I felt so fortunate to be able to bypass placement in a strange temporary home by the flawed child welfare system. I thanked God for allowing my brother, sister and I to be able to stay together as a family; a broken family but a family none the less. I thanked God for the hand-me-down clothes I received which replaced my own clothes after they could no longer fit me. I didn’t grow out of my clothes, I lost weight rapidly, so they engulfed me. My sister and I wasted away for months after our mother was killed by our father. It was as though we were terminally ill cancer victims on our last leg. Everything my 8 year old sister ate, she vomited. I apologize for the grittiness but my experience is real and this is the best way that I can express myself. Everything I ate came out as well. I had diahrea everyday. I was naturally skinny but at this point, I was unhealthy looking. In high school, my new nickname was “Stick”. More important than looks, my sister and I really were unhealthy. My sister, brother and I developed anemia. This made us more susceptible to diseases that normal immune systems would fight off. The stress of losing both our parents the way we did so suddenly was too much for our bodies to handle. I basically wanted to die.
A preliminary hearing was set by the District Attorney’s office to determine if the case was serious enough to go to trial. Of course the case was serious enough for prosecution. This process was mandatory. The D.A. and the court appointed child psychologist prepped me for the questions that I would be asked as I was on the stand. I remember walking into a drearily lit court room through a side door. I guess that was the door under aged witnesses entered from. Forty-some-odd faces looked annoyed at having to trek to court for jury duty. They stared at me as I climbed up the steps to the chair next to the judge. I was basically swimming in a black sweater with burgundy roses printed all over it. It was more like a sweater dress as it easily reached my knobby knees through my jeans. Over and over again, I kept pulling it up at the neck, adjusting it to not fall over my shoulder.
Although I was prepared, I was terrified. I was asked questions about the happenings that night many times in front of a few people at a time but never a whole room of almost 50 people. The questions started okay. “What is your name?” I answered. ‘Good. One question out of the way.’ I thought. “How old are you?” I answered. ‘Two questions.’ The easy questions kept coming until the D.A. requested, “Please tell the court what happened on November 22nd…” I started recapping the events from the day time until the night, trying my best to robotically hold in my emotions. It didn’t work. It was even a surprise to me when I broke down, crying hysterically. When I spoke of that night, I felt as though my body was there again, reliving the horror. The one person who would have been able to comfort me at this time was dead.
The D.A. asked the judge to allow me to have a moment off the stand to regroup. He granted the request and I was escorted out of the court for about 10-15 minutes. The D.A. and psychologist tried to calm me down but I calmed down on my own in my own time. They promised that I would only be asked one more question. I agreed to enter the courtroom again. I was not expecting what I was about to witness. The entire room of once annoyed faces were all streaming with tears now. Eyes were red and noses were being blown into tissues. I did a double take at everyone as I approached the stand again. I knew that my story was sad but I didn’t know it would evoke so much sadness from strangers.
The last question the D.A. asked me was, “What is today’s date”. I answered quickly so that I could hurry up and get out of that chair. I was one week away from my 16th birthday. This is a time when an adolescent is beginning her transition into young adulthood. Here I was, wishing for my life to be over. I felt like an 80 year old who lived a long and hard life, my thoughts, my memories weighing heavy upon me. I felt old and weak and sickly depressed all the time. This was my transition into a new life; one without parents or anyone who truly loved me or my siblings; one where I was looked upon as unprotected prey to take advantage of; one where I ( with the exception of my siblings) existed alone.