Tag Archives: Child Welfare

Lies & Shackles Part III: Explanations

wpid-wp-1439353456739.jpegI suppose now would be a good time to take a little stroll down memory lane, not that we weren’t already doing so with my experiences in  YDC, of which there remain many stories to tell. Rather, I would like to explain the abusive dynamic between my Mother and I in greater detail to bring a slightly better understanding to how we arrived in the courtroom, not speaking, on that fateful day back in July 2000. Until the age of 14, I had served as my Mother’s closest friend and confidant as she abused, slandered, and ridiculed my Father with wild fantasies of imagined threat and harm (“He’s going to kill us all!”). Their marriage lasted a miraculous 25 years, a union which produced two daughters. I was the youngest by 8 years; basically an only child. l was reminded by my Mother on a daily basis, whether implicitly or explicitly, that my Father could notbe trusted, that somewhere behind that kind, gentle persona lied a wild, vicious, killer.

wpid-wp-1439353435789.jpegMy gut never agreed with her indoctrination, yet I felt it was my duty to protect her. I became obsessed with the idea that she would be harmed, usually in a car accident, and I wanted to make sure that I would be there so that I would die, too. If I couldn’t be there, I would send a stuffed animal in my place, with the understanding that as long as the stuffed animal was there, it would be just as if I was in the back seat. This practice continued well into middle school. As the marriage began to completely come apart, I was dragged to marriage counseling sessions, some as far as an hour away, where I would often sit in the waiting room and watch Family Matters while preparing myself for the hell that was the ride home. Mom used the sessions to gain knowledge to use as ammunition against my Father. She used terms she learned to pelt him with her newfound proof that he was sick and that he “had a problem.” She was not working to fix their marriage- she was working to destroy my Father and sound good doing it. 

Once, a particularly apt counselor seemed to get a little too close to the truth after listening to their problems. He casually asked my Mother after a few sessions if she had ever been sexually abused, or molested as a child. She denied it, and they never returned. As Mom crawled deeper into the Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus self-help black hole that constituted the late 90s, she became the self-appointed mental health home expert. She got a prescription for Prozac, and soon she was ready for divorce.

wpid-wp-1439353450919.jpegAnd boy was she angry. Mom was always angry. She got a fat attorney from out of town and took my Father’s entire inheritance. Still, she was angry. Soon, her anger would have a new direction, and while she couldn’t force Dad to go to different doctors for his “problems,” she could certainly force her 13 year old daughter. And this would be how I ended up lactating in art class.

Lies & Shackles Part II: The Refusal

I eventually settled in to this alternate universe of girls who knew what it was like to be homeless; girls who took medication for STDs; girls who quizzed me constantly about the pleasures of middle class life, and the exotic privilege of being landed in youth detention by a pissed off (though entirely mentally ill) Mom.
image

I tried to fit in as much as possible. We were denied hair accessories and the like, so I learned to tie my hair in a knot so that it would stay out of my way. I began, for the first time, to drink milk, as we were often served only peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with milk. My Mother would often send cards to me, which she would spray with her perfume, Design, I believe it was called. She would tell me that she missed me and wanted me to come home. I remember very well the Fourth of July, and knowing that my boyfriend at the time- for whom my Mother’s annihilation campaign was in large part responsible for my current situation- would be attending Ozzfest 2000 in Atlanta. I remember peeking through the small bars of my cell wondering if I would catch a glimpse of fireworks…from somewhere.

I had a court date of some sort approaching. I was never told why I was going to court, or who would be there, just that I would be transported. So again, I was handcuffed and shackled, and placed in the back of a police car and taken to a courthouse in Effingham County, Georgia, a county to which I had never lived and had no discernable ties. Of course, nothing up to this point had been making sense, so I really was numb to confusion, lies, and fear. Or at least, so I thought. At some point, it was my turn to appear before a judge in my convict’s drab. Never would he have guessed that before him stood the top student in her class, the student who had spent the past year being doped by her mother on various medications to the point of sedation. Nevertheless, beyond having no idea what this hearing was about or what I was supposed to do, I was even more surprised to see my Mother there in the courtroom. I became really excited at the thought of sleeping in my own bed again. And of showering without the need for foot protection. No more squatting, No more coughing. And, no matter what wrongs my Mother had done to me, there was always that comfort of the card with the scent of Design lingering in my head. “If only she could love me like I love her.” I often felt that way about Mom and I couldn’t understand- I was too young to understand- that something fundamental inside of her was broken.  I sensed that she was out to destroy Me, I just didn’t realize at the time that it wasn’t about me.
image

The hearing became a blur. A short burst of formalities. Then the judge addressed my Mother directly, and all I remember is him asking her if she “felt like I could come home.” She replied “No” without shedding a tear. I was led out of the courthouse, still with with my hands cuffed and my feet shackled, back to the deputy’s car. My Mother and I never spoke. I never smelled her perfume that day.

 

 

Lies & Shackles pt. 1

On the outskirts of the sleepy, and often stinky town of Claxton, Georgia- a town best known for its famous fruit cakes and massive chicken processing facilities- sits the Claxton Regional Youth Detention Center.  With the capability of housing thirty youth, most of whom are without families or permanent homes, the majority are wards of the state awaiting placement in a different foster home following some sort of mischief, whether drugs, fighting, or some other infraction. And while each has a story to tell, none seems to believe she has a future.  

The inmates here seem to feel at home; resigned to this life of predictability that is afforded by institutionalization. In fact, most inmates seem comfortable with their current circumstances except for one: Me. I arrived here handcuffed, shackled, and asleep in the back of a sheriff deputy’s cruiser, in a sicken stupor from a Benadryl shot I had been given prior to the hour long transport. I remembered Mom picking me up from a friend’s house and pretending we were going home, but driving in the opposite direction of where we lived. I remembered realizing her plan when we pulled up to the local jail. There, as I sat shackled to a chair, watching stumbling adults come in for booking, I began to grasp how sick my Mother was; I knew then she was willing to sacrifice me to meet her own needs, though it would take years for me to grow the courage and independence to fully separate myself from her. For the time, though, I was completely and irrevocably under her control. Worse, she was a very attractive woman who had powerful men who believed her. I watched her put on the show for a while, a sick form of entertainment that, as an insider, was often as hard to ignore as it was to watch.   

Still handcuffed and shackled, I was given a courtesy ride over to the hospital to receive the Benadryl shot, ostensibly to quell the softball-size mound growing on my right hand thanks to a sting from a yellow jacket earlier in the day. Soon enough, a single deputy and I, the fifteen year old soon-to-be juvenile delinquent, were on our way along the dark, deserted country roads to Evans County to see what lay beyond the razor wire. The intake officer in Claxton, assuming I was high on illicit drugs, was absolutely amused that I was so doped on Benadryl that I didn’t know my address, and soon enough, I was later told, everyone was in on the fun. After I was able to provide a few laughs, it was finally time for the shackles and handcuffs to come off, along with anything that was mine. As I began to regain my faculties, it was time to strip down, squat and cough, and take a shower with RID. Lice free and thoroughly inspected by the female guard, I was issued Ill fitted clothing and shoes, and placed in a temporary cell. In what I thought was just a first night ritual of some sort, the light was turned on and off by a passing guard each hour. Silly me.