Ashley, an Abuse Survivor, works for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. Her passion is helping others and she can be contacted at:
My first memory growing up was being sexually abused at age 3. From then on it became normal life for me. My mother was never married; she had me and my older brother at a very young age. She had multiple boyfriends, all of them sexually and physically abused me. There was lots of domestic violence. My brother and I were left to fend for ourselves most of the time – to this day I still can’t eat macaroni and cheese unless it is hot right off the stove – we were left a big pot to eat off of for days at a time.
I watched my mom be assaulted too many times to count. I never knew my real dad. My mom said he was an alcoholic and that’s why she left him…seems ironic now. At the age of 9 my brother witnessed me being sexually abused through a small hole in the wall. When my mom’s boyfriend left for work that afternoon and we were, once again, left alone, my brother told me that he had seen what was going on and that I had to tell mom. I told him no, that I was scared and I couldn’t tell.
So my brother put me on the back of his bicycle and we went to the police department. I don’t remember saying anything. I just remember pointing to different parts on a doll and my brother doing all the talking. My mom was working at Pizza Hut at the time and that’s where the police called her and told her she needed to come to the Police Department immediately. When she arrived they took her to a back room. When they came back out we were all taken to a hotel by CPS where we were supposed to stay for a few days until they were able to arrest my mom’s boyfriend.
That night, while in the hotel, my mom called her boyfriend and told him everything, including where we were. He showed up a little while later that night and my mom loaded us up and we fled to Florida with him. I have no idea what my mom was thinking, but I know she had a choice – and she definitely didn’t choose my brother and I. I don’t know how long we were in Florida but I do remember we resumed life as “normal.” Then, one day, our apartment door was kicked down by men in black. It was the SWAT Team.
My mom and her boyfriend took off running out the back door and down the alley where they were caught. I know He went to jail but to this day I am not sure if my mother ever did. We were removed and put into foster care – a group home in Florida for a few weeks and then we were transferred back to Texas and put in a foster home. They were an older couple, with grown children. We were way out in the country, living on a farm with lots of responsibilities.
It took some getting used to but my brother and I were able to find some peace here. They took us to church, taught us morals, showed God’s Grace in every capacity – finally we had a healthy family. We were able to have supervised visits with our mom every month; however, she would rarely show up. For me, the evidence of a non-believing, non-supportive mom was way worse than the actual abuse I had suffered for 6 years.
After being in the foster home for a couple years, we were asked if we wanted to change our last name to theirs. It wasn’t an adoption, as my mom still had rights, but she signed off on it and we had a big celebration to signify the start of a new life. It was overwhelming. It was amazing. It was peace.
About a year later, I was in the 7th grade, sitting in English class, when the intercom came on and I was called to the office. As I walked in, I saw a family member of my foster family and he was crying. I knew immediately something was wrong. He looked at my brother and me and said “Mr. Rice has been in a car accident, I need you to go get your school stuff and I’ll sign you out of school.”
As we walked out of school and got into the car to go home we were told that he had died. Devastation; the only dad we had ever had and he was now gone…there are no words to describe that feeling. I’m not sure when I stopped crying. I just remember thinking life can’t possibly get any worse. And then it did.
I believe, out of every one, my brother took this loss the hardest. He had taken it upon himself for so long to be my protector and essentially, had to be a man in a little child’s body. Then, when we finally had a dad who was intentional in our teaching and very protective, and we were able to just be kids again, he was gone. It was a loss greater than the waves in the ocean.
We found ourselves with no one to lead us. My foster mom wasn’t able to give us guidance or compassion – I believe her spirit died with her husband. My brother began acting out and getting into trouble. Our foster mom decided she couldn’t handle him and she sent him to a group foster home about 2 hours away. This was the first time my brother and I had ever been separated. Needless to say, I was livid.
I remember yelling and cussing at my foster mom, probably the first time I had ever been disrespectful in my entire life. Completely hopeless and heartbroken. Around a year later (not really sure on the exact timing), at the age of 15, my foster mom gave me up as well. I was told “you can either go to another foster home or go back and live with your real mom.” I chose to go to a different foster home for the remainder of the school year (about 3 months) and then I went back to live with my real mom.
At this point in my mom’s life, she was much more stable and had started a new family. I now had two little brothers and a step-dad. My step-dad was an alcoholic. He would pick fights with me. He was never physically abusive, just verbal, but it was so much ciaos all the time. I remember thinking “as soon as CPS comes back to check on me I’m going to tell them I hate it here and I want to go back” but, they never came. I fell through the cracks.
I started my sophomore year at Sanger High School. I hated it. I didn’t know anyone and life at home sucked. I started going into the school counselor’s office and talking, venting, trying to get wisdom. My school counselor, Mr. S, became a huge mentor in my life. He encouraged, gave the wisdom I so badly needed, he protected me and he helped me graduate high school a year early so that I could go to college and get out of my mom’s house. He helped me to succeed.
There are several people not mentioned in this story that have helped along the way, they know who they are and I definitely wouldn’t be where I’m at today without each of them. My biological mom and I now have a happy, healthy relationship – we have both come a very long way into healing. I am now married to an amazing man who loves me beyond measure. I have 4 kids, 1 biological, 2 adopted, and 1 step-daughter.
I work for a Children’s Advocacy Center where I get to help protect children who have been abused or neglected, I get to advocate for them in the criminal justice system, I mentor at risk students in 6 schools and I am also a CASA staff worker. I wouldn’t change anything in my past. Some may think that’s crazy, but it gave me a voice. It gave me a voice that I wouldn’t otherwise have.
My favorite scripture is Romans 5:1-5 “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through Jesus, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts.”
Rise out of the ashes my dear friends; survivors; warriors.