Secret shame: Therapy helps child deal with 'the bad touches'
Lexi gets the comfy red seat, the one that looks like an overstuffed lounge chair only in miniature.
Dressed in a Hanna Montana T-shirt, jeans and sequin-speckled black shoes, she rests her elbows on the baby bear-size table. Stuffed Mickey and Minnie mouses sit to one side. Social worker Angela Shields takes her place on a wee chair across from Lexi and sets down a bucket filled with colored markers, pencils and crayons.
This is the fifth time Lexi has met with Shields. It also will be the hardest. It will take all the courage a 5-year-old can muster to tell what happened to her in January at a neighbor boy's house. Her mother and Shields agreed to allow a reporter to sit in on the session, provided their names not be used.
Before Shields gets to that, she wants to know how many time-outs Lexi has had in the past week. The little girl has been acting up lately.
"Zero time-outs," the girl says.
"That's like two high fives," Shields says, putting up both hands for Lexi to slap. "Awesome!"
Shields then explains it's time for Lexi to make a book to get all of the bad thoughts and feelings out of her mind, so she can feel better.
"I'm scared right now," Lexi says.
"That is so OK right now," Shields assures her.
Shields takes out a blank sheet of paper and asks the little girl what the 13-year-old boy did to her.
"He put his private part into my two private parts," Lexi says.
Shields writes down the story as it unfolds. It happened in the boy's bedroom. He had Lexi and his 3-year-old sister race downstairs to see who was the fastest. "Then he made me get into his room."
"How?" Shields asks.
"I forgot since it was so long ago," the girl says. Once in the bedroom, "I think he made me pull down my pants."
As Lexi talks, Shields continues to offer encouragement and support, telling her she hoped to get all those scary thoughts out of her head and onto the paper.
"I just asked him to stop and he wouldn't where he was doing the bad touches," Lexi says. When he did stop, he gave Lexi a dollar bill. "At least I told the right people."
"Yes, you did," Shields said. "Superstar!"
After another high-five, it's time to draw.
Lexi pulls a crayon from the bucket and begins to draw herself and the boy. "I want you to actually draw him giving you the bad touches," Shields tells her.
Lexi has a difficult time drawing the picture. She can't decide whether to draw her face with a frown or a smile. "I'm getting smiley because it's almost getting all out," she says.
She has no problem drawing her tears, which she colors blue.
"I told the police what happened to me," Lexi says as she draws.
"The reason we tell police is so we can get help," Shields replies.
"And," Lexi adds, "so we can feel much more better."
"Yeah, good job," Shields coos. "This is the hardest part."
Shields asks Lexi to show how the bad touches made her feel. She pulls out a sheet with faces showing various facial expressions. Without hesitation, Lexi says the bad touches made her feel mad, sad and scared. As she scans the sheet, she settles on a frightened face, and then confused and guilty.
Shields assures her it wasn't her fault, and that she, too, is mad and sad at what the boy did to Lexi. She tells her what a great job she is doing realizing how the bad touches made her feel. She uses words like awesome. She calls Lexi brave.
"I was yelling stop," Lexi said.
Shields suggests Lexi write the word "stop" on her picture. She shows her how to spell it.In place of a mouth on her self-portrait, Lexi writes "stop."
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