01 Feb Log-book of Social Worker #931
Today I had my first meeting with case #1122, the abuse and neglect of H. The case was reported to our office after a school nurse noticed physical damage on the child.
H is a seven-year-old girl of average build. She is bright and very inquisitive. Her mother, Professor H XXXX, was not home at the time of my visit. According to H, she is often gone. She spends most of her time at work. When she is home she does spend time with H, although H did not seem particularly happy about this. Her father, Mr. N XXXX, was home at the time of the visit. He was disinterested in my presence but did agree to answer some questions.
I began the interview with the father first, asking H to wait in her room. Apparently H lives in the basement. I will revisit this fact later. The father looked intoxicated although he claimed he does not drink. He told me he has schizophrenia. Perhaps his medication makes him appear drunk. He went on to tell me that he often heard voices but none of them were violent. I asked if he ever harmed H and he became animated. He vehemently denied ever hurting H. He asserted that he loved her and wanted only to protect her.
I asked if he felt H was safe in his home. He was quiet for a few minutes. He then said yes very quietly before requesting to end the interview.
Afterward, I went to H’s room. As I stated earlier she lived in the basement. Her room was small and windowless. I noticed quite a few books but otherwise it was quite bare. I inquired if I could ask her some questions.
“Like an experiment?” she responded.
I told her no, not an experiment. An interview. She agreed. I asked her if she felt safe at home. She said that safety was relative and there is no stable definition. I was shocked by the maturity of her answer. I pushed her to tell me more. She explained that safety is dependent upon your experiences. A dark cave might be safe to some people and terrifying for others.
I asked her what her version of safety was. She said being alone.
I asked her if anyone at home was hurting her. She asked if I meant physically or psychologically. I said either. Instead of answering she asked me if I had ever slapped my son. This was concerning to me. I had not mentioned my son to her or her father. To change the subject, I asked if she had been slapped. She just smiled and said she figured so.
I will revisit the XXXX family next week to check back with H.
Log 2, June 13th 1966
I revisited the home of H today, however I could not enter the home. I knocked on the door. I could hear H’s voice from behind the screen. She asked who it was. I told her my name and that we spoke last week. She said she was not allowed to open the door. I asked why, and she said N was in time out. She said she would answer one question if I had any. I tried to push the issue but she had obviously left the door and no one answered my questions.
I will come back tomorrow.
Log 3, June 14th 1966
Case #1122 is becoming far more complicated than expected. I went to the home and the father invited me in. He was not in the intoxicated state of last week. He was perfectly alert. I asked him about the day before, and he laughed it off.
“A time-out is when I am locked in the bathroom to work out all the voices,” he explained. “It is for my own good.”
I asked him who locks him in the bathroom. He changed the subject.
I circled back to the physical damage on H observed by the school nurse. “Don’t worry, it is part of her lessons,” he told me. I asked how scars carved into her back were lessons. “I know, it’s hard for me to understand too. But that’s just because we’re not as smart. She understands.”
“Your wife?” I prompted.
“Yes. Wife.” He seemed upset.
I wrote some notes implicating the mother in the abuse. “Can you understand why this is concerning for others?”
H came up from the basement. She looked at me. “Are you bothering him?”
Her appearance was shocking. She was dressed only in underwear. For the first time I could clearly see the wounds. It was horrible. My first instinct was to grab her and take her home with me immediately, but I obviously followed protocol.
“Are you alright?” I asked her.
“That is a stupid question.” She walked towards the father, completely unbothered by her nudity. “Has she asked yet?”
“No. But she-”
H turned to me, ignoring her father. “I think it’s time for you to go.”
“I’m sorry, but I am deeply worried about your safety. I can’t leave yet.”
“There are thousands of children who need your help. I am not one of them. Your response to this entire situation is disappointing.”
I was extremely confused. I tried a different tactic. “Can you tell me who hurt you?”
“Better. But not quite right.” She turned her back to me so I could see the full horror. Up and down her back were a series of lines and dots. They were carved with a blade very carefully. I will try to replicate it here but it will most likely be incorrect. -.– — ..- / .- .-. . / .- .-.. .-.. / .. -.. .. — – …
The father started to cry. A deep sense of fear washed over me. “Who did this to you, Henrietta?”
“I am so tired of all of you. You don’t see the bigger picture. You don’t care about knowledge.” She sighed. “I did this to myself.”
The father cried louder. I stood up. “I think it is time for you to come with me, Henrietta.”
“You haven’t done it yet! Everyone else has done it. Why are you different? Is it your son, the one who can’t even piss without your help? How often have you grown impatient with him? Wished he was dead? When you slapped him, did you feel good? Even the guilt felt better than the fact that you’ll be his maid for the rest of his life.” Her voice was full of venom.
“How do you…how do you know about my son?”
“I followed you! We got a letter you’d be coming and I found your house. I watched you spoon applesauce into his face. A good scientist does her research on her test subjects.” She shook her head. “Even if her subjects fail her.”
I admit, I got angry. “You are not a scientist. You are a little girl. Is your mother influencing you?”
“You still don’t get it? We made her up. There is no Harriet Wrom. It’s just me.”
“But your father…”
“Is an idiot. I don’t really believe we’re even related. There’s no way that pile of useless could be related to me.” The father had stopped crying and simply rocked back and forth.
I inched towards the door. “Henrietta, you need a doctor.”
“I AM A DOCTOR,” she screamed at me. “I’m smarter than any of you.” She collected herself. “I’m sorry, that was unprofessional. I am simply frustrated that my experiment didn’t work.”
I was about to run out the door, but something stopped me. “What experiment?”
H wiped the hair from her face and tied it in a bun above her head. “I was trying to see if morbid curiosity could beat out human concern. I carved this on myself for one purpose – so you would ask what it means. That’s all I wanted from you. But you were not an ideal test subject. I should have known better. I will document my findings and try again.”
“Just go home,” she said with a flip of her wrist. “You’re useless to me now.”
I opened the door. I wanted to leave, to get out of there as quickly as possible. But it was as though my body and voice did not belong to me. I turned back to the child, halfway out. “Henrietta,” I said quietly, “What do the marks mean?”
A large smile spread across her face. She walked over to me, opened her mouth, and shut the door violently. I fell backward and skinned my elbows. After this I rushed back home as fast as I could.
Log 4, June 15th 1966
Last night I called the police and informed them about what had happened. I asked for a police escort today when I would take H out of her home and to the hospital. We agreed to meet at the home at noon.
Noon came and an officer joined me in knocking on the door. There was no answer. I pounded louder. Still nothing. The officer peered into the windows and told me it looked like the house was empty.
We traveled to H’s school to see if we could find her there. Her teacher said she was not in class.
We will try again.
I have given up on case #1122. Police broke down the door of the house and nothing was inside except for a book about military communication. H never came back to school. It was like she and her father disappeared.
That was months ago. I haven’t stopped thinking about her since then. The way she spoke and held herself…it was unbelievable that she was only seven.
I sincerely hope she gets the help she needs. I doubt she will, but I can still hope.
On a related note, I got a terrible thing in the mail that I believe she sent to me. It was a syringe. I have no idea what is inside the needle but I can only assume it is deadly. She wrote e a small note that simply said, “If you ever want to end it.” I don’t think she means suicide. I think she wants me to give it to my son.
But of course I would never do that. Of course not. Never.