Au Pair Robbed at Gun Point: How to help her recover?

by cv harquail on May 24, 2017

She’s safely home. And really upset.

Sure, the worst didn’t happen. But it doesn’t matter.

11999093926_62938a9c68_mThe Au Pair still had the experience of being dramatically unsafe, even though she’d done all the right things.

The Au Pair still has to drive the car, go out in the evenings, be the responsible adult, and continue being confident as she learns and grows as a guest in the USA.

  • What can her Host Mom do to help?
  • What resources should they look for?
  • What changes could they make in their expectations? What changes *should* they make, if any?

Dear Au Pair Mom:

My Au Pair was robbed last night at gunpoint. Thankfully she is ok, but she (& I) are shaken up. She was being safe, was in a group, and it wasn’t that late (only 10:30 pm).

I am sorely disappointed in the Agency’s response. I thought they might have some kind of support to offer my Au Pair. Thankfully our local coordinator has been attentive, with phone calls and (I hope) a visit later today. But, the agency “has no resources” and is at a loss to assist.

I am sad and yet sure other families/Au pairs have experienced situations like this in the past. What should we do?

~ShakenHostMom

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Amelie - former au pair May 24, 2017 at 5:20 pm

I was robbed at gunpoint once and, to be honest, I’ve never fully recovered (it’s been fours years), though it no longer affects me in my daily life.

I couldn’t? go out alone at night for a few weeks, and I was not totally ok during the day either.

I did a lot of therapy but I can say that I was never the same.

For me, it was great when people didn’t? dismiss my trauma and offered to give me emotional support (like taking me home at night whenever it was possible). I also needed some time to go back to some of my previous routine tasks (I’m a teacher, and I asked to be released from my night classes for two weeks). Maybe ask your au pair about what she’s ready and what she isn’t ready to do right away and try your best to accommodate. Maybe try to help her find affordable psychotherapy, if this is something she would like to try.

I’m so sorry that she’s been through this. :(

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Maybe Future Host Mon May 25, 2017 at 12:39 am

Most cities ( though usually the county govt) have a victims services office. They can guide you through the process of filling a police report, finding a counseler, etc. Do a Google search for your City and victim services. I’m not a host, so no practical experience. But I think you respond with compassion, a kind ear, and no change in expectations. Assuming she was already being safe, your response should be something that is appropriate for your family and lifestyle. That can be anything from baking cookies to enrolling in a martial arts class. Do what you would do if this were your spouse or adult child in a similar situation.

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NoVA Twin Mom May 25, 2017 at 7:49 am

Wow. I’d recommend two things:

Call your agency and say your au pair needs support, even if it’s just a visit from the LCC to officially check on her. Go up the chain if necessary.

Second, contact whatever law enforcement was involved in the robbery (because the police were called, right? And a report made?) and ask about Victim Assistance programs. I’m not sure what will be available, and it may vary by jurisdiction, but that phrase might get something moving. If nothing else they might have names of counselors that take reduced payments.

Good luck.

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Amelie - former au pair May 25, 2017 at 8:05 am

My comment was not published, I’ll try again

I was robbed at gunpoint once and, to be honest, I’ve never fully recovered (it’s been fours years), though it no longer affects me in my daily life.

I couldn’t? go out alone at night for a few weeks, and I was not totally ok during the day either.

I did a lot of therapy but I can say that I was never the same.

For me, it was great when people didn’t? dismiss my trauma and offered to give me emotional support (like taking me home at night whenever it was possible). I also needed some time to go back to some of my previous routine tasks (I’m a teacher, and I asked to be released from my night classes for two weeks). Maybe ask your au pair about what she’s ready and what she isn’t ready to do right away and try your best to accommodate. Maybe try to help her find affordable psychotherapy, if this is something she would like to try.

I’m so sorry that she’s been through this. :(

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Reluctant Grownup May 25, 2017 at 12:12 pm

Your poor Au Pair. How far into her year is she? This could cause her not to want to go out at night again, so it’s a huge shame if she’s just starting. Hopefully her job duties don’t bring her really close to this area. Does she have free daytime hours when she could meet friends? The counseling advice above seems great – maybe the group she was out with wants to go together?…

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Reluctant Grownup May 25, 2017 at 12:16 pm

Also, if she’s close with her family, they may be encouraging her to go home. The agency may be more likely to step up if there’s an indication they’ll lose their ‘investment’…

I’m not sure, maybe someone in the counseling/ psychological field could comment, but I’d imagine that talking to someone quickly is important- even if she feels ok now she could get fearful or anxious weeks later.

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Italian HM May 25, 2017 at 12:49 pm

Poor AP!
What an awful thing to happen, and how awful of the agency not to have more support in place.
I am not from the USA so I don’t know how things work over there but I would suggest maybe helping her to have some counselling, or finding a self-defence class for her to go to (in reality I don’t think they are very useful but they will make her more confident).
When I was an au pair I was assaulted in the street (early evening, in a group of friends, not in a bad area) (fortunately there was no gun) and I remember that I wanted to cry for a few days and I didn’t want to go back to the place where it happened. I think you will need to be very gentle and sweet with her if this is a place she needs to go as part of her job. If it were my au pair I would also tell her that if she is ever afraid to go outside to ring me and I will come with her, but I know this is not always possible for very busy parents.

Please do talk to your agency and ask them to make plans in case this happens again! I do not know if you have been to the police station but maybe they can help as well?

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NJ Mom May 26, 2017 at 9:42 am

I echo the comments here. A combination of therapy, lots of extra support, and something to build AP’s confidence.

Unfortunately sometimes you can do everything right and still pay the price for someone else’s bad decisions. Give AP lots of reassurance that she did everything right. Whenever it comes up, reassure her again. Perhaps avoiding the area for a little bit, and then HF (or other friend) accompanying the AP during the daytime back to the area when AP is ready.

I would spring for a set self-defense classes to help AP feel safe enough to venture out. One of our past LCC did an annual self-defense class as one of the cluster meetings. From what AP said, it takes a series of classes for it to be “useful”. Perhaps asking LCC to help research and find an appropriate class or victim assistance could be part of the agency response.

Some bed time distractions or sleep help might also be good if AP replays the events in her mind at night. Things like listening to music, sound machine, someone to sit with her until she falls asleep, etc.

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NBHostMom May 29, 2017 at 8:40 am

I’m also not an expert, but have some knowledge about PTSD. Studies have shown that the sooner a person engages with a trained counselor, the less likely PTSDis to developing.

I’m not trying to suggest she will develop PTSD, but it may be worthwhile having a session or two as a “preventative” step (ie not what for signs that she needs help beyond what you and the agency can provide)

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Should be working May 29, 2017 at 12:38 pm

EMDR therapy is used for processing trauma of all kinds. It’s short-term, focused and apparently effective. Parents of recovered ED kids have tried it, including me, and it seems helpful.

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Taking a Computer Lunch June 1, 2017 at 9:20 pm

The problem, for APs, is that there are few or no psychologists who will work pro-bono. If you live near a university, then perhaps graduate students in the Psychologist Department offer counseling at a reduced rate. I will tell you right now, AP health insurance will be useless (because, those of us who have paid for therapy for ourselves or our children know that top-notch health insurance is basically useless).

If you love, love, love your AP, then support her by offering to assist her in the therapy costs. (If your LCC is excellent, then she might be able to help you find therapists who work at a reduced rate.) Be flexible, be as supportive as you are able. And, the bottom line – if she’s too stressed out to continue – or her parents insist that she return home and she isn’t resisting, then be willing to have an honest talk about what she needs. If she needs to go home, then help her fight with the agency to have them pay for her return ticket. Be as gracious and giving as you are able – it’s worth it in good will.

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