Ten, the age where ‘tweens’ are made, but you don’t feel like a kid at all. In fact you feel old before your time, aware that while everyone around you are the ‘kids’ they deserve to be, you’re trapped in the body of someone much older. Too young to handle responsibility but you have seen more of life than people twice your age have ever experienced and yet society still treats you like a kid. You feel damaged and broken from years of physical and emotional abuse, groomed by the woman who your father chose to call his wife. Soon you will forget to be honest with the ones that you love and care about and start telling lies, to protect yourself from the reality that you know you are living. The lies start off small but before you know it you can’t stop the words from forming and venturing out into open. After all it was a way of getting the attention that you had never got before. But still at ten years old you think you have found your paradise, welcomed into the arms of your new foster mum and taken from the abusive childhood you thought you would never escape…
Your bruised inside and out, the saviors who had claimed to save you in Madeira last month had still not come and you were almost starting to forget that escape would be possible. Every night you get home from school wondering what verbal lashing you would get next and despite the scars, the bruises, the cuts it is the words that hurt the most. You almost become desensitized to the blows but the words ring like gun shots… it hurts. Your mother stopped calling a long time ago and your stepmum tries to stop your aunty from seeing you too, but unlike the others she never gives up on you not once. Your dad stands by and watches the woman who he married in secret, who he fell in love with at first sight abuse his first born child. Don’t you remember when it was just me and you dad, just the two of us, we didn’t need anyone else because we had each other. When did you stop seeing me as your first born child, when was the exact moment when she became the most important person in your life? You let her do things to me that no child, no person should ever have to face and I faced it alone without your support. Believe me, I’m not angry, not now at least. It’s buried in the past but I hope that no child should ever have to learn the lesson that I did aged 10; tooth fairies don’t exist, Santa Claus is not real and the only thing worse than being abused is knowing that the ones who were meant to ‘love and protect you’ were the ones who committed the crime in the first place. I was abused from the age of six, an age of supposed ‘innocence’ but the only innocence I knew was my own stupid naivety. I was born whole, but I became broken and it took me over a decade to be ‘okay with my past’ move on and be able to live in the present. 10 years is a hell of a long time but I am not sorry that I was abused because it taught me to show compassion and empathy towards others.
When I was finally taken into care aged 10, I was a broken mess and I felt lost. I didn’t know how to love and the only way I knew how to show it was by testing my foster families boundaries. I lied, cheated and stole and did things that I am not proud of doing. I messed up big time but my foster mum never stopped loving me, not once. Aged 10 I pretended that I was stronger than I was, more grown up than I wanted to be and above all took on a character that wasn’t me. Abuse had changed me and I didn’t like the person I was becoming. Even thinking about the things I did and the things that I lied about makes me ashamed but I can’t change my past and I don’t want to. My stepmum abused me because I wasn’t her own child, my dad watched and did nothing because he was scared of E, my stepmum and I was the child who ‘cried wolf’ when social services dropped charges the first time aged 7 on the account of ‘E’ being let off for good behaviour but she hadn’t changed, not one bit. She was still the same abusive ‘maternal figure’ who groomed me into becoming her personal Cinderella. I was made to watch as she would feed her daughter and not me, be forced to lie and have her claim that it was all my fault and I would take my beatings with tears in my eyes as she threatened me night after night, day after day.
But then one day my savior came and that January of 2005 became a turning point in my life, I was finally taken into care by my foster mum J. She welcomed me with gifts and introduced me to the rest of her family; her twin T, her daughter K, her son D and her Mum W who showered me with the affection and love that my wounded heart craved. But I was still hurting inside so I lashed out, often as even at aged 10, when I was making the transition into secondary school I found that I still longed to be a carefree 5 year old who still saw the world through rose tinted glasses. I wanted to feel the wind run through my hair and not worry about what the future may hold but it was too late and the spell was broken. We fought a lot my foster mum and I and I used to get annoyed that she would impose a bedtime or stop me from going out late but I know now that this is what real parenting is. She wasn’t doing it to be ‘strict’ or mean but it was because she loved me and wanted to show me that real families impose boundaries, even if you don’t necessarily agree with them. I used to focus so much on the negatives in my transition into care that I airbrushed all the good that came from going into care. At 10 years old I was a damaged soul and only escaped by the skim of my teeth. If I stayed any longer… well I would be dead- either from her or from me, lord knows she tried before. I was suffering from long-term PTSD and had no idea that I had it at the time but going into a warm, fuzzy home where I would be fed, clothed and sheltered helped me become the woman that I am today. I am not perfect, not now, not ever but one thing that I do know is if I didn’t go into care when I did, then my life would have panned out a lot differently than it has done today.
Going into care enabled me to receive the support I needed in school, going into care taught me how to be part of a family but most of all care taught me that to love does not mean you have to be in love but that love comes in all shapes and sizes, even if that love is platonic. Because the greatest love that I ever found was not ‘romantic’, but platonic from people who cared about me enough to punish me when I had made mistakes and shower me in love when we were at our most happiest. I don’t know many people in the care system but regardless of what age you are when you go into care, the outcome will hopefully always be the same; to find a family that loves you for you, no matter how broken you are.
Have You Ever Been In Care Or Know Anyone That Has Been In Care?
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