Editor’s Note: Childrearing duties often inequitably fall on women and poverty, unaddressed mental health issues, abusive relationships, substance abuse disorders, language barriers, precarious immigration statuses, or any combination of these factors prevent mothers from caring for and protecting their children. Of the country’s 400,000 foster children and youth, 74.9% have suffered neglect, 17.5% physical abuse, and 9.3% sexual abuse. Girls are particularly vulnerable. 20% of all girls experience sexual abuse and 82% of all sexual abuse victims under 18 are girls.
Trigger Warning: The following contains content that may be harmful or traumatizing to some readers.
I come from a home that consisted of abuse, drugs, and violence, low income, and very little support. My bio-dad was an alcoholic, drug addict, with a violent history, who had sexual predatory behavior. My mom worked often to escape the abuse, but most of the time that didn’t work. My little brother did not always see the same punishments or abuse that I did. Maybe it was because I was a girl, and he was the boy and baby of the house. He managed to escape a lot of physical punishment but did witness mine and sometimes my mom’s abuse. Being undocumented and having undocumented parents made it all worse because we were taught to not say anything, trust no one, and if we did, there would be harsh consequences. So, we knew not to say much to anyone at an early age.
Finally, my mom managed to escape the abuse, making us move around a lot. I went to seven different elementary schools and was never able to settle in anywhere. My brother didn’t care as much as I did. I wanted friends, but because we were always moving, that wasn’t possible. My mom worked a lot as she was now a single mother raising two kids on her own. My dad was back in jail and it was time to finally get away from him. The responsibility of the house fell on me and raising my brother too. Finally, my mom met a new partner, who eventually we moved in with, and my mom found herself pregnant with another baby. I was mad, hurt, and could not tell her this so what did I do? To take it out on her for getting pregnant when she could barely take care of my brother and myself?”
I decided to go lose my virginity at twelve or thirteen to a neighbor who was a gangster, who could have been my older brother in age, and of course he was delighted to help me teach my mom a lesson. He realized it was uncomfortable for me and let me be after it all was over. I went home and my mom gave me the news. We were moving out of the city I grew up in to move to a new city none of us had ever been to because the company they worked for was moving. So, life got a whole lot crazier for me. I didn’t have a say in what we were doing.
I was in a new place after moving and with a new man in the house who was not too fond of me (because I resembled my bio-dad). Then there was my little brother, who was always just going with whatever was happening. He had always been a quiet kid. And there was the baby on the way. Eventually I ended up raising her for part of her childhood too. Again, because I was the older sibling, a lot fell on my lap and I was robbed of a decent childhood, plus whatever a little girl's childhood would have been like.
My stepdad was always breathing down my back and his friend would come over and they would drink while my mom was off working. My mom and stepdad didn’t know he was molesting me any chance he got when he came inside to use the bathroom. So, during this time, I was rebelling at school, starting fights, and sneaking alcohol in water bottles to escape everything. I was already labeled a troubled kid, why not act like one also?
I managed to graduate 8th grade by a hair and went on to high school! Well, that was a disaster. Gangs, drugs, cutting school, fights, just everything that I could do to piss my parents off, I did. I had my first encounter with the police, but I was lucky enough that they felt that taking me home for my parents to deal with me would be punishment enough. And it was. I was hit with a belt each time and then I ran away. Finally! That didn’t last long because the police got a hold of me and basically told me that I either came home or they would put me in a juvenile hall, so I had no choice but to go home.
There was a point where I ended up in an alternative school and was doing better, but after overhearing a fight between my stepdad and mom, I felt the need to step in and get involved. Because he was drunk, he raised his shoe and I kept insisting for him to hit me. Eventually he did. Over and over. My head hit the corner of the window and my mom decided to finally stop him and managed to get him off of me. I remember my brother and sister watching from the stairs crying. I just went upstairs, got my things to shower, and looked in the mirror at all the marks from the shoe and the big lump on my head from the window rim. And I began to cry. I cried in the shower with so much pain and hurt that this man, who was not my father, had laid hands on me. That my mom allowed it and didn’t stop him until she felt it was enough. That my siblings watched it all. Just because I was defending my mom from a man yelling at her and telling her how he never wanted kids.
The next day my boyfriend at the time felt the need to tell the school what had happened. He was worried that I tried to kill myself, but the cuts were only to get some emotions out. So, the school called me in the office. I remember walking in with my hoodie on and seeing the counselor. She asked what happened and I just started crying. I could not hold it in and when I told her what had happened, she stood up and asked a police officer to come in. She did not tell me that was going to happen. The police officer began asking me questions about that night and as I was telling him, I had to relive the whole thing from the start. He then asked me if I could show him where I had been hit and told me that he had to take pictures for the report. The officer and counselor asked me to remove my sweater and I felt invaded. Each click of the camera, each side or angle they snapped, just stayed in my head. Then they walked me over to another room where another officer and a social worker were with my mom. My mom just looked at me and said, “I hope you’re happy with what you did.” I just felt like the world fell off behind me.
The cops explained that because of what had happened, and with my stepdad living there, I could not go back home. They said that my stepdad was going to be arrested and demanded that me and my mom tell them our address or where he could be found. My mom had this look in her face of hate and disappointment and gave the address to the officer. As we were leaving, my mom told me to never again count on her for anything and the social worker motioned for me to follow her to her car. At that moment, I went numb and felt nothing but the urge to jump in front of a car.