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Chapter 2: When No Means Yes

Matthew 5:37

But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.

Because Grace had begun seeing her counselor weekly and we then added seeing a psychiatrist to monitor her medication every three weeks, Grace was missing part of school once a week and routinely having to do makeup work.

I felt like perhaps we were on the right path, at the very least. I had secured some help for her, her cutting is out in the open between us, and I am getting off of work early to take her to these appointments. I am taking measurable, active steps. I am in action mode. I am doing the right things.

I withhold what is going on with Grace from most of the family and only tell my boss because I needed to leave early once a week, and also every other week or so for the medication management appointments. Telling my boss was humiliating, humbling, and I was concerned my job might be on the line because I needed “special” conditions for my workday. And I needed my job. More on this, later.

Your pride will surprise you in that there are so many things it prevents you from doing: from being honest, from being truthful, from admitting to others that you have a serious problem. In the moment, you don’t recognize pride for what it is.

From Grace's journal, found years later

One day I arrive to pick up Grace after regular school dismissal time due to a makeup test from her missed classes because of the counseling appointments. Grace is late coming out. By about 20 minutes. In fact, Caroline was with me and suggested that it had been too long and that I should go inside. Right as I am getting ready to open my car door, she comes out. As she is walking to the car; she has an odd expression on her face. A mix of excitement and wonder and also one of confusion, like she is trying to figure something out. I note the expression, but we don’t talk about it, or really anything on the way home.

Later that night around 9:30 p.m., I am downstairs setting up my coffee for the next day and can hear Grace on a video chat upstairs in the room directly above me. I am expecting she will get off soon because she knows it's bedtime anyway.

But after a few seconds this thought passes; this night was different.

I felt literally pulled up the stairs.

I confess that when I have heard people say things like this - they were “called,” or “told” or “pulled,” I think... now, that's melodramatic. How can you feel "pulled" up the stairs? These are overly emotional people who are trying to sensationalize their spiritual experience. These are people who let emotion run their lives. I was skeptical. At my most gracious times, I thought maybe they had a much deeper walk than I would ever have, but God really never did anything like that with me. Oh sure, when I was still - like in the shower or just simply alone somewhere, could be anywhere, I would feel a thought that seemed to come from somewhere outside of me, and I could attribute that to the Holy Spirit. But I never could precisely pinpoint it and say with certainty: Ah, yes. Thank you, Lord. I got that message loud and clear. It was just not part of my experienced faith.

But, here I am, telling you.

I was pulled up the stairs.

I stopped prepping my coffee for the next morning. I started going quietly up each stair so I would not be heard, and got to the door of the bedroom. My heart was pounding. I was trying not to breathe or move quickly for fear of her knowing I am there, and then stopping her conversation. And I heard things like:

“he pushed me against a wall….. he put his hand up my shirt and under my bra... we left because the bell rang.... later I texted him to come back, he did..... he took my phone and put it down his pants ....I straddled him to get it back... he told me to get it myself.... I unzipped his pants and got the phone" (the person on the other end, a male, says to her... you liked it, I bet, didn't you? to which she replies.... “yeah,” with a giggle).

This explained Grace’s odd expression when she came out of school, late. I could not tolerate hearing any more. I was shaking. I burst in the room. I told her to hang up. I demanded her phone to read her texts. There weren't many, but there were some. Boys she had been texting would say things in the middle of a bland text conversation like, “I’m gonna go masturbate. Be right back.” And Grace would reply: “Ok.”


As I stood there with her phone in my hand, I told her, “You are special. You deserve to be treated much better than what I am reading here and what I overheard!” I was just given a glimpse into part of her life that I had no idea even existed. “Your life is not supposed to be like this!” I added.


In hindsight, I wish I would have thought through what I was going to say. My declaration of “your life is not supposed to be like this,” is so broad. What exactly was I trying to say to her? I wanted everything I had just heard to stop and go away. I wanted her to be in her bed, maybe reading and settling down for the night not relaying some story about a guy putting his hand up her shirt while simultaneously texting with another in between his masturbation.


She was surprised at me bursting in the room; I caught her off guard. Yet, she roared back at me with the force of someone who had been holding something in for far too long, as if pressure had been building up and she could no longer contain it.

“God isn’t even real so just be quiet!” she shouted at me with utter disgust.

I didn't take the bait but persisted, “Don’t talk that way to me and you’re certainly not to behave like what I’m seeing and hearing here!” I yell back.

I think she and I were both so shocked at what had just happened. My shock was what I overheard, hers was in being overheard.

I was still standing at the threshold of the doorway from where I had swung open the door; she was still sitting on the floor where she had been talking. We said nothing for probably only thirty seconds, but it was those thirty seconds that might as well have been 30 minutes.

Out of nowhere, and a complete change in direction for her, she broke down and cried.

In between sobs, she asked me, “What if I inherited some kind of gene from my dad that makes me want to do this with boys? What if I am just this way?”

“What exactly is going on with this boy?” I asked.

She tried to catch her breath. “He pushed me up against a wall in the stairwell at school. Then, he put his hand up my shirt.”

I was trying to be calm at this information because I wanted her to continue.

“He took my phone and put it down his pants! He made me come and get it from him!” she said through tears.

I asked her if she told anyone and asked if there were cameras in the stairwell. She said there was no one around.

“I just wanted my phone back,” she said. “I told him ‘no’ several times, but he didn’t listen. I didn’t know what to do.”

I now have a place to focus my anger. A boy took advantage of my child, and she told him no. Repeatedly. The phone conversation was her way of rationalizing it, by talking about it casually, it made this assault less of an actual assault for her. I told her we were going to the school the next day to tell the administration about this boy. I could tell she was a little tentative with this but I understood that; I would have been too. I tried to comfort Grace by sitting next to her on the floor and I could feel some resistance to me being so close to her, but she didn’t move away. We were both exhausted. Sustained high emotion can exhaust a person as if they had had a strenuous physical workout.

We arrive at the school the next morning and are led in the principal’s office by a side room so that Grace does not have to see anyone because it is surely all over school by now since I had a made a phone call first thing to alert them that I needed an emergency meeting, and I was sure Grace had probably told people. The school police officer, the principal, the vice-principal, and a counselor were all assembled when we arrived. This is a big deal; the mood in the room is serious. Grace is nervous but relays her story:

She was in the stairwell with this boy because they were going to work on homework together. Then, the boy pushed her against the wall. He put his hand up her shirt. She told him to stop. He didn’t. She tried to fight him off. He then took her phone. Then, he left. Grace had to go get the phone after school and he had put it down his pants. He made her unzip his pants to get the phone.

All in the room were quiet. The counselor spoke first and told Grace she did nothing wrong; this was not her fault. We all re-affirmed her. I could file suit against the boy if I desired. We considered our options of punishment for this boy. They would talk to the boy and his parents and get back with me. In the meantime, I needed to decide if I wanted to press charges. We told Grace she did the right thing by coming forward.

After the meeting, I spent my day rallying support. I called her two older siblings. I called stepdad. I can’t tell her grandfather for fear he will resolve the issue himself. Think how you would feel to discover your child had been sexually harassed – abused, even. Especially a child you were working so hard to get to a better mental, physical and spiritual spot. This punk kid who did this to Grace would not undo everything I had been working toward.

I begin to think that the school was a bad choice for Grace; she clearly can't handle the life choices yet. And who are these kids anyway? Where are their parents? Do this boy’s parents know he did this yet? The lack of oversight is just like that dance I chaperoned. How can we contact this kid? Will Grace be strong enough to file a complaint? We can’t let him get away with this; what if he does it to other girls? I praise Grace telling her that she is courageous for talking about this. I tell her that by her telling on this boy, she probably will save other girls. I end the day reflecting on Grace’s inner strength to tackle this issue with this boy.

The next day, Grace had gone to school, and I was fretting over how her day was going. I was concerned she was going to be bullied because she had told on this boy. She would be made fun of. It would send her into another cutting episode. My mind is at the total whim of my thoughts. I am consumed. The vice-principal calls me around mid-morning.

The vice principal’s voice faltered on the phone. He said they pulled the boy in and talked to him and they got his phone. I was welling up with righteous anger in anticipation. I had no doubt he had done this exact thing to many, many other girls. But what he read to me over the phone blew me away. Grace had texted this boy things like, “I would like for you to put your hands down my pants,” among far, far cruder comments that I won’t even replicate here, including asking him to meet her.

Grace, on her own, had pursued the boy after school. She texted him and asked him where he was. He said he was in the gym. So, Grace went to the gym to see him, and that’s when he got her phone and put it in his pants. And that’s when she straddled him to get it back.

I felt for the vice-principal, having to read her texts over the phone to me. How awful for him. The hallway incident? Didn’t happen quite like Grace had reported. In the texts, they talked about the hallway incident. He did not push her up against the wall, he did put his hand up her shirt, and she told him via text after the fact that she just wasn't "ready" for that yet. He asked her if she was jealous because now, this same day, he was talking to another girl.

Grace had misrepresented what had happened, to me, to the school officials, and in turn, I to everyone else. This explained the conversation I heard with the boy on the phone the night I felt pulled upstairs; it explains her casual tone in relating the events to him.

Remember the analogy with the rollercoaster earlier? It was like that, again.

Her duplicity took up all my mental headspace for the rest of the day. I was consumed with anger and with playing it all out over and over. I addressed it with Grace when she got home from school.

I pointedly confronted her on painting a picture that made her seem as if she was entirely innocent. Her reply?

"Yeah? So?"


I was dumbfounded. Without words.

Grace let me go to that school and make a case for her when she KNEW she had not told me the full truth. She took advantage of me. And what about the boy? She sat in that room and listened to the police officer talk about our options for lawsuits! She played me for a fool. And I was.

I thought I was doing the things I was supposed to be doing. I clearly failed as a parent and now as a role model that my daughter would think this behavior is acceptable and desirable. I did not know specifically what do or how