The following is a true story. The names have been changed to protect the innocent and the guilty. The information contained in this story is compiled from 1st hand interviews with the parties involved, and does not address any details that were covered in any privacy agreements.
Slivers of sunlight slipped through the boarded up window onto a nameless, faceless 12 year old little girl. She could hear the sounds of laughter on the other side of the wall, as she sat in her chair doing school work. She smiled as she pictured her cousins chasing a baseball that was hit just past their outstretched hands. She smiled, until her eyes met her mother’s cold, blank stare from across the room. Then she saw the long, wooden object held in her mother’s hand. There was about to be a beating.
Esther never really knew what a well adjusted family life looked like, although she thought she did. Her mother had the same misconception. Esther’s mother was adopted by well-meaning missionaries who felt it was their duty to claim her as one of their own and save her from a background different than their own. “It’s what a good, Christian missionaries do,” they thought.
Soon they tired of the responsibility of caring for a non-biological child, leaving Esther’s mother to find pleasure and validation through other ways; many times this involved drugs and drug dealers. Esther’s father was considered by many to be an unsavory character; both her mother and father spent their time in and out of jail during Esther’s early life. Eventually her mother was completely written off from her mother’s adoptive family, referred to as a “mistake”.
The rumor was that Esther was pulled into illegal behavior at a very early age when her parents required her to participate in shameful schemes of theft and other malfeasance. However, her extended family members exhibited the most disgust when they alluded to Esther being sexually abused by her parents, and how she, herself, sexually abused her older sister. Every time one of Esther’s extended family members discussed the alleged abuse, their displeasure in Esther was obvious: she was damaged goods. On the other hand, Esther’s older sister Savane was the model child who could do no wrong. Esther faced no more impossible task than the ability to live up to Savane’s reputation. She decided to get along with those around her and do her best.
While Esther’s mother and father were incarcerated, she and Savane were sent to live with an elderly relative. Eventually, around the age of 10, Esther found herself in a situation for which she could not take blame. Both her mother and father were incarcerated and the family member who had custodial responsibility could no longer take care of the girls. The well-meaning missionaries, who adopted her mother, had many children and extended family members who were more than capable of taking care of Esther and Savane. Save one issue: Esther was damaged goods, and no one wanted her ” messiness”. After all, Esther’s mother was exactly the same, they said, and they all knew how she turned out.
And then, like some miracle, someone stepped in and offered to take in Esther and Savane. It couldn’t have been a more perfect situation: a single mother of two small children living with her sister and supported with multiple incomes that were more than sufficient. And to top it off, she worked with an Upstate guardian ad litem’s office, interacting with unwanted children and abusive parents on a daily basis. Esther and Savane would be hard pressed to find a better living situation, or so they thought.
Esther believed right away that she was finally in a stable, loving environment. In fact, Savane frequently reminded Esther to get along, and not to “mess things up”. Both girls hoped that this would be their forever home. They got along with their new siblings, and they had almost weekly opportunities to spend with their new cousins; playing baseball, making home movies, exploring the nearby woods, or whatever else sounded like an exciting activity. In fact, one of her cousins was close in age, they both wore the same style of clothes, and they had the same inquisitive personalities. They became best friends.
Esther’s new mother homeschooled all of the children and she brought them to work with her. Seeing the children sitting at a table in an office or break room doing math, while employees mingled about, was a common occurrence. On weekends, the older children would go with their mother to a neighborhood grocery outlet and help with stocking, inventory and clean-up for a weekly liquidation sale. All who interacted with this blended family described them the same way: polite, obedient, mature, friendly, serious and hard working. Esther was finally happy and thriving.
Esther began to slowly disappear. Not completely at first, but occasionally when her cousins would come over to play, or when her siblings were given opportunities to do fun activities, they were told, “Esther didn’t finish her schoolwork, so she’s inside,” or frequently, “Esther is grounded because she was misbehaving,” and even “Esther is being punished.”
At first, her cousins and neighbors didn’t think much of it. They never observed Esther doing anything that warranted excessive punishment, and she always seemed to be doing schoolwork, but that didn’t mean that it wasn’t deserved. After all, Esther had a very rough childhood, so there was a strong possibility that adolescence was bringing out some behavioral issues, they told themselves over and over. Since the windows to Esther’s home were now boarded up on the inside, there was no way to know if she was acting out.
Eventually everyone except for the people in Esther’s own home began to forget about her, since they never saw her any more. And when they did see her, she was invisible, sitting quietly in a desk or chair doing schoolwork, and only taking breaks for meals and to use the bathroom.
Nobody, that is, except for a handful of relatives who cared about her, and felt something was amiss. They pressed for updates about Esther when they would go over to visit. They insisted that Esther’s adoptive grandmother, who was also the owner of Esther’s home and landlord, find out what was going on in the home. They confronted Esther’s mother about her absence at family get togethers and activities, and the perception that Esther was possibly being mistreated. And they tried to secretly slip kind words to Esther when they happened to see her, on rare occasion, when she was not within earshot of her new mother.
Esther ran away, starting a chain of events that would completely change her life and the lives of the people around her. Details of severe emotional and physical abuse were validated by Esther’s siblings and Esther herself. However, in each narrative and true to form for abusive situations, the person to blame for the abuse and neglect was always Esther herself.
Esther was called a lot of things in her life: witch, evil, devil, abuser, pervert, thief. A never-ending list of adjectives. The one thing that she was rarely called was patient, for enduring the years of abuse at the hands of her new mother. . . An employee of the guardian ad litem’s office.
Part 2: The Unbelievable Abuse