Child Abuse Comes in Many Forms
As I have written about on a few other posts on my site, I was adopted. My birth mother, Judy, got pregnant while she was in her early twenties. Throughout my childhood, the parents that adopted me told me that Judy was not prepared and/or able to take care of me. Judy worked full-time at a factory during the day so she hired what would become my mother by adoption as her babysitter to take care of me while she worked. During the evenings, Judy would be responsible for me.
After seeing numerous signs of abuse on my face and body, the family that babysat me eventually took steps to adopt me as part of their family. They already had seven children of their own and I would round them out to an even number of eight. Their oldest child is twelve years older than me and their youngest child is six years younger than me. In total, they had three daughters and three sons and I would become their fourth daughter.
I was either five or six years old when my adoption was final. My father by adoption had spent many years in an orphanage growing up as his mother passed away at a young age and his father was not able to take care of him and his siblings. I would find out years later that one of the sole reasons they adopted me was because they didn’t think I would be adopted by another family because of me being biracial and the towns around the area were all Caucasian. And, they worried that I would be mistreated and suffer the neglect that my father by adoption did during his years in the orphanage.
My early childhood with my birth mother was not ideal. I was abused by her and a few of her boyfriends. Oh, and there was an incident with a German Shepard that she put in charge of guarding me in the bathroom of our trailer while she was out doing God knows what. The dog would bite me when I cried and of course, the more he bit me the more I would cry. To this day, I am not comfortable around German Shepards. However, I know now that the dog was just reacting to the environment that he had been put into and not because he was an evil dog so I can’t hold the dog accountable for the sins of my birth mother.
I remember one of her boyfriends named Bear (which I assume is a nickname but I could be wrong), wasn’t very kind to me. I remember being spanked and slapped by him on several occasions. He was a large man with dark long hair and beard and always smelled like cigarettes. Not that it matters as a child should not be physically harmed for any reason, but I have wondered if it was because of me being biracial that he didn’t want me around or if it were just the fact that Judy had a child that wasn’t his that upset him. Regardless, I seemed to be a roadblock for him in his path to having Judy to himself. I remember Judy having several men at a time at the house, but I was too young to know if they were just friends having a party or if they were more than that to Judy. It was the 70-s after all.
My mother by adoption told me that she saw burn marks from cigarettes on my body (which I still have the scars from) and that I would often be dropped off unbathed and my clothes would be dirty. At one point, she told me that I was dropped off at her house with an angry red welt in the shape of a handprint across my face. I can’t be certain, but I think that was the final straw for my mother and father by adoption to take me away from Judy.
Sidebar: I often sing my conversations to family and friends because I think it is both fun and funny. My kids find it annoying sometimes, especially when it is about them getting in trouble or trying to show them that what they are doing is annoying. No one can out annoy my annoyingness. When I think of my mother, I often sing out “Judy, Judy, Judy, fresh and fruity.” Don’t ask me why that is just something I do. I’ve actually never told anyone that before and I wonder now if friends that read this will be like – so that’s what that nonsense was about.
In 1994, I met my birth mother for the first time at the age of twenty-four. I had a free plane ticket that I needed to use before it expired so I decided it was time to track down my birth parents.
Google wasn’t around in 1994, so I had to search for my mother’s phone number by going through online phone listings. I knew her name, and I figured she might have relatives still living in my hometown of Havana, IL. So I searched for phone numbers with her last name. I was able to find a phone number of one of her relatives and I called it. The lady that answered the phone knew who I was and happily gave me Judy’s contact information where she was living at that time, Lincoln, NB.
I called the phone number I was given and Judy answered the phone. Apparently, the lady I got the number from had called Judy to give her a heads up that she gave me her number and that I would be in contact soon. Judy seemed happy to hear from me and provide me with answers to my many questions. She told me that she had a relationship with my father when they both were in college. She is Caucasian and my dad is African American. Judy told me that my dad was engaged at the time they were seeing each other and when she found out she was pregnant with his child she didn’t tell him as she didn’t want to ruin his future or tie herself to him because of a child. She didn’t love him and he didn’t love her, it was just sex that they had between them.
After talking to Judy on the phone, I made plans to visit her in Nebraska. Let me just say in advance, I don’t regret visiting her, I just wished the experience would have been one that I could continue a relationship with her.
When I landed at the Nebraska airport, Judy and my cousin Stephanie greeted me with smiling faces and open arms. My cousin is only a few months older than I am. She has her own story to tell and it is not my place to tell it for her. I just know that Judy has a sister and they both got pregnant a few months apart.
Stephanie and I were close growing up as cousins should be. We shared a crib when at our grandmother’s house, we took yearly photos together, and we spent as much time together as the fates would allow. She would eventually live with our grandmother and I would be adopted which would separate our lives.
As I grew up, I would see my grandmother and other blood relatives a few times at the local pool where I would go swimming in the summertime. They would try to approach me and get me to talk to them and/or go with them. I told my mother by adoption about this and she told me not to talk to them and to run home if I saw them again. So, I did as I was told as they seemed scary to me because of what my birth mother told me.
Back to the point at hand, meeting Judy and Stephanie at the airport was an odd experience for me. As I stated, Judy ran to me with open arms and teary eyes. I was not prepared for that nor did I find that appealing as we were not on the Oprah show and she was not yet forgiven for her actions while I was in her care. I allowed her public emotional display but I did not reciprocate.
We then piled into Stephanie’s car and headed to Olive Garden for dinner and discussion. From what I remember, Stephanie and I did most of the talking and Judy would politely jump in every now and then. Following dinner, we went to Stephanie’s house. Along the way to Stephanie’s house, we stopped by a gas station/convenient store where Judy worked and she picked up some beer – 40 oz beers (I had never seen a white person drink a 40 – just saying).
The best part of my visit was Stephanie’s adorable kids. I love kids. I played with her daughter Kate most of the time while Judy got drunk. She didn’t have any answers for me. It seemed she wanted a clean slate, a doover, to start a relationship with me. Nope. That was not going to happen. Between playing with Stephanie’s daughter Kate, watching Judy drink beer, I spent a lot of the night on my cell phone talking to friends and my husband at the time. I wanted to catch an earlier flight and go home. Thankfully, I learned from the experience with my father and had booked my flight for one night only. If things had gone well, I could always return and/or send Judy a ticket to Atlanta to visit me.
Finally, it got late enough in the evening where I felt comfortable about asking to be taken to my hotel and call it an evening. Stephanie took me back to the hotel and Kate spent the night with me. Nothing eventful happened from there, we went to sleep and Stephanie and Judy picked me up the next morning and took me to the airport for my return flight home.
Goodbye to Judy
We said our goodbyes and this time I hugged Judy in return as I knew it would be the last time I would see her. She gave me a pair of sapphire earrings (sapphire is my birthstone), and we said our goodbyes.
Judy sent me a few cards and letters after our visit and tried to reach me by phone. I did not respond. She didn’t have the answers or words that I was looking for. No “I’m sorry” or anything that would have made me forgive her for leaving me with an even more abusive environment than what she provided for me.
I have forgiven Judy and I wish her a long and happy life, I just can’t be a part of it. My love is endless, but I can only have people in my life that love me and respect me and do not expect anything in return.
More details on my experiences with the family that adopted me to come in future posts.
If you see signs of child abuse, report it. Don’t keep quiet – you might just save a child’s life.
IN ALL OF MY PERSONAL POSTS, I WANT TO SHARE HOW TO HELP STOP OR AT LEAST PREVENT CHILD ABUSE. DETAILS BELOW.
What is child abuse?
Child abuse is when a parent or caregiver, whether through action or failure to act, causes injury, death, emotional harm or risk of serious harm to a child. There are many forms of child maltreatment, including neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, exploitation and emotional abuse.
If you see signs of abuse with anyone you know, or are a victim of child abuse, get help right away.
For more information, to seek help, or find out how to help abused children click here: Childhelp.
The Childhelp organization was founded in 1959 by Sara O’Meara and Yvonne Federson. The organization’s focus is on child abuse prevention and treatment.
Every year more than 3 million reports of child abuse are made in the United States. It’s a terrible epidemic that we organizations like Childhelp are dedicated to putting an end to. In order to end child abuse, increasing awareness of the issue itself is key.