TAMAR Vignettes

STELLA

Stella is a 52-year-old woman who shows up at your office door at 4pm on a Friday. She’s distraught and seems embarrassed. She’s looking for some place that offers a support group for women like her. You invite Stella in to tell you more about what she’s looking for. 

Stella shares that she was sexually exploited in strip clubs as a teenager and despite all the years, she just can’t seem to get her life together. She got caught up in drugs and engaged in prostitution for several years. No one ever knew. She never told. She eventually got out of “the Life,” got married, had kids, and held down a job. She shares, “It’s as if I’ve lived a double life. No one would believe what I’ve been through. I’m hearing about human trafficking on the news now. No one called it that back then. I was just a prostitute. Now there’s all this sympathy for trafficking victims. Where was the sympathy for me? I keep seeing all these stories. It’s all coming back to haunt me. I think I’m losing my mind.” She breaks into tears.

How do you respond to Stella using the TAMAR method?

T  – Trust 
Ensure safety, minimal distractions, open doors, physical boundaries, no promises

A  – Agency
Discloser controls the narrative, remain calm, do not ask prying questions

M – Meaning
Listen, validate, avoid overgeneralized statements, attentive body language

A  – Action
“How would you like me to help you?” “How can I best support you?”

R  – Respond/Refer
Tell child you will involve people who will help keep them safe; ask (the adult) for permission to make referral; contact CPS, law enforcement, crisis centers; state facts, use discloser’s language; have resources available

TODD

Todd has been active in the church for 4 years, although he has not found his place in it. He jumps around on different committees, men’s groups, and projects, each time giving it his “all,” but never staying very long. A couple of times, he’s gotten upset about how the work was going and left the projects abruptly. Yet he always seems to sign up for whatever is new. Other congregants have commented that Todd always seems “on edge.” He’s exceedingly bright, resourceful, and helpful, just not connected.

Todd moved here from Pennsylvania and doesn’t talk about his family or childhood. The church doesn’t know much about him at all (where he works, if he’s married, has a girlfriend, has kids, etc.). He usually doesn’t sit through a whole service, often standing in the back row or in the doorway and listening in.

You’ve asked Todd to come speak with you because of his most recent outburst. He shows up on time to the meeting, but he looks terrified. His countenance is that of a frightened child. You reach behind him to close the door and he becomes visibly anxious and uncomfortable. He starts rambling about “being in trouble,” apologizing, promising to do better next time. Amidst rapid conversation, Todd blurts out, “I don’t want to touch it. I don’t want to touch it.” He puts his face in his hands and start to weep.

How do you respond to Todd using the TAMAR method?

T  – Trust 
Ensure safety, minimal distractions, open doors, physical boundaries, no promises

A  – Agency
Discloser controls the narrative, remain calm, do not ask prying questions

M – Meaning
Listen, validate, avoid overgeneralized statements, attentive body language

A  – Action
“How would you like me to help you?” “How can I best support you?”

R  – Respond/Refer
Tell child you will involve people who will help keep them safe; ask (the adult) for permission to make referral; contact CPS, law enforcement, crisis centers; state facts, use discloser’s language; have resources available

TERRANCE

Terrance is a 6-year-old boy in your Sunday School program. He gets dropped off by his grandmother and picked up by a teenager. One of the Sunday School teachers has come to you for the third time this month to discuss Terrance’s disruptive behavior. She is frustrated and looking for support. You ask the Sunday School teacher to describe what behaviors Terrance is presenting and what else she knows about this child.

The Sunday School teacher explains, “His outrageous behavior is disrupting the class. I can’t be expected to teach the Bible when he’s acting up all the time. Most of the time he’s just running around the room, turning everything upside down. He calls the other kids names like Booty and Pee-pee. He’s always turning the dolls or Ark animals upside down, pointing at where genitals would be. He’s only quiet when I’m reading, but when I look over at him, he’s got his hand in his pants! His grandmother drops him off, but I don’t think he lives with her. I’ve seen an older teen, maybe a brother, pick him up in the parking lot sometimes. His car music is really loud. Do you think he could be on drugs or something?”

How do you respond to this situation using the TAMAR method?

T  – Trust 
Ensure safety, minimal distractions, open doors, physical boundaries, no promises

A  – Agency
Discloser controls the narrative, remain calm, do not ask prying questions

M – Meaning
Listen, validate, avoid overgeneralized statements, attentive body language

A  – Action
“How would you like me to help you?” “How can I best support you?”

R  – Respond/Refer
Tell child you will involve people who will help keep them safe; ask (the adult) for permission to make referral; contact CPS, law enforcement, crisis centers; state facts, use discloser’s language; have resources available

SKYE

A relatively new member of your church makes an urgent request to meet with you. When she arrives, she has her 9-year-old niece, Skye, with her. Skye lives with her mother, her mother’s boyfriend, and her 2-year-old brother. Skye’s mother works evenings while her boyfriend takes care of the children. The Aunt is at her wits end and looking for someone from church to intervene.

The Aunt tells you ,“My niece, Skye, has recently become more defiant and emotionally unpredictable, and her school performance has deteriorated. Skye disclosed to me that she was touched by her mother’s boyfriend in her “private parts.” She said he told her not to tell anyone or she would get into big trouble. When I confronted Skye’s mother about this, she said the child has a history of telling stories. What do I do?”

The aunt has not taken her eyes off you. Skye remains stoically quiet during the meeting. You don’t know Skye, so there’s no prior basis for rapport. You sense that the Aunt is not making this up.

How do you respond using the TAMAR method?

T  – Trust 
Ensure safety, minimal distractions, open doors, physical boundaries, no promises

A  – Agency
Discloser controls the narrative, remain calm, do not ask prying questions

M – Meaning
Listen, validate, avoid overgeneralized statements, attentive body language

A  – Action
“How would you like me to help you?” “How can I best support you?”

R  – Respond/Refer
Tell child you will involve people who will help keep them safe; ask (the adult) for permission to make referral; contact CPS, law enforcement, crisis centers; state facts, use discloser’s language; have resources available

TRACY

Tracy is not a member of your church. She was invited by her friend Allison (as part of the “bring a buddy” campaign), to go on the church’s Teen Camping trip. You never heard anything more about Tracy until four months later when Allison is overwhelmed with grief because her friend Tracy is in the hospital after having attempted suicide. Tracy was 16 at the time of the camping trip, she’s 17 now.

You meet with Allison and she reluctantly discloses that on the camping trip, two of the boys in youth group cornered Tracy and sexually molested her. To ensure her silence, they have been harassing her on social media and in school. Tracy couldn’t bear it in any longer, so she turned to cutting her wrists. Allison added, “Her parents don’t know. She couldn’t face them if they did.”

You need to speak with Tracy to find out what really happened and do what you can to stop this harm to her. You also need to know if there are boys in the youth group who might be a danger to others. You ask her parents if you could visit her in the hospital, and they agreed.

How would you use the TAMAR method to respond?

T  – Trust 
Ensure safety, minimal distractions, open doors, physical boundaries, no promises

A  – Agency
Discloser controls the narrative, remain calm, do not ask prying questions

M – Meaning
Listen, validate, avoid overgeneralized statements, attentive body language

A  – Action
“How would you like me to help you?” “How can I best support you?”

R  – Respond/Refer
Tell child you will involve people who will help keep them safe; ask (the adult) for permission to make referral; contact CPS, law enforcement, crisis centers; state facts, use discloser’s language; have resources available

STEVEN

Steven is 12, the oldest child of an established family in the church. The kids have been raised in the church, as were their parents and grandparents. Steven considered it his second home and was involved in all the youth functions. The church’s newest youth pastor, Douglas, is single and full of energy. He enjoys taking the kids on outings and off-campus functions. He brought more of a contemporary culture into the youth program, connecting with the kids through music, videos, social media, and such. The kids seem to love it and love him.

You begin to observe that Steven is always around Douglas. Steven spends hours alone in Douglas’ office. Douglas gives Steven his university jacket as “thanks” for a job well done. On a gut feeling, you start to make inquiries about Douglas’ history and find that he’s been removed from his last three placements for vague reasons. You search Douglas’ social media accounts and see that he has an odd collection of pictures of himself with younger boys; he doesn’t seem to have posts with friends his age. You fear that Douglas may be grooming Steven.

How do respond using the TAMAR method?

T  – Trust 
Ensure safety, minimal distractions, open doors, physical boundaries, no promises

A  – Agency
Discloser controls the narrative, remain calm, do not ask prying questions

M – Meaning
Listen, validate, avoid overgeneralized statements, attentive body language

A  – Action
“How would you like me to help you?” “How can I best support you?”

R  – Respond/Refer
Tell child you will involve people who will help keep them safe; ask (the adult) for permission to make referral; contact CPS, law enforcement, crisis centers; state facts, use discloser’s language; have resources available