The youth-written stories in Represent give inspiration and information to teens in foster care while offering staff insight into those teens’ struggles.

Email Newsletter icon
Follow us on:
Share Youth Communication Follow Represent on Facebook Follow Represent on YouTube Follow Represent on Twitter
Follow Represent on Facebook Follow Represent on YouTube Follow Represent on Twitter
Eyes Wide Shut

“Drip, drop. Tears of sorrow began to fall from my dejected face, full of endless horror and shame. No more could I take seeing or hearing each fist thrown rapidly at my mother. While hearing my mother’s cries, I felt as if I were her, crying and feeling each fist being pounded right into her as if it were me.”

These are words that I wrote in my journal, explaining the agony I felt through my childhood years. My father came back into my life when I was 6, but he wasn’t much of a dad to me.

My father had a mental illness and he would beat us a couple of times a week. He would hit me, he said, because I was not as pretty as my twin sister and because he wanted one child, not two. He would also sexually abuse me.

I saw my mom and sister getting hit, cursed, and sexually abused, too. Usually I saw this all through a little hole in the floor of my bedroom. I felt so helpless. I didn’t know what to do to stop my own suffering, or to stop the suffering of my mother and sister.

Once I noticed cuts on my sister’s wrists. When I asked her, she told me she had done it to herself. It took a while before she told me why she did it. She did it because she thought the pain from the cuts would make her forget the pain in her heart. That night I couldn’t sleep. All I could do was cry.

Every day coming home from school I’d think about how I wanted to find another family or just disappear, but there was no other place for me to go.

Other times I wanted to fight back, but I didn’t have enough power. Once when I was 7, my father came racing into the room and picked up my sister and pulled down her pants and underwear. When I saw the tears coming from my sister’s eyes, I ran and jumped on my father’s back and I bit him on his neck. After that he banged my head against the wall and slapped me really hard repeatedly. I wanted to fight him so badly and make him stop, but I knew I was too weak. I knew this was Daddy and more was to come.

For many years, I felt like I needed to find a way out of the hell I was in. But no one in my family seemed to be doing anything to change the situation.

My mother suffers from depression. Maybe it’s because during her childhood her father abused her, too. Even before our father came back into our lives, my mother was always quiet. Sometimes she would sit at the table and stare out the window for hours.

So when my father started abusing us, I really didn’t expect much help from my mom. Sometimes I felt angry at her anyway. I didn’t understand why she would marry someone she was afraid of, and I was angry that she would stay with someone who hurt me. Sometimes I would yell at her, “You don’t have to take this,” or, “Get a divorce.”

One day in school the kids started teasing me. There were rumors going around that my dad was raping and beating his family. The thing that made me really sad was that the rumors were true. That day, I tried again to talk to my mom about it. She denied everything.

I knew my mom was listening somewhere inside of her, but although my mom was older and bigger than I was, I realized that she just wasn’t strong enough to help herself or us. She was scared and confused, which made me feel scared and confused. It also made me feel so sad for her, and I wished and hoped that both of us could be happier.

I remember one day, when my father wasn’t home, sitting and looking out the window with my mom. That was the time I remember being most happy, because everything was at peace. That day I knew my mom and I both wanted to break free. Finding a way out was the hard part.

Luckily, I had my grandmother in my life. My father’s mother was really more of a mother to me than my own mother. She was that strong and brave person I could look up to. She was active and energetic, and had a good job in real estate that she would sometimes take me to. She acted like she wasn’t going to let anything stand in the way of her being happy.

image by Rosa Perin

She lived with us also and I slept in bed with her at night. We’d watch movies and game shows like Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune together. I would talk to her if I had a crush on a boy, and any questions I had about puberty she would answer. We’d go jogging in the park and shopping. Being around my grandma made me feel safe and happy.

My grandmother witnessed at least some of the things my father did to my mother, my sister, and me, and she tried to talk to her son, but he ignored her. Instead, my grandma tried to get my sister and me out of the house to have fun. We’d go to the beach and to the mall.

Sometimes, though, I felt angry at my grandmother because none of that was enough to protect us from my father. Sometimes out of the blue my grandmother would say, “You have to get out of here,” or “You should go to foster care,” but then she’d drop it.

Usually I was able to force any anger I felt at my grandmother out of my heart and mind. I knew my grandmother had deep love for her son, but that did not seem like a good enough reason for why she didn’t protect me. So instead I just tried not to think about it, because the more I thought about it the angrier I got. I didn’t want to be angry at my grandmother. I didn’t want to lose the relationship we shared, because no one else was giving me the kind of love that she was.

But then one night my sister and I were at my other grandmother’s hanging out with my cousin. My cousin was talking about how sometimes her parents hit her, and I felt like I couldn’t hold my secrets in any longer. I guess she saw me looking sad because she said to me, “What’s wrong? Tell me.” It took me a while to get it all out but I finally told her. I told about my father hitting, cursing, and sexually abusing us. When my cousin asked me a question, I answered it, although there were some things that my father did that hurt too much. Those I kept secret.

I told her because I felt comfortable with her. She told me that she wouldn’t tell anyone else and I chose to believe her, because then I wouldn’t have to be so scared of the consequences. But inside, I think I knew that if my cousin really cared she would tell someone.

The whole time I was talking my sister was very quiet. I knew she might be upset with me in the moment, but I also knew she’d be happier in the end if we didn’t have to go through the abuse anymore, so I kept talking. While I talked, my cousin began to cry. In a way I felt happy when I saw her tears, because I knew it meant she cared about me.

She told me that I should tell my grandma (my mother’s mother), and that she would understand because she loved me. I told her I didn’t think that I was ready. Later, though, I found out that when she went home she told her father, and he talked to my grandma, and they decided that something had to be done.

A couple of weeks after that the phone rang and my father picked it up. It was my grandma, asking if he had been sexually abusing us. I didn’t know that at the time. I just heard him say, “No, no,” and then he hung up quickly. Next he turned to me, then to my sister, and then to me again and said, “You won’t break this family up.” Then he rushed out of the room. I realized then that he knew I’d told, and I was scared. I was also surprised and relieved that he hadn’t hit me for telling.

My father must have told his mother about the telephone call, because after that she began to act angry toward me. One day I was talking to my sister and I was feeling angry, so I said that my grandmother knew what was going on with my father and never did anything about it. My grandmother overheard those words and she called me a liar.

For a moment I thought maybe she hadn’t known. But really I knew she knew. Then I felt shocked that my grandmother would lie, because I always thought I could trust her.

After that, I began to get more and more upset and angry. I wanted to know why she didn’t do anything to protect us. Soon she was calling me a problem child, a liar, and a bad person all the time. That made me feel so sad, and part of me felt I was to blame that our relationship was gone.

A few weeks later two caseworkers came to my house. I was nervous, but when they questioned me I just told the truth because that’s what they told me to do.

Then they questioned other members of my family while I packed my clothes. My father came in while I was packing. He was shouting and cursing. My grandmother had to calm him down.

image by Rosa Perin

While we were packing, my sister told me she was happy to leave but also scared because she didn’t know where we were going. I felt scared, just like my sister, but I also felt good, because I knew that wherever I was going, it was better than home.

When I finished packing, I noticed my grandmother looking upset. She wouldn’t look at me or speak to me. I felt sad and responsible for making her upset.

My father was also sitting there. Something was telling me to say good-bye to him, even though I didn’t want to. The voice in my head was saying, “He’s still your father and he’s sad.” I remembered some good times we had had together, like the times we went to the park, and I felt like part of him still deeply loved my sister and me.

I went up to him. He was sitting on the chair with his head down and looked up when I came over. Before I could say goodbye he looked at me straight in my eyes (a look I will never forget) and said calmly, “I guess I’ll see you later.” He didn’t sound angry at all.

I turned and left and didn’t look back. I was surprised he didn’t yell or act up. I guess he knew he had to face the consequences of hurting the ones he loved.

My sister and I lived in a group home for a few weeks, and then we went to live in my maternal grandmother’s house, where I live now. My aunt (my mother’s sister) helped my mom get custody of us by offering to be our supervisor. And for the first year or so of living with my grandmother, my aunt took us places, like to a youth group every Sunday, and acted like a second mom. It makes me happy to know I have her love. But recently she’s had some problems in her life and sometimes she isn’t there for us quite as much.

My dad was put in jail for about four months. Now that he’s out, he calls my mom on and off, apologizing and asking to see us. He lives a few blocks from my mom and he tries to speak to her. Sometimes, though, he gets mad and curses at her, which makes me think he hasn’t changed. Luckily my mom never responds.

My life has changed a lot since we got away from my father. I see that I have strengths I never knew about. For instance, I needed a way to release my anger at my father, and that led me to writing my thoughts and poems. Those poems express the things I feel most deeply. And writing this story lets me help other kids.

I’ve also come to see the strength I had to speak up about the abuse. My grandmother and aunt say it was a brave thing I did. That makes me feel happy. The caseworkers were really nice, too, and told me what I did was brave. I think they’re right. I feel particularly good when my sister tells me how happy she is that we are gone from that situation. All that love and affirmation has made it easier for me to come to terms with the trauma. I feel like I’ve been able to let go of a lot of the pain.

Of course, there are many ways that the abuse still affects me. I’m very shy and insecure around other kids because I’m still affected by all the negative things my father said to me. But the one thing that makes me the saddest is that when I spoke up, I lost the relationship that meant the most to me.

After we left her house, my father’s mother never called to ask how I was doing. She never visited. She gave away the possessions I left in her home to my cousins. Part of me felt like maybe I was to blame, that maybe I was a bad person. That feeling was strong for a few months and I cried about it every day.

Even though my grandmother was mad at me and I was mad at her, our relationship is what kept me strong when my father put me down. I wanted her to realize it wasn’t my fault. I wanted to speak to her about it, but I couldn’t stand her yelling at me. The thought of it made me feel so bad inside. So I waited for her to talk to me, but she never did.

About half a year after we moved out of her house, my grandmother died of cancer. I didn’t cry as much as the rest of the family because after a few months of silence, when I realized she wasn’t planning to play a role in my life, I began to block her out of my heart. After she died I felt angry that she never made peace with me. I felt so sad, but I tried to let it go. I loved her, but I told myself that if she loved me she would have realized I had to report what my father was doing, so I would stop being hurt.

But it’s not so easy to let those feelings go. I still cry many nights because the one person who gave me the most love and support also gave up on me. I still wish for her hugs of warmth. She made me feel that being with her was the only way to be safe.

Having my grandma die without making peace makes me afraid to get too close to anyone. I still make friends and talk to people, but I always have this worry that they’re going to leave me. I felt scared and alone growing up, and my grandma was the only person I had to rely on. Now I feel the only person I can really rely on is me.

I wish I had never lost my grandma. It still hurts so much that she rejected me, and I wish someone could have helped us be a family again. But I’m also glad I spoke up because I don’t think I could have kept on living with all that pain. My life is much better now than it would have been. And that lets me believe that life can get better still.

horizontal rule

Visit Our Online Store