Tell me some things about your life: I grew up in a family with two sides. Like a coin my life was often flipped and I could land on my head or my tail. Heads up meant safety and the love and comfort of my grandparent’s home. Tails meant violence, abuse and pain in my mother and stepfather’s home. It seemed I landed tails most of the time.
I had a big loss at the age of 5. My Dad used to come and get me and we would go to baseball games and he’d buy me gifts. I loved those moments with him. One day he came to get me but my mom had herself another man - my new stepfather. He stood up and told my Dad that he couldn’t have me any more. I never saw him again after that. I stopped talking, so my grandparents bought me a puppy. I called her Miss Beasley, I loved her and she got me talking again!
A year later my grandparents house caught fire. Grandpa came and pulled me out of bed, screaming, “we gotta go, the house is on fire.” I tried to reach for my Miss Beasley but Grandpa swung me over his shoulders and ran me down the stairs. We stood outside and watched the house go up in flames! Miss Beasley was gone. I cried and cried.
My mother had three kids with my stepfather. They raised us in the Projects. It was a dangerous place: drugs, alcohol, violence, shootings and poverty. I went to Woodlands school where mom was a second grade teacher’s assistant. She left early and got home late. I took care of my sister and two brothers. I was 8 years old and thought I was all grown up! I made sure we ate, took our baths, did our homework and the house was clean. When my stepfather came in drunk, I got out of the way. He liked to scream, curse and beat on someone—it was usually my mother.
I remember us kids were taken to my stepfather’s family sometimes. He had nephews in their teens. At first they’d be all affectionate and let me hang out with them but that led to sex and rape. At first I thought it was OK, like it was normal, something everyone did. When I look back on it I think wow! I didn’t get a chance to be a virgin—it was stolen from me! I didn’t get the opportunity to say, “No, I’m not ready” or, “No, I wanna wait until I’m married.” I didn’t get a choice.
I got pregnant when I was 14. My mother’s family raised $500 to pay for an abortion. When I was 16 I got pregnant with my daughter’s daddy. We were supposed to get married, but he killed a guy and got first degree murder with intent to kill. He’s still in prison today and my daughter is 33 now.
I tried to bring my daughter up alone. I worked mostly in nursing homes, home health care or for temp agencies. I married a Nigerian when I was 18, he wanted American citizenship and I wanted some security and money. He left twelve months later. I married again when I was 22 and I regret it. Drugs were involved and we fought a lot. We had a son but he passed when he was 6 years old from Infant Death Syndrome. I married for the last time in 2012 and moved to Chicago. This man was much younger than me. Seven months later, he stole my car and everything I had. I was left with nothing.
What would you say your life lessons are? I’ve learned two things about myself from looking back on my life. I have continually searched for love, but in all the wrong places and I’ve constantly numbed and buried my pain, because I didn’t know what else to do with it. That’s how I came to Reconciliation Services.
Can you tell me about that journey? Yeah, I heard that RS had certified counselors and therapy groups. I started to meet weekly with Miss Sylvia for individual therapy when I came back from Chicago in 2012. The following year I completed their ten week SnAP ladies therapy group. I’ve stayed connected with RS because I’m learning so much. Therapy has helped me with my battles from the past. I’ve learned to face my pain, process it and move on from being a victim. I’ve come to understand the effects of trauma and what I can do to move beyond it; I’m learning about belief systems, naming feelings and mastering them; setting goals and taking responsibility for my own choices. Mostly I’ve had a strong support system to help me find some stability and start again. I’ve needed this community to help me stay focused and to not go back to a negative way of thinking.
When I lost everything in 2012, I needed help and I had to find courage to ask for it. The staff at RS have always treated me with respect and that has meant a lot. They helped me to get my chauffeur’s license so I could work. They even helped me get my beautiful glasses through their medicine cabinet!
What would you say your top achievements are? Forgiveness of my mom, stepfather, men who have hurt me and forgiveness of myself; I now respect myself—making choices that honor me; I’m proud of some of the art I’ve created. I’m an artist at heart!
What are your dreams? I’d like to sing again! I’d like to work in fashion. I like to look different! I'd like to do more art: I’ve recently completed three pieces in acrylic!