His hair is all crazy and he says it’s really hell!
He needs some commissary!
He needs some money, please!
My man’s been crack-a-lack’n and now he’s prayin’ on his knees!
He says he’s really sorry! He says it wasn’t him!
He tells the judge he’s not the same. “No, really Judge, it’s not a game!”
My salvation's REAL!
My man’s been crack-a-lack’n but God’s delivered him!
He’s been washed as white as snow from that crackin’ sin!
If the judge will let him go, if he’ll only set him free!
When he gets out he’ll stay straight; just you wait and see!
My man’s been crack-a-lack’n.
And now he’s in the pen.
He’ll hang out and speak of God until he is set free.
Within two months he’ll be right back,
because he’ll run right back to crack.
His salvation's real!!
His name was Sam and he was her uncle, everyone’s favorite son, brother and best friend. Sam had a charisma about him that melted everyone he met, he could do no wrong and his touch was truly recognized as golden. Nieces and nephews, brothers and sisters, they all adored him and always poured the accolades his way. A sharp dressed man, a connoisseur of all that could be considered the finest, a collector, a giver and a taker.
He took her innocence, that little girl with the ponytails and the wide eyes. Her desire to be loved and shown affection was her downfall. He preyed upon her, showered her with little tokens; he was the big bear of men that always was ready for a hug, a tussling around on the floor, a piggy back ride, a game of hide and seek.
Her mind blocked the beginning of time; she had no recollection as to when it started, but the memory of being under the covers with him as they lay on the sofa in a seemingly adult pose. Like spoons in a drawer they laid side by side, he stroked her hair, her shoulder; slowly his hands moved under the covers and found their way between her legs.
At the age of five she had the knowledge that what was happening was wrong, it felt good, the touching, the closeness, the sweet nothings whispered in her ears. She was beautiful, she was special, she was his favorite, he knew what he was doing, was she his first victim, was someone else before her in the same spot as she was, hearing the same words, being told she was the one, the special one.
As they continued to lay there under the covers they were interrupted, her look at the intruder was one with a plea of help from her round big tear filled eyes. He was commanded to stop and let the girl out from under the covers. SHE knew what HE was doing. SHE knew. And just like that she was rescued from HIM.
A couple of years passed, a call in the middle of the night came with the news that Sam had been killed. That little girl felt a sense of sadness, but beneath that sadness came another feeling, a much stronger feeling. Relief, relief that he would no longer be able to touch her, touch anyone else. That little girl knew she wasn’t the only one; there were other little girls younger than her. She often wondered who else he touched in that special and loving way. She would never know, that was their untold secret.
Her joy at his death cost her dearly, a price she gladly paid with tears. When she was unable or unwilling to show the proper emotion of sadness at his passing she was punished. That big leather strap came at her, not once, not twice, but many times, each time it came in contact with her bottom she was commanded to shed tears, the tears finally came, but not because she was sad. The tears came from the pain being inflicted upon her. And just like that her walk along life as a victim would begin.
Long before “Tax-Free Weekend” became a component in our Back-To-School ritual, my mother used the August clothes-shopping ritual as an object lesson in fiscal responsibility. This particular lesson was probably the most valuable financial lesson she ever taught me.
I spent most of my time growing up poor. With the few exceptions of particularly lucky years sprinkled throughout my child- and teenager-hood, back-to-school meant endless hours sifting through used clothes at the local Goodwill or Salvation Army supplemented by sifting through trash bags of hand-me-downs my mother would bring home from neighbors/co-workers or my father would pick up near Dumpsters. The vast majority of cash was usually spent on actual school supplies: Paper, pencils, pens, and folders. Even though my mother would stock up on the actual supplies, taking advantage of the once-a-year sales, I often didn’t have the “required” school supplies.
In fact, here’s the 2009-10 list of Eighth Grade school supplies for the district from which I graduated high school, with the items I would not have taken with me marked with *. The bracketed comments are mostly things my mother would say:
*2 packages of notebook paper (to be replenished throughout the year)
*6 spiral notebooks [You’ll get one 5-subject and deal with it.]
*3 brad folders with pockets
*2 pocket folders
*12 pens (to be replenished throughout the year) [You get five, and if lose ‘em, you deal with it.]
*1 package of highlighters [Use the map pencils.]
*2 packages of map pencils [You only need one, and you don’t need the big one. Five colors is enough.]
*1 hand-held pencil sharpener [There’s one bolted to the wall in every classroom. Use them.]
*1 personal hand sanitizer [No one outside of the medical community even knew what this meant when I went to school.]
*1 stretchy book cover [Use the ones the school gives out. I don’t care what the list says.]
*1 composition notebook [Here’s another brad folder. Put notebook paper in it. Don’t look at me like that, we are NOT the VanAsterBuilts!]
*1 package of graph paper (1/4” quad-ruled) *1 spiral set of 3x5 index cards [Here’s a rubber band to hold these normal index cards together. You don't need the fancy ones.]
The summer before my Eighth Grade year was happened to be in the middle of a lucky stretch. Both of my parents had decent jobs, and money wasn’t as tight as usual. My mother saved every dime she could for four whole months to give me a great experience: back-to-school shopping for new clothes. New! Hot damn, here we go!
My mom, at the last minute, decided use new clothes shopping as a learning experience. As we sat at the Waffle House across the parking lot from K-Mart, we made a list . . . Shoes, check. Underwear, check. Socks, check. Jeans, check. Shirts, check. Barrettes and ponytail holders, check. Light jacket for fall, check. Backpack, check. Belt, check. Winter coat, hat, gloves? After-Christmas sales.
All set? Good.
Then she handed me what seemed like an un-Godly amount of money and said these words to me . . .
I think you’re old enough to do this on your own. Remember, what you buy now, you’re stuck with for the rest of the year. Be smart. If in doubt, don’t buy it.
I was stunned. I had no idea what to do. I shoved the money in my pocket, keeping it in my fist and my fist buried so deeply in my pocket that I almost pushed my shorts down, as I blindly wandered across the parking lot to the front doors of K-Mart.
What I sight I must’ve been! That I never thought to ask her whether she watched me go and look back two or three times is a shame. She died before I thought to ask.
I’ll spare you the details of a prospective Eighth Grade girl’s first solo shopping expedition. Suffice it to say that by Christmas Break I was crying for a hell of a lot more than just winter gear . . . I’d either not bought enough of one thing, or too much of another, or cheap versions that fell apart or shrank so much as to be unwearable because I had no idea how much I needed of anything or what might constitute a good purchase or a bad one. I bought things that didn’t match, didn’t fit, and didn’t hold out.
By the time my mother asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I’d already been borrowing her socks for two months and had stolen her work-worn oldest jeans, cut them off at the knees, and hemmed them myself. Years before workman-chic became the rage, I’d pulled my dad’s ruined light-blue uniform button-ups out of a trash bag, had a friend draw pictures over the stains (with a black Sharpie, the only kind then!), and covered his company patches and embroidery with music band logos from other people’s torn-up concert t-shirts salvaged from another Dumpster.
Needless to say, all I wanted for Christmas was, “Clothes! And you’re coming this time!” Christmas break was a thrift-store bonanza. And good God, was I was happy for the opportunity. I never went shopping with her again, for anything, without paying close attention and asking so many questions that she would eventually have to give me “The Look” to shut me up.
We didn’t have uniforms in public schools back then, so there was no “financial assistance” to purchase back-to-school clothes during the other years when we really could have used it. I wonder what kind of changes going to “uniform schools” would have made in my life, if any at all
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The Jane Team
I want to let you know why I was sent to prison before you read this. I want you know what crime I was guilty of. I was in a car with many people and we were pulled over. The police officer found a miniscule fleck of crack cocaine on the floorboard where I was sitting by spraying the carpet with an agent that renders this drug blue. The piece they found was no bigger than the head of a pin. Texas sentenced me to six months state jail for this heinous offense that in other states would not even warrant a misdemeanor charge. Texas deemed it felonious…
I was, admittedly, an addict. I know I needed help. What I was not is a criminal. I am now drug free but I must tell you I will never be free from the memories of surviving a corrupt and dangerous system that exist to profit off the flesh of the addicted, the poor and the broken.
Arriving at Plane State Jail
After being held for twenty-four hours in a freezing, over-crowded Harris County Jail cell, we were roughly hand-cuffed in pairs and loaded onto one of the many Texas Department of Correction buses. We bumped endlessly down the road to, what my imagination and several had told me, Hell. I watch the familiar scenery of my forty years fly by through the meshed window, mourning the beauty of the sunrise and thought “will I ever see my home again?” As we moved into unfamiliar scenery I began to doze off, not only exhausted from the ordeal of the holding cell, but needing desperately to escape the reality of my existence. I pulled my coat warmly around me and gratefully tumbled into the arms of Morpheus.
I woke when the bus came to a stop. We had arrived. This was the infamous place that stole your name and reduced you to a number. This was the place where you could just as easily die at the hands of an inmate as at the hands of a prison guard if you made a wrong move. This is where I would be spending the next several months of my life and I was deeply afraid. The Constantine barb wire that ran endlessly around the fences might as well been wrapped around my very soul.
I stepped off the bus carefully so I didn’t trip the woman they had cuffed me with. I felt tender towards her and was especially careful to be gentle. She was of a simpler mind than me and often appeared confused and lost. One of the prison guards freed us from our handcuffs. She looked at me with swollen, tear-filled eyes and simply wandered off to the sidelines. Then, unbelievably, we were ordered to take off our coats. As I obeyed, I was immediately knocked senseless by a huge gust of icy wind. Even though I had tried to brace myself against the impact of the wall of cold, my breath caught and my tears of pain and fear froze on my face. I watched helplessly as they took each woman’s coat and threw them back on the bus. Fearfully I watched two male prison guards with shotguns pace back and forth in front us, screaming obscenities at various women. As I watched what little warmth left in my body escape as frozen breath, I thought, “This is me. This is all that is left of me and even IT is leaving me, freezing and dying in this terrible moment. The guards forced us to stand on a line beside the bus. I watch in wonder as more buses arrived and more women stood bleak and coatless beside their bus. Over one hundred arrived that day.
After about half an hour in this frigid, surreal reality, we were allowed to enter the large steel and cement structure that housed the yet unknown prison administrative process, inoffensively called “Intake.” While the building itself provided little relief from general cold, it did shield us from the bitter winds. I was unprepared, though, for the emotional and psychological effects this process was designed to inflict.
“Intake” was both terrifying and humiliating. Already under tremendous physical and emotional strain, we were required to form a long line and strip naked in mass. Many of the women cried out loud, others wept silently, all covering their bodies as best they could from foreign eyes and to guard against the bone chilling cold. Most of us looked down and away in shame. Concentration camp movie scenes had nothing on this. As for me, I stood erect, stepped out of my clothes and folded them neatly, laying them at my feet. I quietly comforted the young girl beside me who was close to hysteria. I made eye contact with other women to show them quietly that they need not be ashamed. “Stand up straight, keep your head up, this is only a moment and it will be all right” I whispered to the weak and to the fearful. Some actually did, others managed a small smile, crying, but still a smile. I think I needed it more than they did.
The female guards picked up bras and panties, dropping each set back at the feet of the woman to whom they belonged after a thorough inspection. A tall, thick prison guard commanded us to take our orange county uniforms and throw them into a pile across the room. All of us naked, many still crying and as always, freezing, we complied and reformed our pathetic tear-streaked line on a long wall. I began to notice that all the guards had on very warm coats, while we were naked. Another heavy-set one began to scream at us to stop covering ourselves. That it wasn’t THAT cold. She stood face to face with several girls and leaned in so close she almost touched her nose to theirs and shouted for them to stop crying. She shouted into their eyes that they were no good stupid bitches. She shouted into their hearts that they deserved what they got. She shouted into their souls that they were so bad nobody loved them anymore. I watched in silent horror as this evil being shouted these wounded, broken spirits into Sheol. Several broke down and became hysterical, but still she forced them to stand up and look at her by threatening them with a night stick and stun gun. She bellowed to all of us that we needed to be afraid, that we belonged to the State of Texas now and she could do whatever the hell she wanted to us. We all stood stock still, arm at our sides, the basic need to warm ourselves lost to the terror of this woman. As if staged, suddenly, one very young girl fell to the ground in a seizure. I moved to help her but was shoved roughly against the cinderblock wall. Every offender looked on in horror as the naked woman-child convulsed violently on the floor. My attention was riveted to her painfully contorted face and sightless eyes as they moved in and out of view. I watch in horrid fascination as she skittered across the icy floor. I silently prayed for her as she unknowingly performed this strange and terrible dance, each part of her private self exposed then gone, exposed then gone. The only sound echoing through the room was the THUD… THUD… THUD… of her head striking the cement floor. At last, mercifully, her body lay still. The terrible drumming stopped. The prison medics arrived and dumped her unceremoniously unto a stretcher, her battered body twisted, arm under her back, legs askew and head lolling partially over the side. I noticed there was no blanket to cover her. Were they going to transport her to the hospital exposed like that for everyone to see, I wondered? As they carried her out a back door, an older female prison guard walked up to the stretcher and gently covered the girl with her own coat. Bless this woman I silently prayed, bless this woman for her compassion.
Still lined up against the chilly wall, naked and freezing, we stood utterly lost in our own horror. The screaming guard demanded that we turn to face the wall, squat and cough. We did so one at time as she slowly passed each one of us. Stand up end over at the waist and spread your butt cheeks was the next command. We each in turn performed this most embarrassing task while a brutal rubber gloved women inspected our most intimate parts with a flashlight seeking contraband. Being forced to display ones’ self, regardless of our feelings, to a power that would cause us harm if we refused, was like being raped. Finally, what we thought must be worst, was over and we were allowed to turn around and put back on our bra and panties. Relief spread through each one of us as we covered ourselves in haste. A few even cracked a quiet joke here and there and others giggled gently.
We walked in line into a nearby holding cell to wait for processing, clothes and coats. We sat on steel benches in our thin panties, the freezing cold relentlessly assaulting us. When we attempted to huddle together for warmth, we soon learned that this was against many as yet unknown prison policies. There was one particularly nasty guard, constantly screaming that we would go to “the hole” if we continued to “touch each other.” She used the words “fucking queers” quite often in our direction as she happily paraded back and forth in her warm down coat, hat, gloves, and winter boots.
We waited like meat in cold storage as they called us out one by one. Each girl would walk up to the metal desk and a box of their personal items was presented and dumped aggressively on the table. Each thing was held up by the guard and as the woman looked longingly at it she was told she could not have it. They asked if she wanted it thrown away, mailed home or someone could pick it up at visitation. Pictures of children and lovers and letters all hit the garbage with regularity when woman confessed over and over for all to hear that she had no money for stamps to mail it home, that she had no home to mail it to, that no one would be visiting her.
Many, many women watched helplessly as what little they had left in the world was thrown unmercifully in to the trash. After each was stripped of any and all personal items that arrived with them from county jail, they were handed an official looking yellow paper that declared that they are now chattel of the State of Texas and have been renamed offender number such and such. At that time each was advised to memorize it, because no longer did you have a name, you were a number.
My turn finally came and I stepped to the metal desk. I watched gratefully as they boxed up my personal letters and photographs, my art and my poetry. I had the money to mail them home, I had a place to mail them to and I had a mother who would visit me regularly. I felt nothing but resolve as they handed me the horrid yellow paper that took away my name. Only after all of us had been reduced to offender were we led away to our temporary housing assignment. I marched along in this silently long bitter line of hopeless, nameless women. Our hands clasped behind our back, heads down and eyes forward, as prison procedure demanded. All I could do was wish that I could shove my hands in the pocket of the puke green coat they provided me during intake that was riddled with huge holes with all of the stuffing pulled out. And pray as our ill-fitting plastic sandals slapped out a haunting rhythm that echoed through my head like a march of the living dead.
Written by: Barbara Rhyne-Tucker
Edited by: Rhonda McLearen
What I don't understand at all is the psychology of the abuser. Maybe I'm missing the piece of my brain that such behavior appeals to, but I can't understand why abusers do what they do, especially the escalation process.
So, understanding that much of the Jane community has lived and/or researched such things, I address this question to you:
Can someone explain or offer insights into the psychology of the abuser in abusive relationships?