge to murder someone, but that is how I felt.
Anyway, when I saw C come online, I messaged her. I told her I wanted to talk to her before school. I told her I was angry and I was not angry at her, but I would be if she did not come to meet me. She came, but not as early as I had hoped. I waited for her for 20 minutes, just nursing rage.
I saw her coming down the hill, and she gave me a guilty look, but being enraged, I did not look at her sympathetically. I just looked, and I don’t what she thought of that. I came towards her and we met at the base of the hill. She had National Language homework to finish. That’s why she hadn’t come very quickly. Anyway, I couldn’t really stay angry at her. She doesn’t know about murderous Ash. It might be better if she doesn’t meet her.
I told her what I saw on her timeline in the morning. That’s when she told me what had happened in the evening, that she was angry and responded angrily to the man who had done it, but her friend had said to ignore him. Or something. I told her she is 13 years old, that adult men are friends with 13-year-old girls for only one reason, and she has a lot of friends on Facebook she does not know. She should not be friends with anyone she does not know personally. She said something about wanting to get a new Facebook account, because this one has become a problem. She is moving to a new place, and when she moves she wants a new phone number and a new account. We were walking toward her classroom. I said they were going to do it again, these men. She is moving in 4 months from now. There was going to be a problem today. She seemed very surprised by that, but I guess she believed me.
She came back with me to the staffroom. I asked her if she knew how to unfriend people. She didn’t. So we spent maybe 20 minutes doing that. My battery ran out—I forgot the battery was low and didn’t bring the charger. She said we could finish in the evening. I said we could finish at lunch. “What about the battery?” I said I would get permission to go home and get the charger. I did that. Anyway, I needed my laptop for the principal’s editing job, although I didn’t know about it yet. During first period, I went through her Facebook friends, and picked out the ones who seemed the most obviously not her friends and unfriended them. Then my balance ran out.
I had forgotten to eat breakfast, so when I went home to get the charger, I ate quickly before leaving. I forgot to say that. At lunchtime, because I had eaten breakfast late, I wasn’t that hungry. Instead of eating at lunchtime, I went back to the bazaar and recharged my internet credit. On the way back, I found her in her classroom and asked if should come. We had been working in the staffroom before, but I know she is not comfortable there. She is comfortable with me, but not in front of the other teachers and she feels she cannot sit down. I don’t think the sitting is the main thing, although it must be uncomfortable, crouching or kneeling on the floor or standing and bending over at an awkward angle. It’s just a sense of being self-conscious she has. Early in the morning, before the other teachers arrived, I told her to sit in the chair with me, and she did without hesitation. Just sat on the other half of my chair with me. But when the teachers came, she stood up.
I brought the laptop to her classroom then and we spent the rest of lunch unfriending. We still weren’t done when the bell rang, and I told her to come after school. She came, and we did that for maybe 20 more minutes. Then it was done. I showed her some things after that so that she had more privacy on the internet. She wanted to leave though. Her friends were waiting. I don’t really know if she paid attention or not, but I set her privacy to what I wanted it to be, I think. So maybe that is all that matters.
I saw her online in the evening. I said she could tell me if there was any problem. She said okay. I said a few other things. That was all.
In the morning, when I first saw her, she looked at me and she looked so happy. I asked her if there was any other problem. She said no, still looking happy.
I’ll tell you a few things it means to me. I could protect her. All the years I was growing, I could never protect the girls I loved so much. I wanted to and I couldn’t. I could only witness their pain. It is terrible to be only able to do that. It is probably all any of you can do for me, and it is probably difficult—just to witness. But I had never been able to do anything else more than that. I could act to protect C and it did protect C. It didn’t strike me so much that she was safe or that I could keep her safe, but I was not powerless. I had adult power and knowledge and I could use it to help her, and I did.
And then her relief this morning, like she could just be a girl again. Her adult problem had been solved, because an adult had come along and knew what to do.
C knows so many things. If I saw a snake and wanted to get rid of it, I would probably call her or someone like her, because they can all handle poisonous snakes quite efficiently. If someone needed a wound dressed, I would do that, because she would know how to manage the long rolls of gauze I get a bit lost in. But how to deal with a pedophile, she didn’t know, and I did.
I am so glad. I am so glad I knew.
It also seemed to me that she must have noticed I did not tell anyone what had happened. In the evening, Maths Ma’am was leaving. She asked if I was going. I said I was finishing something up. I didn’t say what I was doing or why. I didn’t say anything in the morning to the teachers either. In C’s class, the children—her friends, some of them—wanted to know what we were doing. C said unfriending. When they asked me, I said much the same thing. That some people were unwanted. Nothing more. Nothing specific. Country X is an enormous village, with a lot of village gossip. I did not tell her secrets. It had been my worry in the first place. People would see what men had posted on her timeline and they would talk about it. They wouldn’t be understanding about it. They would blame her. They would say what is she doing friending these men anyway? They would paint her as having a very negative character, some of them, and it would be hard to erase that later. Maybe that wouldn’t happen, but gossip is frequently vicious and lasting and unfairly applied to girls and I don’t think Country X is any different.
So I didn’t say anything. Maybe the teachers discussed it later. Maybe the students did. But I left it to C to explain to students, and the teachers might talk among themselves, but they will probably just say I am too close to students or whatever.
It might be nice for her to have that happen, to have an emotional safety that just involves getting to choose how much you share.