Gee seemed more settled as the weeks went on and her visits became shorter and more about her latest assignment and her new friends than anything else. She formed “Gee-style” attachments to teachers whom she decided were allowed into her circle of trust and she now had two or three teachers (female) as well as me to talk to when she was feeling anxious or unworthy.
I felt that Gee had created a World around her in which she felt able to cope with the immense stress of 6th Form and the immense stress of not having her Mum around her when she needed it. Things seemed to go along without incident for a while.
And then came Tom.
At first, Gee would mention Tom in conversation with the rest of her friendship group. Soon, they were the talk of the year group, the two love birds who couldn’t seem to exist without each other. Alarm bells rang for me as I knew that Gee was highly likely to form an unhealthy attachment and hearing that they seemed to be joined at the hip concerned me.
Things were rosy for a while and Gee seemed to beam with her new-found love. He was everything she had ever wanted, he was caring, considerate and attentive and he seemed to “get” her in a way that no one else did.
By now, the alarm bells were literally clanging off their hinges!
I battened down the hatches and waited…
Over the coming months, the relationship became toxic for both parties. They argued all the time, he wanted Gee all to himself but she wanted freedom to just be herself. There were tales of infidelity, broken trust, broken phones, endless messages back and forth. The light that had beamed from Gee’s face had gone out.
She had lost a lot of weight, she wasn’t eating properly. Her piercing brown eyes had sunken into her cheekbones. Her clothes hung from her hips and her hair lost it’s shine. A constant enigma to me, Gee had found inside herself the power to achieve against all odds. What I now saw was a broken young girl who had allowed herself to become overpowered and was stuck in a destructive cycle which was also bringing Tom down. What could lead to such behaviour?
Sure, her messy upbringing had played its part. Gee had been exposed to loss and relationship breakdowns. She found maternal affection easily from teachers and from me but the male side of things didn’t seem to be working out for Gee.
She wanted more from Tom than he was ever able to give and she was as incapable of articulating that to him as he was of delivering.
As time went on. Gee reverted to previous behaviours. Telling teachers to Fuck off, skipping classes, even getting thrown out of classes. Her Step dad was informed and eventually, during a showdown between Gee, her Mum and her Step Dad, she was able to say what the real problem had been.
I arrived at work that day to very busy reception. There seemed to be people everywhere, so I signed in and made my way through the people towards my room. As I approached, I was met by the headteacher. “Hey Sarah, can we have a chat in my office please?” Oh no! is always my first response. Over the years I have found myself in hot water with school management and parents over some of my methods to help young adults. I braced myself for a telling off.
“This is a delicate matter. You’ve been seeing Gee now for a while?”
“Yes, nearly two years on and off”
“Has she ever mentioned to you anything concerning abuse?”
“What kind of abuse?”
“Sexual abuse of a minor, Gee being the minor at the time?”
I felt my face flush and my stomach retch. All this time? She had held this burden and never mentioned it.
“No, she never mentioned it” my voice trailed off. How could I have missed this? I knew something wasn’t right, I should’ve seen this.
“Anyway, Gee’s parents are here to speak to me and let me know what happens next and Gee is in your room, she wanted to see you. Is that ok?”
“Yes. Of course. Yes.” I stood and walked out of his office, selfishly wondering what he, everyone else and mostly Gee thought of me for not seeing this.
As I opened the door, she sat there, shrunken into a chair like a child. She looked up at me and smiled.
“Bet you didn’t expect this kind of start to your day?”
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