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     When you're 7-years-old, the world is an exciting new adventure just waiting to be explored. When you're 7-years-old and you've been severely beaten by someone that was supposed to take care of you, the world can be extremely dark and terrifying. You learn to be distrustful, defensive, and fearful of everyone and everything around you. Hurt or be hurt. Hate or be hated. Be feared or fear others. Yesterday, my 7-year-old stopped being the fearful boy that he was only a year ago. Yesterday, he took a huge step of courage that made this Mama incredibly proud.
     It took a lot of preparation, leading up to the preliminary hearing regarding the abuse charges against Cameron's biological dad. He met with the District Attorney multiple times at the courthouse to review his testimony, he met with his therapist and was able to get the recommendation for his testimony to be used via video camera, and he endured emotional breakdowns as he was quizzed incessantly about details that he has tried for over a year to forget. The process was exhausting and heartbreaking. Finally, the day of the hearing came. We woke up yesterday morning and Cameron got dressed in his Easter shirt and tie. Even his dress socks made a special appearance for the occasion. Once again, our little Man needed reassurance that no matter what happened at this hearing, he would never return to his first father, which is a belief that continues to pop up in his mind to this day. Together, we said a prayer for courage and asked Jesus to accompany us into the courthouse. Cam was thoroughly excited that God took out time to come with him (he even offered Taylor's booster seat for the Lord to sit in on the drive down).
     In true legal fashion, we arrived on time... and then we waited. We waited for a while longer, and then we waited some more. Finally, the DA announced to us and that the accused would not be accepting a plea bargain. Our options were as follows: 1) Back out of the abuse charges and allow this man to pay a small fine and then be off scott free.... no jail, no probation, no charges on his record or 2) have Cameron go forward with his testimony today via video camera and then confront his father face to face at a trial later this summer, a process that they assured us would take months to resolve.
     The social worker in me and the new Mommy in me started to fight. Of COURSE we are going forward, are you kidding me?? Think about Cameron, Shivonne... can he really handle facing his dad and enduring this process for months? But this man has already hurt several other children and gotten away with it... he's just going to continue to hurt others with nothing more than a FINE?! But what if Cameron gets nervous and can't remember the details needed to put him away... then he's off anyways and we've put our son through this heartache for nothing? But...
     As you can imagine, the argument continued... all the while, the DA, CYS workers, arresting officer, and my husband stared at me. I felt like everyone thought that I was cruel for even considering putting my baby through this ordeal. Feeling like an awful mother, I made the suggestion that we should ask Cameron what he thought about it(because leaving the decision up to the traumatized 7-year-old is the answer, obviously). But what I really wanted to do was to inform him of the decision at hand, without going fully into the details. He is the one having to go through this ordeal, afterall.
     I spent some time explaining to Cameron that we had two choices. On one hand, we could be done today... no testifying, no judge, no more coming to the courthouse ever again. His biological dad would move far away and we would never see him again. The other choice was that we would talk to the judge today, and then we would probably have to talk to the judge again, but in the same room as his abuser at the next hearing, and he would have to tell his story many more times. I told him that I am soooo proud of him right now, and nothing was going to change that, but that I wanted to include him in the decision.
     "Would he go to jail if I was done today?" Cam asked me.
      "No, buddy, but he would go back to his new home in a state very far away from here, so you still wouldn't see him ever again."
     "Would he hurt anyone else?"
     "I don't know, bud."
     He thought for a second.
     "I feel really brave today, Mom. I think we should go for it."
     I don't know if it's possible for a heart to smile, but mine must have looked like the Grinch when he finally embraced Christmas. I asked him several more times, and each time, he informed me that he could do this... he could talk to the judge, even if his first dad was in the room. He reminded me that God made him brave in the car. Fighting social injustice.... who said you need DNA to have your kids take after you?
     And wouldn't you know it, that boy of mine walked right into that courtroom with confidence and courage. He answered numerous questions and he did it clearly, calmly, and with a grace that I've never seen my impulsive child possess! When the opposing lawyer tried to trick him up, Cameron said, "I can't lie, right? Then my answer is still 'I don't remember'." I literally laughed out loud, because that's what we practiced over and over was telling the truth, not trying to make up an answer you don't recall simply because of pressure from the questioners.
     Our next appearance at the courthouse isn't until July.... a lot could happen between now and then. Cameron may wake up tomorrow morning and feel scared or unwilling to go further. And I will hug him, tell him I'm proud of him, and call the DA immediately to back out. Because my kid did much more than testify yesterday. He was the 7-year-old severely abused child that turned his back on distrust, defensiveness, and fear. And I have a feeling that, for him, exciting new adventures lie just around the corner.

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