Why I worry about my siblings:

I’m so worried about my siblings because Officer Smith told me that he was going to start talking to them individually. After I talked to him, I warned my oldest brother via Snapchat.

Why didn’t I just call him or text him?

A) My parents would get mad that I called him instead of them.

B) My parents always take his cell phone away.

C) Jace doesn’t have a smartphone, when he snapchats, it’s on his iPod.

D) My parents don’t know that he stole his broken iPod from the safe in their closet and fixed it.

E) Snapchats erase automatically! There’s no possible way we could get caught having that conversation!

I knew Jace would tell the truth to the officers. He’s so fed up with our parents. He’s as depressed as I was when I was in high school.. Officer Smith and another local cop pulled him out of class the next day, Friday afternoon, to interview him.

I worry about Kira.. She’s a sophomore in high school. She’s taken a lot of BS from our parents. I feel like she’ll talk about it just to get something to change. I can tell she’s really depressed, even though she tries to keep it in. But I don’t know when Officer Smith will talk to her….

I’m extremely worried about the 3 youngest of my siblings…

Kourtney is 12, and she’s the oddball in the family. All of us are like my dad – loud, crazy, extroverts – except for Kourtney. She’s like my mom – quite, shy, introverted. She’s not very talkative even around her closest friends. If I had to describe how she is emotionally, I would say she’s a Vulcan. She seems like a rock – no emotion, but still polite. But she’s probably the most emotional out of everyone in my family. She’s very easily upset, but she’ll only burst into tears when she thinks everyone is gone. It breaks my heart thinking of her being called out of class to talk to Officer Smith. He’s so intimidating in uniform… And she knows she’ll get into a LOT of trouble if she gets caught telling him how mean her parents are to her. She would stand up for them just so no one would get in trouble. But she’d hardly say anything at all. And she’d be fighting back tears the whole time. I just wish I could set her on my lap and wrap my arms around her while she gets interrogated. I know everything will be ok, but she doesn’t know that…. She’ll just feel scared and alone….

Jessica is 8 and Johnny is 6. They’re very talkative, but they’re also very young. They’re not scared to talk to people. And they know Officer Smith from church. I know Officer Smith will know how to talk to them, too. His youngest son is 5. I just worry that they don’t know exactly what’s going on at home…

I of course warned Officer Smith of all this about every child during our conversation over the phone. I even elaborated about my concerns about Jessica and Johnny..

When I was in 2nd grade, my class read the children’s book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. My teacher asked us all to write about one of our own “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.” I was generally a happy kid when I was 7. I played soccer, I played the piano, I had lots of friends… But I got in trouble with Mommy and Daddy a lot. So I just wrote about what happened the night before.

(Keep in mind, this was 12 years ago, so some things are a little fuzzy, but everything I’m writing is very clear in my memory of the event.)

Kira was 3, and she made a yellow scribble on my white dresser with the crayon she had somehow gotten a hold of. She handed me another yellow crayon, so I drew a small heart next to her own art. That’s all we got away with before my mom stormed in my room. She noticed someone had gotten in her crayons. She was mad Kira had gotten into them, but she was more furious that I had made a mark on the dresser she paid for. She screamed at me while digging her fingers into my face.  Her long, sharp nails left indents in my flesh, but her monstrous facial expression penetrated my soul. I’m haunted by that face to this day. I didn’t have time to react before she threw my small body against the wall. My head felt dizzy from making contact, and before I could collect myself, my body was being picked up and thrown against the tacky blue floor in my bedroom. The small TV was on in the background, and my mom’s shrieking voice blended in with it. I tuned everything out as she beat me repeatedly….. It’s a good thing my father was at work that day, or it would have gotten even worse.

I turned this average story into a 3-paragraph body, then added an introduction and a conclusion. After we were done writing, we gathered on a square carpet in the class. My teacher “randomly” chose students to read their stories out loud before she collected them to review them. I was usually one of the “randomly selected” students chosen to share my work with the class because my teacher liked me. This time was no exception. I was a little embarrassed to share with the class that I had gotten in trouble, but I figured every kid was punished the same way I was. My teacher looked shocked after I read my paper. I was nervous… Maybe I didn’t write as well as I usually did and she was disappointed in me… She started asking me questions..

Mrs. P: “Does this happen a lot?”

Me: “Yeah, but only when I get in trouble.”

Mrs. P: “Do you get in trouble a lot?”

Me: *embarrassed* “Yeah… I don’t know why…”

Mrs. P: “Do you love your parents?”

Me: “Of course! They’re my parents!”

Mrs. P: “Do your parents love you?”

Me: “Of course! They’re my parents!”

Because I was so young, I figured all parents were just like mine. And even though they beat me and yelled at me a lot, they still loved me because they had to. Parents have to love their kids. Right?

Mrs. P sent home a note with my schoolwork asking my parents to come in and meet with her. She said it was a “special parent-teacher conference.” I was worried.. My mom wasn’t supposed to know that I wrote about her…

My mom met with my teacher… Long story short, my mom talked her way out of getting CPS (Child Protective Services) involved like my teacher suggested, and I was in A LOT of trouble when we got home……

So I told Officer Smith this story that Jessica and Johnny might react similarly. But then I told him another story about Jessica….

This past May, Jessica had taken a wrist brace to school and pretended that she’d hurt herself. I was the one who picked her and Johnny up from elementary school that day. I knew that Jessica would be harshly punished for taking the brace to school, and I didn’t think she deserved it. As we pulled into the driveway, I told her that I wouldn’t tell Mom and Dad if she promised to never take anything like that to school again. She started crying.

Jessica: “Please don’t tell Mom and Dad on me.”

Me: “I just said I wouldn’t! I don’t want you to get in trouble. But I don’t want you to get yourself into trouble either. Ok?”

Jessica: “Ok… Just… Mom and Dad don’t love me.”

This broke my heart. She’s EIGHT years old!!!!! No 2nd grader should EVER feel like their parents don’t love them!!!!!!!!

Me: “What makes you say that?”

Jessica: “The way they talk to me and what they do to me..”

Me: “What do they say and do?”

Jessica: “They tell me that I’m stupid. And they hit me. A lot. And they yell at me a lot. And tell me I’m a really bad kid. And they kick me, too.”

 

I’m going to talk about Jessica a little bit here because I think she’s an incredible 8-year-old. She’s CRAZY smart. She has an amazing memory. She’s SUPER talented. She likes to sing a lot (like everyone in my family), and she has perfect pitch. And she’s a really good dancer!! Her elementary school has a “May Day Dance” every year. Every grade level does a dance together to a song, from Pre-K to 5th Grade. Every year, I watch Jennica, and she’s always perfectly on beat and doesn’t have to watch the teacher on the sidelines reminding the kids of the moves. She figures things out and I think she’s awesome and she tells the funniest jokes and I brag about her all the time because I love her so dearly.

I knew how my parents treated her because they treated us all that way, but to hear her say it brought tears to my eyes.

I told Officer Smith these stories just so he knew that even though they might say that their parents loved them and were nice to them, it’s not entirely true.

I’m just so worried for them…. I don’t want them to be scared. I just want them to know that everything is going to be okay.

Why don’t I warn them?

If I call home to talk to them, my parents will ask them what I had to say. When they say that I was telling them that Alan Smith would come visit them at school to ask them questions and he’d be in his police uniform, my parents would figure out what was happening and freak out. They’d call Alan and find a way to talk their way out of getting into real trouble.

The whole plan would be ruined.

THE Call (Part 3)

Smith: “Alright, let’s talk about the physical side of the abuse.”

Me: “This is where I feel like I don’t have a lot of information to offer… I don’t know how much it got worse after I left, and I was almost never at home this summer, so I didn’t see a whole lot…”

Smith: “What do your parents do in general?”

Me: “Well, I can tell you what they do lately, but it’s not the same as what they used to. But that’s what I’ve seen.. It may or may not have gotten worse…”

Smith: “Ok, what do they do lately?”

I always try to play it off like it’s not a big deal just because I’m aware it could be worse…

Me: “Well, they mostly just toss and throw us around..”

Smith: “What do you mean by that?”

Me: “Well, they throw us across the room, throw us up the stairs, shove us into the wall…”

Smith: “Can you give me an example?”

Me: “Ummm… well…. One of the last things I saw was when my dad picked up Johnny (he’s 6, but he’s the size of a small 4-year-old) and threw him across the kitchen, from the table into the island.”

Smith: “When did this happen?”

Me: “Well, I saw it no more than a week before I left. But I know Jace told me it happened again after that.”

Officer Smith paused between questions a lot to take notes, which just made me more nervous…

Smith: “Do they ever hit you guys?”

Me: “Well, yeah.”

Smith: “Do they ever hit you with objects?”

Me: “Well, yeah.”

Smith: “What kinds of things do they hit you guys with?”

Me: “Well, it just depends on the nearest objects. A lot of the time they’re really small, but sometimes we’re not so lucky…”

Smith: “Can you give me an example of a not-so-small object?”

Me: *hesitates* “Well, one time I saw my dad hit Jessica (she’s 8 now, but at the time she was 6 I think) with a 2×4…”

Smith: “A TWO BY FOUR??!?! Would you elaborate?”

Me: *hesitates* “Well, it was a year or two ago, but one time my dad got mad at her and hit her in the back with a big wooden plank.”

 

WHY DIDN’T I STAND UP FOR HER??

Oh yeah, because every time I tried standing up for one of my siblings, this is what generally happens:

[Me: “Dad, please don’t hit Jessica with that 2×4!”

Dad: “I can do whatever I want because I’m the parent! I can punish my kids however I want! You can’t tell me how to be a parent!”

(Imagine a huge, 6’ 220 lb. man screaming this at your face while he’s holding a huge piece of wood.)

Dad: *beats me with the plank*

Dad: “Is this what you don’t want me to do?”

Dad: *beats Jessica with the plank harder than before*

Me: *begging my dad to hit me instead of her*

Dad: “Why would I hit you instead when I can torture you both at the same time by hitting her?”]

Even though I really would rather be the one being beaten with a stick, that’s not how things work in my house.

 

Smith: “Do your parents ever break the skin or leave visible marks?”

Me: “No. Everything they do is in a way that won’t leave any proof.”

My father is a fireman. Therefore, he’s seen parents do terrible things to their kids. Therefore, he knows what will leave marks. He has figured out what will NOT leave marks and uses those tactics rather than other forms of punishment that will leave proof of abuse.

Smith: “Can you give me some examples?”

Me: “Well, my dad knows that throwing us down the stairs risks us breaking our necks. So he throws us up the stairs so we hurt our legs at the most. It’s mostly just to scare us… Or like my mom stabbed Jace with plastic knives. She wanted to scare him and maybe inflict some pain, but she didn’t want to break the skin and leave scars.”

Smith: “She stabbed your brother with plastic knives??? Will you elaborate?”

Me: “Well, the first time was a year or two ago, but he told me while I was up at school that it happened again.”

 

I didn’t tell Officer Smith the story, but I’ll tell you here. I don’t know the more recent story, but I remember the one a couple years ago because I was actually home at that time.

[Jace: *sitting in a banana chair, playing a videogame*

Mom: “JACE, YOU BETTER TURN OFF THAT VIDEOGAME!!!!”

(My mom isn’t big and intimidating like my dad, but her scream is shrill, cuts to the core, and fills our entire 5,000 square foot home.)

Jace: *unaffected by my mom’s voice* “Ok, Mom, just let me save and I’ll be right downstairs.”

Jace: *goes to save videogame*

*15 seconds later max*

Mom: *suddenly right behind Jace* “I TOLD YOU TO TURN THIS GAME OFF!!!!!”

Mom: *stabs Jace in the back, shoulders, and neck with a plastic knife before he can react*]

All I could think was “What the heck??? Are you for real??? What on earth are you doing???”

 

Smith: “Is the abuse equal among all the kids?”

Me: “Well, it was even worse than all of this when I was little. But then as Jace and I got bigger and older, there were younger, smaller kids to take our place, so they started taking more of the beating. Now Kira and Kourtney are bigger, so Jessica and Johnny are more physically abused than us older kids. But my parents emotionally abuse us now because it hurts even more than the physical stuff did.”

THE Call (Part 2)

Smith: “I met with the counselor you talked to right before you left. He said there was some abuse going on in your home. What kind would you say is going on?”

Me: “Physical and emotional. *pause* But I wasn’t home for a year, I don’t know how much information I can really give you… I feel like I won’t really be of much help.. Jace (my next oldest brother) would be able to help you more….”

Smith: “Well, I would like to ask you some questions now, and then depending on what you tell me, I might meet with him as well. Now would you say there’s more physical or emotional abuse in your home?”

Me: “For the older kids, emotional. For the younger kids, physical.”

Smith: “Let’s talk about the emotional abuse. What kinds of things are being said.”

Me: “Well, my parents tell us we’re worthless and insignificant and that we can never do anything right…”

Smith: “What phrases do they use specifically?”

Me: “We’re worthless. We’re insignificant. We can’t do anything right. Oh, and they remind us that they’re our dictators. I hate that the most.”

Smith: “How often does this happen?”

Me: “Every single day without fail.”

Smith: “Who do they say these things to?”

Me: “All of us kids, including the youngest ones.”

Smith: “When was the last time you heard them use one of these phrases?”

Me: “The last day I was home this summer.”

Officer Smith seemed surprised… Partially because he’s close to both of my parents. Partially because I talk like it’s normal for parents to talk to their kids this way. I wasn’t aware that it was abnormal until I started seeing how my friends’ parents treated them.

I didn’t include that my parents have said worse to me… I felt like he just wanted the usual phrases that they used on a daily basis, and he seemed satisfied enough with my answers.

THE Call

*phone rings*

Me: “Hey Kenneth!”

Best Friend/Boyfriend: “Hey! I just got out of class!”

Me: “Come on over!”

*I get another call from an Unknown number*

Me: “Hey, I’ll call you back in a minute, I’m getting another call.”

*switch calls*

Me: “Hello, this is Arizona.”

Other voice: “Hey, Arizona, this is Alan Smith. How have you been?”

Alan Smith lives down the street for me. I grew up going to school with his oldest son and our families go to church together. But my heart sank because he is also one of the local police officers, and I could already guess why he was calling. But at first I pretended I was excited to hear from him.

Me: “I’ve been doing well! How about yourself?”

Officer Smith: “I’ve been good!”

I wanted to avoid the main subject as much as possible, so I thought of small talk conversations I could start, but he interrupted my thoughts with –

Smith: “Are you in a place you can talk for a bit?”

Me: “*sighhh* (quietly) Yeah.”

Smith: “I’ve had concerns about your family brought to my attention recently. *pause* Do you want to talk about it?”

I wanted to answer that I would very much NOT like to bring it up before I hung up the phone, but instead I sighed again, fought back some tears, and agreed to talk to him… He asked questions, I answered them. My roommates and Kenneth knocked on my door, but I ignored everyone until my conversation was over.

I anxiously anticipated this phone call for a long time and stressed because I thought it would never come. But I’ve been stressing a lot about it ever since I finally got it last Thursday afternoon…