The other day I received a message from a woman who said she'd like to share her story. When I asked her what it was about, she wrote "Being molested at seven years old to save my mom from being beat." Here's her story.
Trigger warning: sexual assault, child abuse
My mom is...was because she's no longer with us, but she was a single parent for a long time before she had my sister. She met a guy and was in a relationship. He became, my little sister's father, but he had an issue with touching. And I was the one that he wanted.
A lot of times I had to save my mother from getting beat up or getting hurt. He practically joined us both into a sexual act at one point.
NSNC: You and your mother?
Yes. And I was eight at the time because my mother was still pregnant with my sister. She didn't have her until I turned nine. He just was abusive. He beat me over a piece of bread. Like, I was hungry and I lied about saying I was eating the bread and he found out.
My mother was scared of him. I was scared of him too. I was terrified of this man. You couldn't tell me that he was not a monster. But in the beginning of course, he bribed me with toys, and 'I'm gonna take you to shopping.' So any little girl, impressionable, any little girl will be like, 'Ooh, we're going shopping. We getting toys.' But he was disgusting. my mom was easily influenced because my aunts weren't the best of sisters to her. So she branched out. It wasn't a good relationship.
NSNC: What was your impression when you first met him and how far into the relationship did the abuse start?
It was 'Oh, he's great. He's going to make my mother happy. I don't have a father figure. So this will be the father figure idea. My mother was saying, he might be your potential step father. So growing up in a home with just my grandmother, my aunts and me, there was really no male figure. So this was the opportunity. And then he was really nice. He kept saying 'I'll take you shopping.' He was being the guy, you know, who wants to be with you so they'll do everything in the beginning. However, he was just underliningly nasty. My mother was under his thumb. Because of her own insecurities, that's why. There weren't any people there to encourage her. To tell her 'Doris, you're beautiful. We love you.' So instead she gravitated towards him. And with our own health condition, because my mother had epilepsy.
Any guy that was with her, didn't understand her seizures. So he was the only guy that understood it and tried to help her. Now the unfortunate thing about that was his way of helping was through drugs. What I know about it to be now. Back then I didn't know but it cocaine. It was helping her get sleep, it was helping her rest. Which is something that we take for granted. The whole ordeal went on for about two years.
NSNC: But when did it start? What was the first time he tried something with you?
When I went to stay the day at his house. My mother was like, you know, you guys are going to spend time together. And I just remember being at his house. He lived in Harlem.
I went over there and I'm thinking we're going shopping and stuff and he comes out of the room with no clothes on and he's asking me to perform oral sex. And I'm just like, 'What?' And I just remember him slapping me because I wouldn't do it. I was scared. I was seven going on eight year old little girl and here I am being told to do these things. And I'm like, 'What happened to the man that was the nice guy.' You know? He gone.
NSNC: When you left there, did you tell your mother what happened?
I did and she didn't believe me. He took pictures of me performing fellatio. One day he had taken me to-- his parents live in West Virginia. The area of West Virginia is Front Royal. Ask me, for the life of me, why I remember, because these are places I'm never going go to again, like ever again. And we went to a hotel and I had to perform sexual acts on him there. And he took more pictures and he, you know, he was like, I'll be nice to you. I'll take a shower if you do it. He was disgusting, if you really think about it now.
And he would say, 'If you don't want me to kill your mother, you would do it.'
NSNC: Oh my God.
You know, at that age, it's like, 'No I don't want my mommy to die, I want to make sure my mom is okay.' So of course, I did it. So any chance that I could get away from him, I did. I stole the chance. My aunt was in the process of taking me to Disney World. And that was my escape.
NSNC: So at what point did your mom realize that you were telling the truth about him?
I'll say my mother's been deceased. It'll be, what are we in 2018? It'll be nine years in August. So I'll say nine years ago.
NSNC: Oh Wow.
She came to grips with it and she apologized. There's something about me when it comes to my mom. I forgave her... I can't be crying in the street, now. But I just felt bad because my aunts never forgave her. And it was like you guys blamed her and it was like, this was something you guys could have helped her with. Had I known, what she was going through mentally, I would have helped her. I would have tried. And at 27, when I was supposed to be living my life, I was literally taking care of my mother as she was getting sick and not feeling well. Those are the best moments of my life because I got to understand and see the person that she was. She wasn't bad, she just had issues. If she had the support, she would have, you know, she would have gotten the help she needed. So they just really didn't understand it. And you know it was a bad situation. But I forgave my mother and I felt like that's all that should matter. I truly forgave her. I stuck by her.
She wound up going to jail for three years.
NSNC: For what?
For cocaine possession. And I stuck by her. I have photos of us when I used to visit her in jail. I used to write her and send her packages and just supported her. Because I knew that this was something that didn't have to do with her.
Like I said, once I was able to break free from all of the, the madness, a picture surfaced. At that particular time, my mother had already had my sister. Her boyfriend convinced her and my sister to move to the south and she was going, but I wasn't. And at that time I couldn't understand why I wasn't going, but then I realized later she wanted me to stay for that particular reason and the picture surfaced. And I remember literally it was like a revolving door. She left and then the very next day ACS (Administration for Children's Services) came to the house. They talked to my aunts first.
So they was just like, you know, 'We have this picture of this little girl and we need to know what's going with on.' And my aunts were like, 'That's not Serita. You know, that's not true.' And they called me downstairs and my grandmother was sitting there, my aunts were sitting there and it was just like, 'This isn't Serita. Serita wouldn't do anything.' And you know, ACS has to do their job. So they asked can they talk to me and you know, they were like, 'But this isn't, Serita so it's no point.' And when they showed me the picture, I had to tell them, I was like, 'That is me.' And I just remember my aunt hysterical and my grandmother was just in shock and I felt bad and I felt like it was my fault, but they all had to like stop and say, you know, 'It's not your fault. It's not your fault.' And then they just were like, you know, she's not, your mother's not here. Like, you know, she's in danger now. And finally, after a while, by the time I turned ten, I had two lawyers, a district attorney, and a detective.
NSNC: So Serita you said that one point that he made you perform a sexual act with your mother? So this was before she left.
Right. She was still pregnant with my sister.
NSNC: And what did she say at that time? She didn't talk about it with you afterwards?
She pretended like it didn't happen. That's why I said she asked forgiveness literally right before she passed away. I won't say she knew she was going because none of us knew that. But I think it was just something that was on her mind. And I just, when she said she was sorry, she wanted to know if I would forgive her. I told her, 'It's not even me you have to worry about forgiving you.' And I told her, 'Your sisters never will forgive you for something that didn't even happen to them physically.' And I couldn't understand it. I wouldn't say they played a role in what he did. But I would say they played a role in how she reacted.
NSNC: Why would you say that?
Because it's like it's support. My mother used to always go to her sisters and want to talk and they brush her off and it's crazy because we do that too. When I say we, I mean us as people. We brush off that friend. We'll be like, 'Oh girl, I'll call you back later.' And we don't even know what they want. So that's why I say like they could have helped and I think maybe talking to her or hearing what she had to say and then we could have been able-- they could have been able to try to figure it out. All they kept saying was he looks suspicious, he looks suspicious, instead of, you know, he look suspicious. I'm about to go investigate or Doris, leave him alone until we can figure this out.
NSNC: So whatever happened to him, was he ever punished?
He went to jail because he pleaded guilty and he had deal. He wound up getting out when I was 17.
NSNC: So he was in there from 10 to 17?
Right because of the plea deal, the bargain that he did. He did struggle while he was in jail. Because you know, when you're in jail for touching a kid, it's a problem.
NSNC: How did you hear about what happened to him in jail?
Oh my district attorney told me. He said when they would appear in court he was like, there were times when he couldn't even appear. Because he was that bad.
And she said when they would come back to court, you could see why. Because the bruises were there. He said, 'They beat you up in jail. They don't play that.' If they get word of that, they have a problem with that. But see, I didn't have to go to court for anything. Yeah, they prepared me to testify but I didn't have to go. The district attorney was like, 'I really wanted you to be in court because had you have been in court, they would have gave him way more time than what he got.
My mother came back to New York because she had not seen him in months. And the detective I had, she wound up going to the hotel that he took me to finding out what was going on with him. She went down there to arrest him. And when she brought him back up, she was like, 'I want you to know that your mother's also a fugitive.' I just remember being terrified. I was just like, I don't want my mother to go to jail. And then were like, she has to turn herself in. My grandmother was trying to explain it to me, but I wasn't trying to hear it. I was like, I don't want my mother to go to jail. And she did and she got out...
NSNC: How long was she in jail?
I think for maybe like a month or two. And they told her what happened to him, how they were able to catch him. He wound up leaving her, going somewhere else and getting married and having the son wasn't his but it was the wife's and he tried the same thing with the son. They arrested him because the wife called the cops. And then when they put his name in the system, they realized he had priors. So the detective called my grandmother and I remember she said, 'I got the son of a bitch and I'm going to get him.' She was an Italian lady. She was not about that life.
After that it was time for court, it was time for district attorney and that's how I got to learn about what like lawyers and DAs, what their role is. It was pretty interesting. I spent a lot of time with the district attorney because he wanted to nail him. He said, 'I would put the nail in this man's coffin if I could.' After that it was court and therapy and a social worker. Yeah, it was a lot for me at that point.
NSNC: How did the picture turn up?
I, still to this day, don't know. I don't know how that picture turned up miraculously. But it turned up. And it wasn't even a photo, it was a copy.
NSNC: So you mentioned therapy briefly. Can you talk to me about like healing from this or the process of healing towards this? Like what helped you, move forward with your life?
It was just wanting to move on from it. I really didn't focus on it once he was arrested. I just tried to live the rest of my teenage life and just tried to be happy. It didn't work like that because I became a rebellious teenager. But, you know, I tried. Once he was convicted, mom started getting her life together and going to therapy herself and trying to get herself on track. And I was still around for that.
But then I found letters that he wrote my mom saying that when he gets out of jail, he's coming for her and he's going to kill me and they're going to be together. And I think that was like, you know, how we have nervous breakdowns and we cry and we're upset? That was like my first time ever feeling like that. I was so terrified. And it just was like, 'Why? Why, why does he know where you live and he's gonna come and kill me.' And you know, of course that didn't happen. However, it was just a lot to deal with. You know, after awhile it was, my mom was into drugs. She got into drugs heavy. She got depressed. She decided to get caught. I didn't know she had a record. Then she got caught, went to jail and I just remember by my 18th birthday, she was locked up. She called me from jail. And where someone else would see it as oh she called you from jail, I saw it as my mother called me for my birthday.
My mother would always say I look at the world with dyslexic eyes. I've always been like that. I don't understand how I managed to make it through life and I think that's where a lot of disappointments are coming from because that's how I look at life. When she was in jail, I went to visit her and I would, you know, at the time I was working a little job, so the little money I made, $20 here, $10, there, I put toward packages, visits, pictures, letters.
At that point, I was asking her about my dad and she was just like, 'He didn't want you' and you know, she felt bad and she tried to console me via letter and I was just like, I'm just always wanted to know who he was but I wasn't successful in finding him. Once she got out of jail, she moved into her own apartment. It was pretty good. She had a little space and I used to go visit her there and she used to, you know, do small things like wash a load of laundry for me, cook me something to eat. We were trying to get back in the right direction.
You can read part two of Serita's story and the evolving relationship with her mother next week.