On Sunday night I received a call from MP, a girl in my Cherish group. It was about another girl, Estella, who is also in the group and a girl who has been in Metro since it started. "Karen, I'm calling you about Estella. She was beat up really bad by her mom. She's in the hospital- maybe we could visit her. I just feel so bad for her and wondered if maybe you're someone who can help. Her friends made a video of it happening, but everyone is scared to talk. Do you think you can help?"
Isaac had Monday off from school and we decided that we would go to the hospital to visit Estella. But let me first tell you, that this is not the first beating from Estella's mom. When I first took over Metro, Estella had run away from home, bruised and beaten with cables and broomsticks. But beaten so bad to be sent to the hospital? I can't even imagine the aggression it takes to break a bone in a child. A 12 year old child.
Before we went to the hospital on Monday morning we went to pick up MP, Estella's friend that had called me on Sunday. As soon as we entered the neighborhood, we were greeted by one of Estella's neighbors. "Karen, did you hear?" Yes, I heard. "Did you come to help?" I'm not sure how much I can do- remember that I'm a missionary, not a government social worker.
She then told me the story of what she saw late Saturday night. Estella out playing with her friend in front of the house, and falling down. Her friend going to get her mom to help, and the mom enraged that she had fallen. The mom began to beat her, while Estella screamed for help. The mom dragged her into the house, closed the door, and the sounds of her being beaten continued. The neighbor called the police, and 6 police showed up with an ambulance. They had to pull Estella's mom off her, and Estella couldn't move. She was put onto a stretcher and taken away by the ambulance.
The neighbor told me that that was the last they would probably see of Estella, since so many neighbors had called children's services, and of course, there was the police report of the incident. I went down the several flights of steps to where Estella's house is to find the 2 friends that she had been playing with- and the friend that had this video of it happening. Finally, some proof.
I found the friends being harshly reprimanded, and threatened by Estella's aunt. "If you girls even say anything about my sister you will be sorry. My sister gives normal punishments- if you are bad, you deserve to be hit. When children's services comes to investigate, you both better keep your mouth shut..."
The aunt, who is normally so friendly to me ignored the fact that I was even there. I squatted down and talked to the the 2 girls who are sisters, "Is your mom home, I need to talk to her!" They got up, leaving the aunt ranting and raving to the wind, and we walked towards their house. Once we were alone, I told them that I didn't really need to talk to their mom, but wanted to talk to them about Estella. They confirmed what I had already been told, and then said that they were afraid of what people would do to them because of the video, and deleted it. "Do you want to help your friend?" I asked. They both nodded. "Then tell the truth. When people ask you what happened, no matter who they are, tell the truth." They shared with me that when they used to live next door to Estella, their mom would make them cover there ears when Estella and her siblings were being beaten, so they wouldn't be traumatized by the screams. "So let's decide today to help Estella," I told them,"tell the truth when they come to investigate."
Isaac, MP & I left the neighborhood after having talked to everyone we needed to, and headed towards the hospital. Traffic was awful, but it's what's to expect. When we arrived at the Children's hospital the guard asked for our ticket, so we could enter. We didn't have a ticket. After several phone calls we found out that the mom was with Estella in her room, but she would come down so we could go up and visit. We waited, and waited, and waited. It poured rain while we waited outside next to the the guard's stand. Hours passed, and we continued to wait. None of us wanted to disappoint Estella. We wanted to show her that we love her- that we care.
After 3 hours had passed, the guard informed us that she was being released. Released? To children's services?
Released back to the mother.
Finally Estella walked out with her mother & stepdad helping her walk. I greeted all of them, and let them know that we had a vehicle and would take them home. They were all grateful. Estella cried at the pain of climbing into the car- I can't imagine the family taking her on the public bus, climbing up and down stairs, changing buses to get home. I was thankful that we had waited all that time to be able to take her home.
Once we got in the car the mom said to me, "You know Karen, some people said that I beat her and did this to her." "Oh really," I replied. "Yeah, but look at this paper..." and she handed me a paper from child services that said that the accusations of domestic abuse were found to be false after interviewing the mother and the daughter.
What about the police report?? What about the neighbors?? The eye-witnesses?? But because Estella (who loves her mom and would never betray her) and her mother both denied abuse, Estella was released into the care of her mother.
When we arrived in Estella's neighborhood we all said goodbye, I hugged Estella & her mom, and then they started the slow painful walk down to their home. Isaac & I sat in the car in total disbelief. We watched them walk away, dumbfounded. How was this possible? How could we be sending this child home being helped by the very woman who abused her and sent her to the hospital in the first place??
It all felt so wrong. It still feels wrong. How do things like this happen? Where is the justice?
We are missionaries, not social workers. Our authority comes from God, not from the government. We cannot remove children from violent situations. We can only pray and trust that God will intervene. My faith tells me that He will do something, but sometimes it's hard to believe.
Today I spent the majority of the day in the court- reporting what happened, filling out paperwork and telling Estella's story to someone who might be able to do something. It doesn't matter if the hospital & children's workers called it a "closed case." It's not a closed case to me, because as long as Estella is living under the same roof as her mother, the abuse will continue. Tomorrow I will be at children's services doing the same thing- trying to stand up for Estella.
In the book of Proverbs scripture tells us to "Speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed." Pray with me that Estella and her 2 younger siblings will receive justice. Pray that we talk to the right people who can help us help her. Pray for me, as it's hard to keep fighting for justice without seeing it happen. Pray that if Estella does get removed from her home, that she can stay in school and be placed with a family that will love her and her siblings. And pray for her mom. As hard as that is, her mom needs to know the love of Jesus, too.