Read below for personal stories of Bullets to Beauty in our own neighborhood.
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I was raised by a single mother, and when I was four years old she married a man who had a significant trauma history, but no one knew how trauma passed the sins of the parent on to the children back then.
From the age of four until I was 17 I was physically, emotionally, and psychologically abused. Not all the time, there were many moments where he was a great father, which made the beatings, the ridicule and the torture even harder to bear. Hope was repeatedly taken away with every new trauma after a day or a week or even a month with the father I loved interacting positively with me.
When I was 17 he tried to beat me again, but this time I was strong enough and big enough to take him on, and I did. I hit him once, twice, three times, and in that moment I moved from being prey to being a predator. Not in the sexual sense of that word, but I sought out opportunities to fight. I joined a gang, and actually enjoyed the fights; I had been beaten for years, and I knew I would heal, it was just fun to be able to hurt other people. I am not proud of this time, but I remember it.
I had gone to Sunday School and church since I was eight, only because my sisters and I were put on a bus on Sunday morning and my parents stayed home. The lessons of love, peace, joy, gentleness and self-control were in me but were never expressed except on Sunday mornings.
When I was 19 I met a man named Tom, who was the youth pastor of the church I was going to with my sisters at the time, still living at home. It was Tom who showed me what a real man, a real father, looked like. I came to love that man like a second father, perhaps even a first father because he never betrayed the hope I felt when I was with him. It was Tom, more than anyone else, who showed me what Jesus meant when he said we were to love one another, that we were to love our enemies, that we were to turn the other cheek. Strange words to someone who routinely got into fights on Friday and Saturday night.
Hope and Despair were my constant companions from the time I was a child all the way until I was a young adult. It is because of Tom that despair no longer capitalizes my life. Since then, I have strived to be like Tom in all I do and say. Along the way, there have been many other people who have shown me what it is to love and be loved, and I am forever thankful for them as well.
For more years than I want to admit, I have worked in human services. I now know, having taken training on the topic of trauma and healing that my own history gives me the ability to bring hope into the despair other people feel. It is my own woundedness that other people feel when we talk, and being wounded myself gives other people the ability to trust me. Healing flows from Jesus through me and on to them, and it is the scariest and the most wonderful feeling I have ever known.
I was able to forgive my father before he died, and about a year before his death he was able to say “I love you.” I cannot tell you how important those three little words were. Inside every wounded adult is what the therapist John Bradshaw calls a “wounded child.” Even all these years later, after all the healing and hope that has come into my life, the little boy inside of me can still be triggered by the things people say or do.
You never get over trauma, you get through it. While I am not glad I was beaten and ridiculed and tortured, I am glad that I can use the pain I experienced to relieve the pain of others. Perhaps that is the message of the Cross – that Jesus knows, in his body, the pain humans endure and inflict on each other.
I was born and raised in Gary, Indiana, and at the age of three my two sisters and I were placed in foster care. The foster parent that we were placed with was a single woman in her late 50s. She was very religious, but took great care of us. I remember times when our foster mother tried to get our biological mom to go to church with us. She even offered to buy her clothes and shoes but our mother refused. We would have visits with our mother on the weekends, but that didn’t last long. I was too young to really know what was happening.
When I was five years old, my biological father came into the picture. I remember my biological father talking to me outside of the courtroom telling me all the wonderful things that he was planning to do for me and how I would have my own bedroom and lots of cousins that I could play with. Back then you didn’t have advocates for children in the court system, so when I went into the courtroom, the judge asked me what I wanted to do and I told him that I wanted to live with my father of course. My foster mom and sister were so upset, but he was my father and had made so many wonderful promises to me. So I went with him..
My father and I lived in the home with my grandmother. He would allow me to visit with my sisters on the weekends and some holidays, which I thought was cool. When I was 11 my uncle, who had recently been discharged from the army, started coming around. He was the coolest uncle ever. He played games with us, he played outside with me, and my friends. He did flips and everything! But my uncle started to take advantage of me and molested me for about two months. One day my father walked in on my uncle as he was touching me. My uncle immediately jumped out the window, and I never saw him again.
My father was not always the nicest man. He had a lot of anger issues and often hurt people. I had seen him beat his girlfriends, and sometimes he even beat on me when he was drunk. About two months after my father chased my uncle away, he came into my room, late at night and molested me as well. My grandmother was a nurse and was working midnights. He did this for three nights in a row. The morning after that last night I called my former foster family and spoke to my older sister. I told her what my father had done to me and while at school a social worker came to see me. I was terrified of what my father would do to me if he knew that I had told on him. Soon after I got home from school the social worker and the police arrived. They came in and told my father why they were there. My father asked if he could speak with me in the back room, and for whatever reason they said yes. My father took me into his bedroom. He quickly opened his top drawer and pulled out three crisp $20 bills, gave them to me, and told me to tell them that nothing happened. As I walked back towards the living room with the money in my hands, I somehow found the courage to tell them “he gave me the money to tell y’all he didn’t do anything”. I was so scared that if I didn’t tell them the truth, my father would hurt me again and that was something I did not want to go through anymore.
The social worker took me with her, returning me to the original foster home with my two sisters. But things had changed and I felt like my foster mother no longer liked me the way she did when I was first with her. We argued a lot and when she got upset with me she would say things like “you’re gonna be a prostitute just like your mom” but I would tell her that she can’t tell me what I would be; only God can tell me that. She did not like that. I’m not saying I was the greatest kid, but there were times where my youngest sister and I would get in trouble and my foster mom would whoop us with a switch, belt, or an extension cord. I always got hit the most. Once I was beaten to the point that my leg was as hard as a brick and my sister had to help me get into bed. I had to lie at school to keep from being separated from my sisters again…
There were many other things that happened to me throughout my teenage years. I moved in and out of group homes and foster homes, I met my biological mother, was then returned back to the foster home, but afterwards was placed in the detention center and then into another foster home. I endured much pain, abuse, and dark days along the way; I even considered taking my own life at one point. However, God spoke to me and clearly told me that my life had meaning. I have written more fully about my story in my book “Who Am I & Why Do I Exist.
The one thing that has been my foundation and something I was always able to return to was my faith. This foundation was started by my first foster mom. We always went to church, and therefore I was able to establish a relationship with God for myself. The one thing that I learned and has been a source of strength for me is knowing that God was always by my side. He knew that there was evil around me. That wanted to hurt me., and would be there for me. I just know I never have to question God.
While my life was not the greatest, I do believe that God can use the things that happen to us. I am very thankful that I did not grow up with my mother, and that I was able to leave my fathers home. I honestly am not sure how my life would’ve turned out if I would have stayed with either one of them .
Despite the many challenges I faced throughout my life, I was able to make it through the foster care system, the abuse, and all of the pain that came with it. All of what I experienced helped to bring into focus what I was destined to become.… a Social Worker.
At this time in my life, I have been a licensed social worker for 22 years. I have been married for 23 years and have three beautiful children. I graduated from high school, went to college and earned my masters degree in social work. Today I am happy to work with and support children who suffer the pain of neglect and abuse. I am proud to protect these children and ensure their safety.
I am so thankful for a God that can take the things that are broken, heal them, and then use them to bring healing and hope to the world.