So here are my thoughts on yesterday. At the moment I’m worn and torn because of a physical altercation with one of my residents who jumped me from behind demanding me to hand over my keys last night. AND not getting enough sleep because I ended up staying at work until 2pm, and never got a chance to process this mess before attempting to sleep. Yeah that probably has something to do with it too.
But really, my heart and mind hurt more than my body aches. Something to do with crossing that invisible barrier from “helping troubled youth who are placed into residential care facilities” into “protecting and physically defending myself from troubled youth performing criminal acts on staff” is where I’m having the most difficulty.
I do not have an easy job. I do not have a stress free job. I have been involved with physical crisis situations many, many times. I have had to deal with physical restraints and bruises and muscle aches. THIS IS PART OF MY JOB. I have no problem accepting the responsibility that I might have to become physically involved in a crisis situation. Although I have to admit I’m pretty damn good at deescalating situations before they become out of control. I have known staff members who have been bitten, kicked, punched, slapped, stabbed etc… all a part of dealing with crisis situations. However I have only heard of one other incident in my five years, where a resident actually attempted to harm or injure staff, thereby becoming the crisis situation.
And I was one of them last night. And more painful then my neck and chest right now is the fact that my illusion of safety and trust that we all demand in my line of work, has been shattered.
I’m served with a life sentence greater than myself when I can go through the day that I had FULL OF RAGE and yet still sit in a room one on one with the girl who fought me, whom I pressed charges on… and look at her and try to figure out how the hell we can try to help her. How to imagine what her life must be like to make her be who she is at that moment sitting in front of me. I was in danger, I could have been in an incredibly more serious amount of danger and I cant even begin to think about what if…
I’m cursed, and blessed. The fact that I’m back at work tonight shows I’m stupid and dedicated to a cause greater than my own. And I both hate and love myself for being this person. This person which no one could possibly understand. Underpaid. Overstressed. And now attacked from a resident. How much more do I need on my resume? Does anything I do really make a difference or am I stupid for trying? THESE are the feelings I’m hurting from the most. : (
So what happened? Alas… I wish I could post one of the incident reports although it will be therapeutic to explain the incident to someone, even if it is a pretend cyberspace someone. I really needed someone, anyone, to be there to talk to yesterday morning while I was stuck at work. I only broke down for a wee minute on a voice mail or two right after everything happened, and then I had to be professional Jen and not feel, but deal.
I could have went home but the importance of ME being there with the girls made an enormous statement, which I was complemented for several times. The most important thing we do at work is create a safe environment for our kids. They come from shattered backgrounds, no boundaries, no control, and no respect and choosing to stay at work to continue to deal with the situation showed that I was ok and things were in control. Of course, 49% (bad selfish Jen) just wanted to go to bed and cry but that damn 51% (good selfless Jen) won out, no crying, no dealing, no feeling and we ALL KNOW what happens to me when this happens… everything in the world crashes all in at once. Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee, to be me.
So, I come into work Tuesday night-early Wednesday morn, after taking a day off to complete my final paper for my domestic violence class. I read the communication log. I read a rumor that one resident “overheard that 4 other girls were planning on jumping her in the middle of the night.” (Not QUITE true, the reality was they planned on jumping STAFF… but close.)
I read that 2 other girls, who have rooms next to each other, got into a physical fight and were both suspended. I read that yet another of my lovelies is currently placed across campus in isolation because of her behavior at school. THANK GOD this was the 4th girl who was planning on attacking me to knock me out.
Plus there is the on-going saga with 3 girls in the OTHER wing who have already ran on me in the middle of the night, ran on another staff on Saturday in the middle of the afternoon, and have been up causing problems in the middle of the night just because they can and they have nothing to lose. Tough girls to crack. They DO NOT CARE. “Do I look like I fucking care? Do I? Do I bitch? Try me…”
At 4:30am when I did my check down the hall I noticed all 3 of my troublemakers had their doors open. I sat in front of the doors. 15 minutes pass and Girl #1 comes out, sees me and asks to go to the bathroom and goes back in her room. 30 minutes pass. The same girl now comes out of her room marches past me into Girl #2′s room and SCREAMS “Wake up bitch, I said get up.” They are now both up and making much fuss… it is 5:15. I let #1 stay in the room with #2 because I know they will only leave to incite the rest of the group and at anytime honestly, you cant be sure who’s friends with who and what plan they have. My mistake. The phone is locked in the office. As soon as I walk away they would run or worse they would get the others up and cause more problems. So I’m wait a few minutes.
They threaten to hurt me if I do not let them go to the bathroom, go get a drink, go back into the other room (mind you this is about 3 minutes total of yelling going on… and this situation happens DAILY IN MY JOB.) I tell them when they are quiet I will let them go. #1 is still threatening me and pushes past me to “go to her room” #2 passes me under my arm and heads up toward the office to “go to the bathroom” I have my keys in hand and am walking towards office to call crisis staff. Worse case scenario now, the girls run… bye bye.
As I briskly walk to the office, #1 comes up behind me from NOWHERE and jumps me… she is tackling me and screaming “drop the fucking keys bitch!” I do not know where the other girl went and I’m being attacked from behind. A wee bit of shock sets in. We are in front of the office and I’m trying to break free for at least a minute or two. I cannot, although I could have, restrain her, because I’m alone and that puts me in danger not knowing where girl #2 is… so instead I am trying to break free to get into the locked office.
Girl #1 somehow manages to pull apart my key ring and now I have my work keys in one hand and personal keys in the other. My keys are also on one of those shoelaces gigs because when I do not have pockets on (my mistake—next time always have pockets) I wear it almost as a purse strap. NEVER around my neck. This girl is absolutely off the wall and will NOT let off of me. She is grabbing for my personal keys because the two rings broke apart, and I have a pair in each hand…the shoelace part was dangling, she somehow at one point managed to grab my arm from the other side to get the lace around my neck and was attempting to choke me. Yeah I’m not kidding. Somewhere in this madness I see a bunch of my girls starting to gather around.
I was absolutely certain that this group of girls were up to see what was happening, not once did I believe any of them would get involved and none of them did they were all actually quite scared and in shock. I was yelling (instinctively) “someone please help me!” My mistake scaring the girls, what could THEY do? I regret that now. I was thinking I could hand over my office keys to one of the girls and they would get in to call, however since this fight was happening in front of the very small area in front of the office door, it was unsafe. Plus putting a resident in that position when I was aware that a GROUP of girls were involved is not smart. These girls turn on each other faster than comments about asking for Coach Williams head on a platter surface after a miserable football game… gang mentality.
So now one of my other girls actually attempts to jump the one who is on my back to help me… mind you last week this girl “hated me more than she ever hated any other staff ever up in this place… ever.” I’m not sure how she got away. I think another resident pulled her off.
I’m hearing girl #2 tell me that if I wanted to help myself all I had to do was drop my fucking keys they were ABSOLUTELY insistent upon getting them before they left. They could knock me out, I couldn’t call for help…all part of their plan…of course I was not supposed to fight back in their plan…hmmm.
I did break free at one point and fell up against the door banging my head (which hurts a little) and when I got up towards the office, the girl jumped on me again… she even pulled my sleeve off (big roomy flannel) while girl #2 tried to pry the keys out of my hands repeatedly. She did not JUMP me but she did put hands on several times to pry open my hands. I actually weaseled my way out of my shirt now I’m half naked fighting in front of 10 girls standing there in shock-EMBARRASSED MUCH??? I broke free again, this time though… I ran out the door.
I ran to the car, got in (cause without the car I was afraid the girls would still come after me while trying to open the school door) and went to the cottage next door to get help, about a minute later crisis staff came in, I followed and the three girls, who we knew were going to run… were gone. (I later found out all the girls ran to the window to see what was happening and thought I was leaving them alone… for good.
In retrospect… I’m beating myself up for not thinking about running to the cottage after breaking free sooner although my instinct was in the right place… during a riot, leaving the kids alone? After all one of the girls jumped on me to protect me with me gone do they jump her? Do they all run? Bad move to leave… And so I regret leaving the cottage at all and leaving this possibility of endangering the kids… Dammed if I do, dammed if I don’t. No one got hurt when I left, but…but…what if? And all three levels of supervisors totally support and commend my every decision….but still….I’m nowhere near at ease.
And should I have just dropped my keys (office ones?) The other girls later told staff when we were debriefing the morning events that the girls were planning something more serious, like knocking me out… and they also said it wasn’t supposed to be that serious because I should have just given them my keys. I was NOT going to drop them, let them get in a car and injure other people. My one supervisor said he thinks he might have just given the keys up. I can’t imagine ever doing so… unless it was a really bad situation which it did not become. 10 kids were not on me, only 1… why? I dunno, damn lucky. I would have NEVER expected #1 to do it, and would have every reason in the world to suspect #2… and it was the other way around…never can tell. So scary.
So cops were called, charges were pressed, although the 2 girls (under 16) are here on JD charges and now in violation of their probation, nothing will happen. Appearance ticket, tap on wrist if that. The three residents who ran of course did not get anywhere in the rain in their pajamas…they were found on campus an hour later and came back screaming in my face, gloating. “Hi Jen, are you ok Jen, someone beat you up Jen, you fucking whore bitch.” RAGE RAGE RAGE…I told the cop, very cute cop by the way, that he should hold off on the missing persons report cause they would be back in an hour…and I wasn’t sure if I would rather never ever see their damn faces again…or watch them come back and confront them face to face. Life.
I could say more, but I am feeling the rage again…