Disclaimer: This story contains details of child sexual abuse which may be triggering for some.
This is Part 2 of Connie’s story. Read Part 1 here.
“Once school resumed after our Thanksgiving break, I knew there was only one thing left to do. Following my confession about what transpired Thanksgiving night, nothing happened. My adoptive brother was not removed from our home, he wasn’t reprimanded, there was no falling out between him and my adoptive mother. If there was ever a moment or time I was stunned, it was now. The morning school was back in session, I walked in with potentially a death wish. To tell the truth was the equivalent of running into traffic. To speak the peace that would set you free was to fly away with weights tethered to your wings.
But it was now or never. Speak now or forever suffer in silence. I went to school with an agenda. I attended the first period and let my home room teacher know immediately that I needed to see my guidance counselor. I carried the yellow slip permitting my absence from class with sweaty palms. As I sat in the gray chair twisting and folding the hall pass in ways not even an artist could, my guidance counselor walked toward her desk, seemingly as if her feet never touched the ground.
She sat down and propositioned her chair, prepared for my teenage drama. She popped her pen in and out taking notes. Her very first statement was, ‘Anything we talk about here is confidential.’ I felt comforted. I just desperately needed to vent. I needed to know I wasn’t out of my mind for being livid about the way everything was handled in terms of my adoptive mother.
I didn’t hesitate to spare a single incident nor detail. I was too busy sobbing like a newborn baby, and tearing my hall pass into confetti. Had I not been fixated on ripping the perfectly shredded masterpiece, I would have noticed the shock crawling across her face and her diligence in scribbling across her notepad. By the time I got myself together and used every tissue in my guidance counselor’s Kleenex box, she had already made up her mind based on her observation of me. She perched herself up tight and close to her desk top.
At this point, I had a weight lifted off of my chest, after venting to someone the last decade of my life and not being seen as deranged. I was prepared to return to class, but not before clarity was delivered. As I got my backpack together and blew my nose, my guidance counselor said to me, ‘Unfortunately, because your statements warrant child abuse, I have no choice but to report this to the authorities.’
My heart stopped for a few seconds, my jaw dropped, and I almost wet my pants. ‘What happens in this house STAYS in this house.’ My adoptive mother’s words were racing through my head like bolts of lightning. Too fast for your brain to process the pain and fear, but somehow you still feel it all. I begged and pleaded with my counselor not to tell because I knew I would be in trouble. My adoptive mother would lose it if she found out I was behind this. I only came to the counselor to vent. I had no expectations of an outcome. I knew what happened to me wasn’t right, I just didn’t know how wrong it was. Because my adoptive mother always made the situation out to be petty and minute, I figured it was something a simple email or phone call home could fix. I didn’t know how serious it was and how much my life was about to change in the next few hours.
You know that feeling of anxiety and anticipation you got as a child, when you knew your report card was coming in the mail and you walked home as fast as possible to open it first, knowing you were failing a class? Or when a teacher calls your mom or dad for that matter at work to report you’ve misbehaved at school, and you’re just praying their work day was so stressful they won’t even remember the call once they get home?
That was me. Walking home as fast as I could, I slipped through the front door and up the stairs to my bedroom, changed quickly without even tucking my shirt into my jeans, and walked as fast as I could to work. My heart was racing. I had no cell phone to be warned, so whatever was coming was coming without notice. Before leaving school, I asked what I should do and I was told to just go home. I wish the tremble in my voice was enough to concern the staff that I was afraid to go home.
If you’re a staff member working at a school, pay attention to these signs because they matter. My biggest secret was kept in fear and orchestrated by a woman sworn to protect me. Hours into my work shift, I paced the floor staring obsessively at the entrance, offering to help with anything and every customer to keep myself busy. I was on edge and could hear my own heartbeat in my chest. My palms were so sweaty I was starting to become clumsy and drop things, but I managed to hold myself together. My shift was over at 9 p.m. and my adoptive mother usually returned home from work at 5 p.m. It was now 7:17 p.m. and there was no call for me at my job phone or sign of her, so I felt safe like I was in the clear.
Maybe it wasn’t that serious and there was some type of delay in reporting it. If I could even just get one night to think of a plan, I would be okay. But I was naïve and wrong. It’s been said that when you get shot by a bullet, there’s so much adrenaline rushing you don’t feel it until the aftermath. Time stops and then races, and at the same time that everything is moving so quickly, it’s also moving in slow motion. Afterwards all you think about is all the things you could have done to have gotten out of the way. That’s how it felt seeing my adoptive mother speed through the entrance of my job and grab me up off the store floor, while telling my manager I wouldn’t be back.
A tiny part of me was set free at that moment because this woman had now made a public spectacle of herself and it was all on camera. If only I had the smarts to get the footage to prove I wasn’t actually safe with her. The entire way home I was now nonchalant and careless. I knew something had happened, and I knew she could only do so much damage to me now. I had heard her call me stupid, dumb, and retarded all my life growing up, but this night I heard her curse at me, damn me to hell, and tell me I ruined her family name. She told me she wished she had never adopted me. I wished she had simply protected me.
I had never seen her speed in all the years I was in the backseat of her red minivan, but tonight she drove like a bat out of hell. As we pulled into the driveway of our Suburban single home, I saw the flashing lights from the police car and my adoptive brother in handcuffs, being held back by an officer. But there was also someone else, someone crying, and sadly for the wrong reasons and wrong person. It was a woman.
As I exited the minivan, I heard her say, ‘Please officer, he was abused as a child!’ I felt a flame inside me light me up and I was livid and cold at that moment. It was the assistant pastor of our church pleading with the officer to let my adoptive brother go free! I couldn’t even believe what my ears were hearing or what my eyes were seeing. I had heard of being shocked and appalled, but it was something words don’t exist to express. I felt hopeless. If the church was here to protect my abuser, who in the world was going to save me?
Another second officer put my adoptive brother in their car and took him to the police station for questioning. The sergeant came toward me in the driveway. He pulled out his notepad, flipping through pages while popping his pen in and out compulsively. My adoptive mother stood there, hovering over my shoulder waiting. The sergeant was a tall Caucasian man. Everything about him made me nervous. Where I grew up, these were the guys who visited your school and preached for you not to do drugs. These were the guys who gave out badge stickers and their own personal business cards for kids. But tonight, everything was different and the tone was so intense you could feel it in the air.
He cleared his throat and said to me, ‘So, I already interviewed your two sisters and they both said your brother has never touched them.’ I immediately looked toward the front door, where both my sisters could be seen staring out at me. It was in that moment I knew our relationship would never be the same. Yes we had grown apart, but these were the only people who endured some of the hell I did. The two I came home to years ago, confessing the abuse.
Something in me died that day, and it was my hope for a functional relationship with them. Whether they had been staged by our adoptive mother or decided between one another they would lie together didn’t make much of a difference to me. Ultimately, I was their blood and I was facing what was the right thing to do. This was wrong, and in that moment, I felt more betrayed than I ever have. Knowing I had nothing to stand on, I turned to the sergeant and told him I had a diary I kept with all the dates of the incidents. With no one to talk to or vent to, I spent hours alone in my bedroom, scribbling away about my current life and the life I dreamt of having.
The first response out of my adoptive mother’s mouth was, ‘Connie tells tales officer.’ With no time to waste, I dashed into the house and up to my room, rushing past my betrayers and grabbing my diary. I ran downstairs and handed him the diary. I stopped facing in her direction and drew all my attention toward the sergeant, praying he would believe me. I needed him to believe me. I could mentally process I lived in a world where not only my adoptive mother would cover this up, but my own biological sisters AND our assistant pastor. I was all on my own and I needed him to see the truth. No child would write these horrible things happening to them for attention.
The sergeant turned page after page. His eyes danced over each sentence, but his facial expression never changed. I wondered if he believed me, or if he was numb to his work. Then he stepped into the living room as he got a phone call. I couldn’t hear any of his responses as my adoptive mother glared into my eyes with the look of death. I swallowed back so many tears trying to be strong, because if I broke character I would lose it, and I was already standing under a roof of purgatory in pure limbo.
The sergeant reentered the kitchen and said, ‘Funny, you said your daughter was lying but your son confessed to every count of sexual abuse to all three of them.’ In that moment there was complete silence. She had nothing to say. She had been caught protecting a pedophile, and the sergeant knew she was behind enabling the ongoing abuse. I felt safe, but I was still wrong.
The sergeant pulled me and my sisters into the living room to talk with my adoptive mother in ear shot range, prying to know her impending doom. The first thing out of my youngest sister’s mouth was, ‘Will people find out about this?’ The sergeant said there was no way to keep it from the media. When there’s a new pedophile in the area, everyone has the right to know in order to protect their families. She stared at me with an attitude and sucked her teeth, and I wanted to jump on her!
How dare you get mad at me for interrupting your social life because I wanted to protect us. I’m so sorry the world is about to know so they can protect their innocent children! I asked, ‘Will we be going to court?’ and the sergeant said, ‘Likely. That’s the usual course in cases like this.’ Both my sisters stormed out of the living room and up the stairs, as if I had just destroyed their perfect lives. I stayed behind, seeing clearly I was still on my own. The sergeant handed me his business card with all his numbers on it and told me if I needed anything I could call him. My adoptive mother didn’t see him slip it to me, otherwise she would have grabbed it from me and set it over an open flame the minute he pulled out of the driveway. I slipped it into the pocket of my jeans, hoping I’d never have to use it. I asked the sergeant, ‘Will you be taking me with you?’ He told me no, I was safe now. I wish he could have seen the terror in my eyes.
The following weeks, I was treated like the lowest form of being on earth. Returning to work was out of the question, because I couldn’t be ‘trusted,’ according to my adoptive mother. Everything I asked for was responded with, ‘No, not until you’re better. You’re mentally sick.’ Both my sisters stopped speaking to me. Whether it was that they were sheep or in fear of the same treatment didn’t matter to me anymore.
It wasn’t long before my adoptive brother returned to church. The first Sunday I saw him I thought I was going to pass out from shock. So many questions ran through my mind. ‘Is this legal? Is he allowed to be in the same building as me? Does anyone else know? How in the world is this happening?’ He was greeted by all the church congregation and I was boiling over the edge in furry. Hugs and ‘Where you been?’ were heard before praise and worship. All I wanted to do was crawl out of my body and escape. I wanted to die. It had been proven by everyone around me that my life was worthless and my suffering was worth my adoptive brother’s every sin. Everyone adored him and no one even liked me. I was quiet with an attitude. Sarcastic and defensive. I was also shy and shut down easily. I was every result of long-term child sexual abuse and I would have rather died than pay for being abused and alive another second.
To be punished for trying to save yourself will make you feel like just perishing. Especially when you’re just a kid with no resources. I had done everything I was supposed to do and was still being mentally and verbally abused. The site of seeing the back of my adoptive brother changing each song on the projector as the praise worshippers sang to the high heavens just made me crazy. It was like seeing demons going to church. Seeing my adoptive mother cry with the white sheet over top of her made me roll my eyes. Seeing anyone cry at that point made me annoyed. It was so fake! There was no way I went through mustering up all that strength to tell a stranger my story, sharing my personal diary that went into police custody, and becoming a complete outsider to my sisters for this! It had been weeks and there was no word from the sergeant or authorities. Something had to give.
That afternoon when I got home from church, I went to my room and dug in my desk for the sergeant’s business card. My adoptive mother stayed behind at church, as she was now a minister and was counting the tithes
and dealing with the business aspect of the church. Both my sisters were away at work while I was home alone. I went into my adoptive mother’s bedroom and dialed the sergeant’s number. It didn’t take long for him to answer. I reminded him of who I was and the details of the case, and concern crept over his voice. He started to stutter and chose his words more carefully. Confusion could be read in his every hesitation, as he thought I knew what I clearly didn’t.
‘I’m no longer assigned to your case. Didn’t your mother… didn’t she tell you?’ My eyes strained trying to understand the words I heard from the other end, but maybe it was just a misunderstanding. ‘No, I had no idea. I wanted to know what was going on with my case because I saw my adoptive brother in church today. Is that supposed to be okay?’ Complete silence. Now all I heard was his breathing and my heart became heavy. I knew something was wrong without even knowing the facts. ‘I’m going to call you back Connie, okay? Your mother should have told you, but I’m no longer on your case. The officer who handled it will call your mom back, okay?’ We ended the conversation there and a part of me did feel slightly better that resolution was coming.
As terrible as I believed my adoptive mother to be, maybe she just hadn’t gotten the memo on what was going on as of late. It made sense. We often assume the way police work on TV is the way they work in the real world, until we’re actually in a situation and don’t get immediate results. This was just going to take some time. There wasn’t a human being more gullible than me in 2005. Where this optimism came from is beyond me, and it made a fool of me, but everything happens for a reason.
I prepared for bed and got my clothes out for the next day of school. I waited downstairs in the kitchen to tell her the good news as she walked through the front door, heels clicking against the floor. She wore a perfume you could smell a mile away. She was terrible, abusive, selfish and evil, but this time she was partially innocent. She didn’t know the police were still working on our case. She was annoyed with me as I was a constant reminder of the absence of her only son at home with us. Once everything was handled in court, we could go on with our lives. I could be the daughter she always wanted me to be because he would be gone and I could focus my attention on other things.
I smiled as my adoptive mother entered the kitchen and walked past me, like I was a ghost. Not paying any mind to her ignoring me, I followed her into her room and said proudly, as if I had just solved the number one case in America, ‘So you know how we haven’t heard back from the sergeant? Well, I called him to see what was going on.’ She froze and spun around faster than a fake check deposited into an over drafted bank account. I had seen so many of her mean, cruel faces, but the one she was wearing now came too close to something not of this world. She screamed, ‘What are you trying to do?’ I was so confused. There’s simply no way anyone in their right mind could process that day’s events as usual if they knew what was going on.
The year was 2006 and awareness of these kinds of incidents were on the news. I now not only knew my rights as a human being, but I knew my adoptive brother’s limitations. He wasn’t allowed around me, or children for that matter. I didn’t know a lot, but I did know that and I was bringing it into question to the authorities. By now I was feisty and demanding in terms of being treated properly. I wasn’t just some chick, I was a human. I was someone’s daughter. And my adoptive mother was just another oppressor.
I tried to explain myself, but it didn’t matter. She said, ‘It’s been taken care of!’ I asked, ‘Well, why is he still allowed around me?’ I didn’t know how to explain the emotional damage being in the same room as him did to me at the time. I thought the facts of the past were enough to make it all make sense. ‘The boy is gone! Let it go!’ When you think you’ve heard the worst words said to you, you’re always wrong. There’s always a follow-up of something worse. She was so callous, like I was complaining over spilled milk. There was no emotion in her voice and she made it obvious I was the problem. Everything told me calling the sergeant may have opened up a can of worms, and there was only one reason why. Somebody was breaking the law after an arrangement was put in place legally.
My adoptive mother turned to me once more and said, ‘Do you want to leave when you turn 18?’ I said proudly, ‘Yes!’ Before the response could be heard by the best ears, she smacked me across the face. I grabbed my cheek. I knew she was capable of putting her hands on me, since she spent years threatening to over the simplest of things – like running in and out of the house as a kid, or begging to sit in her room during the hot summer hours since she only put an AC unit in her bedroom while everyone would drip in sweat – but I came to believe they were idol threats. Of all the children she adopted, I was the last one she should have ever put her hands on.
The next morning, I sulked as I prepared for school. Still no one was speaking to me, and my adoptive mother spoke in the third person under her breath about me as she paced from room to room. As I put my coat on, she approached me and said casually, ‘You’re not in a morgue. Girls get raped and murdered every day, you’re not dying!’ I had to get out! The minute I turned 18 I was escaping. I had no plan and no idea where to go, and now no job, but I did know I was leaving home, and for good.
In fear I was a loose cannon on the edge, my adoptive mother devised an intervention to ‘fix’ me, this time using every ounce of religion she could access. That night, after she returned home from work, she took me to our home church and sat me in the business office. There sat not only the assistant pastor, but the head pastor as well. The head pastor explained to me that if I didn’t forgive my adoptive brother, I was going to hell. I thought I was hearing the craziest words I had ever heard in my life. I began to sob. Everyone was against me. This wasn’t a matter of forgiving, but a matter of getting me the safety and help I deserved and needed. The entire ‘Let go and let God’ thing didn’t register for me anymore. Healing has to come first, otherwise I would have been simply saying a lie. This wasn’t the way I was going to be able to forgive him. Not by being forced into it, and not by a room full of adults disregarding me.
I said, ‘If I say I forgive him, it would be a lie.’ Everyone sighed like I was being unrealistic. The meeting wouldn’t be fitting without the star guest. In walks my adoptive brother. I couldn’t stop cringing at the fact he was sitting right across from me, and I was being made to do this. They all wanted me to put this pesky little experience behind me and go on with life like it never happened. I was outnumbered, and constantly reminded during this meeting that I had to mean it when I said it. There was nothing I could do but lie in the house of God and say I forgave my adoptive brother for molesting me for 12 years. At this moment, it wasn’t my soul that needed the saving, and it wasn’t me who would need to ask God for forgiveness.
In the following days, I would come home from school to the same verbal abuse about how worthless I was. My adoptive mother’s oldest biological daughter had moved back home after a financial crisis of her own, bringing
her two children along. The two women would sit and brag about how stupid I was and how I couldn’t do a single thing right. My room was spotless, I did my chores without being reminded to, I went to church on time, and I was still a waste of life. Hearing the biological daughter of my adoptive mother spend countless hours bullying me reminded me of being at school and being picked on, only she was decades older than me. And I wasn’t allowed to defend myself. That would be considered disrespectful. And I was still a child and needed to stay in my place, so I did.
My birthday finally came on February 11th, and it wasn’t celebrated, which was no surprise to me at all. I didn’t care. My only thoughts were planning my escape. It had to be an escape, because after being smacked for admitting my desire to leave, I knew it was frowned upon for God only knows what reason. I waited until spring break when we were out of school. Over the last few weeks I finally broke, and told one of my friends and her mom what had been happening to me. Her mother told me if I needed a place to go, I could come there. So, it was set.
It was a Monday in April and my adoptive mother was at work. Our spring break would finish the following day. Without so much as a warning, I packed everything I could into plastic store bags and called my friend and asked if she and her mother could come get me. I was ready for the hell to end and I was legally allowed to leave. I walked down the steps proudly, as my ride pulled up to the curb. Sitting at the kitchen table sat the eldest biological daughter of my adoptive mother. She paid it no mind that I walked out the front door with the first set of plastic bags. I looked pretty discreet, since they were grocery bags.
It wasn’t until I came back inside and passed her that she began paying attention. ‘Where are you going?’ I told her I was leaving. She questioned me again in disbelief, ‘What? What did you say?’ Now she had a tone, and she was angry. I wasn’t taking it anymore. I was grown and I didn’t have to take it anymore. ‘I said I’m leaving!’ As I walked past the kitchen table, she stood up and said, ‘No you’re not!’ She chased me through the house and back into my room like I was a slave trying to run away from the plantation. I slammed and locked my bedroom door as she screamed and cursed at me, as if she had been waiting for the day to put her hands on me. Outside the noise could be heard, and the police had to be called.
I could hear an officer inform my adoptive mother’s daughter that I was legally allowed to leave, due to the fact I was 18 now. Terrified, I grabbed the remainder of what I could carry in my arms and walked past the 200-pound woman as the police waited outside to safely escort me to the car. From the front door she yelled, ‘Mommy said don’t you ever come back!’ I turned and screamed back, ‘I won’t!’
It hurt to be rejected and be in a position where I had to leave in the first place. This wasn’t a matter of rebellion. It was a matter of life and death. I would have lost my mind in that house, and I had already lost so much. I was under the impression being adopted would mean I would be given the love and family my own biological family couldn’t provide, but I was wrong. Now, I had no family.”
Connie’s story continues. Read Part 3 here.
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Connie Joi of New Jersey. You can follow her journey on Facebook and YouTube. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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