From Our Readers
August 30, 2013 9:00 am

My story begins with me. Hi! I’m Sam. I’m 23 years old and I always have one million and one things that I’m involved with. One of those things that I’ve always been super passionate about is kids. I love kids! It’s weird…or maybe it isn’t, but I’ve always just been really super great with them. Some refer to me as the baby whisperer, but I think super nanny works great too!

A few years into my nanny career I landed the perfect nanny job! The pay was awesome, the hours were to die for not to mention it was only 4 days a week! I couldn’t wait to get started and really commit to this family for what I thought was going to be 2-3 years. I got hired in January and everything fell into place. Here I was, 20 years old, making more a week than most 20 somethings and doing something that I loved.

Eight months went by and things were still going great. It was probably one of the only times in my life where I wasn’t anxious. I knew how my days were going to go, I knew each child’s personalities in and out. Their likes and dislikes. I was able to foresee temper tantrums and stop them from occurring even before the parents could. I thought to my self quite frequently wow, I got really lucky – even the parents have taken me under their wing and I truly feel appreciated.

It wasn’t until the end of month 9 that all of my luck ran out. In one moment, ONE measly second, my life was changed. JUST. LIKE. THAT. What I’m about to say next is a little disturbing and some days it still feels surreal.

It was just a normal day. The kids were napping and I just finished loading the dishwasher, when I realized my bladder was about to burst. I’d been so focused on dishes and dinner I forgot to go and so I went! I don’t remember what caused me to look along the baseboard as I was sitting there. Maybe my body knew something was off before I did. But there it was, my worst nightmare staring me right in the face sending me into a downward spiral. I spotted a video camera pointing up at me.

My heart sank so far down into my stomach, I thought I was going to pass out. Being a freelance photographer (one of the other million and one things) I knew instantly that it was a webcam. I had no doubt in my mind, although at that point, my mind was trying to tell me it wasn’t real and come up with every logical excuse. But there was none.

I reached into the radiator, pulled the camera up and out and sure enough there was a memory card in it and it was plugged into an outlet in the corner. My heart started racing so fast, streams of tears were just consuming my being. I immediately put it back in it’s place and did what I feel like any 21 year old would do. I called my mom. Hysterically, I babbled in broken details the last 3 minutes of my life. She (like any mom) started playing devil’s advocate. “Are you sure it’s not one of the kid’s toys?”, “How do you know it’s a camera??”, “Wait, where did you find it?!?!”. She reassured me enough to calm down and call the family and see what the heck was going on.

After hanging up with her, some new emotions started to arise. At this exact point I was still scared, but more importantly, this fight or flight instinct kicked in. Since the kids were still sleeping and I couldn’t choose flight, all I had left was fight. With my hands shaking and my heart still racing I called one of my bosses – the Wife. I was more comfortable confronting her about what I had just discovered all while pretty much at this point knowing who the culprit was. I questioned her, asking if she knew there was a camera there. Our conversation was very similar to the one my mom and I had – at first questioning and then coming around to the realization of what I told her. Except this conversation ended with her calling her husband.

I paced the floor, waiting to hear a call back from the wife. I hoped she would reassure me that it wasn’t her, and that it wasn’t her husband, so it would logically have to be an intruder that snuck in, in the middle of the night, to place a camera in the bathroom. For some reason THAT thought was a little more comforting to me. I still didn’t want to believe what the truth could likely be. Then the phone rang, but this time it was the Husband. Our exchange was a little bit more calm. I take that back, his exchange to me was calm, while mine was still frantic. I explained everything again – how I found the camera, how I knew it was a camera and even went as far as saying – “Why would there be a camera in the bathroom, I don’t understand. It’s in there, why is it in there?” He calmly told me “Don’t worry about it, just keep an eye on the kids and I’ll be home soon to figure it out.”

The thought of him being home soon terrified me. The odds and realization that it was him were hitting me like a ton of bricks and I didn’t know at that point what could happen if he did come home. After hanging up, I called my dad, who had already received a call from my mom. He told me to immediately call the police. I paused. Was this really happening? If it was really happening, was it really police worthy? Would the parents approve of me calling the police? What if it was a misunderstanding? I technically still don’t know who did it. Would I have to go with the police? Would I get in trouble for all of this? Who would watch the kids if I had to go to the police station? The kids wouldn’t understand police showing up at their house, it would terrify them. How did this happen? Do I hide the camera until police show up, just in case my bosses come home and want to dispose of evidence? Am I going to be in trouble?

Some of these questions and ideas are very logical, some are not. ALL of then went through my head.

Before I could mentally ask myself what I should do next I get a call from the wife. Her next words were “Spoke to my husband. I’m leaving work. Get the kids, get the camera and get out of the house immediately!” That was all I had to hear. I got the kids, got snacks and loaded everyone/everything into my car and took off. We agreed to meet at a park I used to take the kids to play. I called my dad to update him and he told me whatever I do, not to meet her at that place and to go to some place close and surrounded by a lot of people and that he would meet me. This was another tough dilemma. Clearly I have her kids in the car with me, but I didn’t want anyone to think I was trying to withhold them. At that point I just wanted to be safe. I felt so dirty and violated and all I wanted was safety, for me and the kids. (After all, they used that bathroom too). I made a decision to go to a gas station close by the park and called 911. Of course, in true Samantha Morris fashion my phone had died (from all of the phone calls) so I had to use a stranger’s at the pump. (A big thank you to that kind patient woman) It’s so weird how one moment your safety and well being is just completely ripped from you and all you can think about is how you just want to be safe. I didn’t care at that point what happened next, as long as I was safe and that the man who just took that away from me was nowhere in sight.

My dad showed up to wait with me until the cop came, and the wife came and got her kids. I don’t have kids of my own, but knowing that was the last time I would see these kids broke my heart so immensely, I don’t think I’ve felt a loss like that before. It also doesn’t help that with not being able to see them anymore, that meant I was also without a job. The terrible truth about this was in the weeks following the wife texted me asking if I would consider nannying the kids from my home instead and that I would have no contact with her husband. I think I considered it for a split second only for the children’s sake, but then thought am I being punk’d? Why would she think on any planet that this would be okY, and turn out well? That’s when my OCD and Anxiety and Depression kicked into overdrive.

I spent the next several months in therapy and on medication…which i continue to this day. I racked my brain trying to figure out how this situation came to be. I never wore bathing suits around the husband. I always dressed comfortably but appropriately. We didn’t discuss anything inappropriate. Even one time for my check he wrote “For Samantha’s college fund” because he knew at that point I was considering taking a couple of classes online. He was more like a father figure to me than a boss. I couldn’t figure out how someone who I looked up to would do something like that to me….and later found out he had the camera up for an entire month and he moved it to different rooms without his wife knowing he was filming me.

A court hearing came and went this past April. I was the ripe old age of 22. Apparently filming or taking pictures with no audio of a person or persons over the age of 18 in the state of Maryland is only considered a misdemeanor. Had the pictures/video had audio he would have been looking at a felony, as far as I’m told.

I ended up speaking at the trial. I got up in front of strangers, and the judge, and the one man who I feel has single handily made my life really hard to live, and told him just how his actions have affected me everyday since. From having anxiety attacks to depression to suffering from PTSD, from being without a job for several months to not being able to nanny for 1.5 years out of fear that something like this would happen again. I can honestly say, if you ever have this opportunity to speak out against an injustice, please take it! Although even with my testimony he only got community service and counseling and a small fine to the court.

However, I’m learning to deal with the things I can’t change, and know that what he did wasn’t because of anything I did. Some days it’s easier to cope, other days not so much. Even though I will have that fear of it happening again for the entire rest of my life, I’m surviving and taking it one day at a time to recover.

You can read more from Samantha Morris here and here.

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