David is not his real name, but it could easily be. He lives with his mother and his father, but he could live with a single parent or relatives. He has a brother and a sister, but he could just as easily be an only child or one of many. He lives in New Brunswick, but his story could be that of any child anywhere across Canada.
It was between the ages of 11 and 12 that David’s parents became aware of major changes taking place in their son. He began to withdraw and his temperament changed. He began questioning authority: first his parents’, then the Church’s, then educators’. His attitude became one of “Everyone else is wrong and I’m right.” From all appearances David had hit the rebelliousness of adolescence in full stride.
But his father was not convinced; deep within him lay nagging doubts. As if in confirmation, the fights between David and his parents grew in intensity and duration. When David threatened his father with a knife, David’s parents knew something had to be done. Thus began a series of visits to a string of psychologists and psychiatrists who alternately blamed David’s behaviour on his parents or on the boy himself.
“We were told he had an attitude problem,” recalls David’s father, “but we were also told we didn’t do this right and we didn’t do that right – it was hard to take.” Finally one doctor suggested that the boy was on drugs. To David’s emotionally-battered parents the suggestion came as a relief. “We were convinced David was on drugs,” says David’s father, “and we pursued that angle, despite the fact that he kept denying it.” Concrete proof was never forthcoming, however, for the medical authorities refused to do drug testing on David.
In the midst of all the turmoil in David’s life, and subsequently that of his family, one significant change in David had been inadvertently overlooked: David had begun to draw pictures of people who were bleeding, severely disfigured or hacked to pieces. To David’s parents they were drawings “without meaning.” Then, one night, David’s father sat in dawning recognition as he watched a TV movie dealing with Satanism. “Then I went out and bought a book about it (Satanism),” he remembers. “At least I had some idea of what I was dealing with.” David never denied his involvement in Satanism, and his satanic activities were soon recognized by the members of his family. On the day that his mother, a devout Catholic, called in the parish priest, David came down the stairs with the number 666, a Satanic symbol, carved on his arm.
Until then there had been no police involvement. That changed suddenly when David threatened to “get” a child at school and the child’s parents filed a complaint. David was charged. From then on “he kept getting into trouble with the police,” David’s father states honestly. “He went AWOL; he and a friend went in to rob a store with a knife; he stole his mother’s car and went out with a friend and a bottle of booze.” When the police stopped the car and held David in custody, his father simply told them, “Charge him.” David was convicted and sent to the New Brunswick Training School. “God was looking out for us,” acknowledges David’s father of David’s imprisonment, “because that is where we met Pam.”
Pam Harquail is the academic supervisor of the New Brunswick Training School. It was through her involvement that David’s rehabilitation began. “When I started therapy with David I had to realize this [Satanism] was this boy’s belief system,” recalls Miss Harquail. “If I was to tell him. As others had done, that this was nonsense and to stop it, it would have only pushed him further into it.”
Her approach, then, was a non-judgmental one. “I used a simple counseling technique with David.” Says Miss Harquail. “I asked him to help me understand what his beliefs were. I had him look at what he believed as seen through the eyes of another. I offered little in the way of instruction or alternatives.”
While the technique was simple, the relationship was not. David often interrupted the sessions by declaring, “You’re giving me a headache!” Moreover, David was never really certain of the role Pam Harquail had in his life. “I clearly recall the day that David thought I was sent by Satan to test his faith,” Miss Harquail remarks. “He asked me what I would do if he vomited green stuff; I told him I would hold him.”
It was this unconditional love from both Pam Harquail and his parents that firmly established David’s renewal. “Every time he went to court, we were there,” recalls David’s father. “I would tell him, ‘I still love you and somehow we’ll make it.’” It wasn’t easy, though. David’s disruptive behaviour had put his family under great pressures, and his parent’s marriage was crumbling. It became onerous to drive the long distance to see him only to be met with stony silence. “Pam had to remind us of the need to love,” David’s father remembers of those troublesome times. Love not only for David, but for each other and for God, was the bond that held the family together.
“Only looking back, does it all fit together,” remarks David’s father. “As a parent, it is difficult to understand. You don’t know about it – you haven’t a got a clue.” Pam Harquail agrees. “The primary tool of Satan is fear,” she declares, “and fear is the normal human reaction to the unknown.” In the battle against Satanism “education is the soldier to use,” she continues. David’s father concurs. “We’re all ignorant. We all say, ‘Not with my kid!’ I would advise any parent to pick up a book on Satanism and read it,” he states.
David’s father is brutally honest about the actions of his son and the hell his family went through. “But if I can save one child and parent from going through all of this, it’s worth it,” he concludes.
First of three parts.