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Sisters Sticking Together
Anonymous
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Names have been changed.

When we were young, my little sister Katie and I bickered, argued, and occasionally hit each other. We were both physically and emotionally abused by our mother and her boyfriends. I got hit more, so I felt my mom loved Katie more than she loved me.

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When I did bad things like coloring on the wall or breaking a cup, I would blame it on Katie because I was terrified of what my mom would do to me—and because I was jealous.

As I got older, I grew even more jealous of Katie, who’s three years younger, because she seemed so perfect. She made honor roll and won awards, while I was in special ed and never won anything. Katie’s eyes were the most beautiful greenish blue, and all I had were stupid brown eyes. Out of envy, I tried to make her feel bad. I called her names and told her she was annoying.

I had anger built up from being bullied in school, being beaten more by my mother, and getting raped by my mom’s boyfriend when I was 9. Looking back, I guess being mean to Katie was a way for me to feel good about myself and above her.

When Katie and I were taken away from our mom and put into foster care, part of me was happy because I knew that I would no longer be abused by my mother. But the first days in foster care, I was scared, so I stuck by Katie. Then I started making friends with other girls my age. I was 12 and she was 8, and I decided I was too mature to hang out with her.

We stayed at New York’s Children’s Protective Services (ACS) building for about two weeks. There was a girl there who nobody liked, and one night a few other girls and I put toothpaste in her hair and on her face while she was asleep. I did it because I had never had friends before and I wanted to be like them.

The fun was over when a staff member walked in to do a count and saw what we did. When he asked who did it, everyone pointed at me. I felt betrayed: These were supposed to be my friends. But instead of saying we all did it together, I said my little sister did it. We were both in trouble and could not go on the next field trip. My conscience bothered me: I couldn’t sleep that night. I asked myself, Why did I do that to my little sister? Why did I do all the things I did to her?

I felt like a monster. I prayed to God, asking if I could go back in time and undo all the bad things I did to Katie, but I woke up in the ACS building the next day. That night, one of the staff told me to gather my belongings. I told Katie we were going home. I thought this was my chance to be a better older sister.

Then the woman said, “Sweetheart, Katie isn’t coming with you.” I stopped breathing, and grief overflowed my chest. “What’s going on? Why can’t she come with me?” I asked, in tears. Katie had an expression of fear and confusion.

Even though I had been jealous of Katie and mean to her, I was sad that I was leaving her. I wondered if she was happy that I was gone. I thought, “She still wanted to be near me after all the mean things I’ve done and said to her, and now I am never going to see her again.”

Separated

After I left the ACS building, I was placed in a diagnostic group home for kids who exhibit emotional or behavioral problems. I got into a fight and was moved to a different group home. After a month there, I was placed in a foster home. I was so depressed I refused to eat and was quiet for three months.

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At a visit with my mother I saw my little sister for the first time in three months. I squeezed Katie so tight that if she was a balloon she would have popped. I started going to her foster home almost every day after school. We would play games on X-box, dance, watch TV, and hang out. I begged her for a second chance to be a better sister. She told me it was OK and that she loved me.

As we got older, we didn’t fight as much. We knew we only had each other, and we needed to protect each other from bullies, including our mom. I liked our fresh start and I loved my little sister more than ever. She always stuck by me even when I was a jerk.

We realized that our mother played us against each other. She would talk bad about one of us to the other and even tried to make us fight. But Katie and I were finally schooled to our mother’s tricks and they didn’t work anymore.

Unfortunately, the system separated us from each other. She went back home to our mother when she was 12, while I stayed in the system. My mother often accused Katie of doing things she didn’t do and beat her. Katie ran away, smoked weed, got violent, and got into trouble with the law.

When Katie turned 15, she went to juvenile detention for assaulting a police officer when my mother tried to put her in the psych ward. Katie was in and out of jails and RTCs for two years, while I was homeless and trying to get housing and briefly living with our mom again. I missed Katie a lot and spoke with her on the phone.

Thinking about Katie in jail made me wonder if I was dreaming the whole thing. I used to think of Katie as the perfect child. But like me, she was hurt and confused by our mother’s abuse and didn’t know how to handle it.

She Needs Me Now

When I was 19 and she was 16, Katie told me my mother had kicked her out of the house. She also told me many cruel things my mother had said and done to her before that. A tornado of rage, hatred, and grief blew through my body to see my little sister outside with nowhere to go. But I stayed calm because I worried if started panicking or weeping or cursing, Katie might lose hope and her behavior would get worse. I was 19 and homeless, so there wasn’t much I could do except buy her food.

Katie ended up back with our mother. I can’t be mad at her for that because I also signed myself out of care at age 18 to go back with our mom. (That didn’t last long.) Now Katie and I both wish we’d stayed with our best foster parents; we could have been adopted and had better lives.

Recently I moved into an apartment I got through the youth homeless shelter I stayed in. Though I’m not supposed to have anyone stay with me for more than 30 days, I allow Katie to spend weekends there to get away from our mother.

Katie needs me more than ever now: She is 17 and pregnant with twins. I am doing my best to help her because I know how hard it is to find an apartment. She listens to me when I tell her not to do something harmful like shoplifting or fighting. It shocks me that she listens to me because Katie is a loose cannon. It makes me feel mature and good that she listens to me and that I’m getting my chance to be a better sibling.

I took Katie to a 30-day shelter for pregnant youth. She is giving birth in a few months and has her name on the list for public housing. She is with our mother for now and will be moving in to her apartment after she gives birth. I am happy that she is doing what she has to do and I’m impressed with how fast she is maturing. I hope I can continue to support her after she becomes a mom.

I am happy Katie’s and my relationship changed from negative to positive. My mother’s unequal treatment divided us, but after I figured out that this was not Katie’s fault, she and I built a stronger relationship. Now I am grateful for my little sister and will always be there for her and my twin nieces.

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(FCYU-2015-10-21)