Nina's Reading Blog

Comments on books I am reading/listening to

Ghost Girl

Posted by nliakos on June 10, 2007

The True Story of a Child in Peril and the Teacher Who Saved Her

by Torey L. Hayden (Little, Brown & Co. 1991)

Torey Hayden is an educational psychologist and special educator.  Ghost Girl chronicles an experience she had when she left a job as research coordinator and therapist at a midwestern clinic to take a position as special education teacher of a tiny class in a small town elementary school.  The “ghost girl” of the title, Jadie, was an elective mute–a person who refuses to speak despite being able to.  As it happened, elective mutism was a particular interest of Hayden’s, and she quickly succeeded in getting Jadie to speak to her, but the real issue addressed in the book was how to interpret what Jadie said.  As time passed, Hayden began to suspect serious, possibly ritual, abuse of Jadie and her two sisters.  However, she could not bring charges without proof, and she needed Jadie to come forward and accuse her abusers.  It was very difficult to get Jadie to cooperate because she was so terrified.  Hayden describes her doubts along the way; a reader may feel impatient and wonder why she was not more pro-active in the case, but that is because we already know that the abuse occurred, whereas for Hayden, at the time, the issue was whether it was actually occurring or whether Jadie was simply a deeply disturbed child who had seen inappropriate TV shows and applied them to herself.  Eventually, Jadie agreed to tell her story to others in order to protect her baby sister, and Jadie and her sisters were removed from their parents’ home and put in foster care.  If Hayden can be believed, Jadie eventually put the abuse behind her and developed into a normal, successful young college student.  The abuse described was so horrific that I find this difficult to believe; but I guess it is true that some people are just survivors.

Many of the issues raised by the investigation were never resolved.  Was a cult using the children for Satanic rituals? Were they being abused on camera for the child pornography market?  Was Jadie’s dead friend a real child who was murdered, or a part of Jadie’s own personality?  Were the girls being abused by their own parents?  Who else was in on the abuse?  It is frustrating that these questions were never satisfactorily answered.

This is an unsettling read.  No one wants to think about the sexual abuse of innocent children.   On the other hand, we know it does happen.  This book shows how a caring adult can help, albeit not as fast as we would like.

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