A long time coming
Two years ago my daughters moved back in with me. It’s been a whirl wind ride since then learning how to live with each other again, and how to heal from past hurts and move forward in love. In July of this year my 15 year old ran away from home with some street kids because they had convinced her how awesome it would be to explore the world with no restrictions, no rules, total freedom.
The night she left I contacted the local police department and their advice was “just wait for her to come home”. I have to tell you, that was the worse advice I’ve ever received. That night and for the next 5 days I scoured the city on foot looking for my baby girl. I followed the advice of police and contacted the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Every direction I turned I ran into road blocks and red tape. I was told that even if the police located my daughter they could not detain her and return her to me because in Seattle, running away from home is not a crime. I was told by friends to just let my little girl be, let her explore and make her own life and her own mistakes. And I knew in my gut and in my heart that everyone was wrong.
I had family in Salt Lake who jumped in immediately to help. We set up a web page on Facebook with photos and a description of my daughter. Within a few hours of the page going live I got a call from a friend who’d had a friend contact him with a sighting of my daughter about 300 miles south of where we lived. I tried to get the detective on my case to act on this information and was told that she was too overwhelmed with all of her cases to act on a “potential” sighting.
Finally after 5 days of one of my family members was able to convince my daughter to tell us where she was. I left within the hour to pick her up. You may think this is a happy ending to our ordeal, but it was just the beginning.
When I got to the town my daughter was in, the local police had already picked her up and were holding her for questioning. In the state of Washington, if your child is over the age of 13 then police need to get the consent of the child to discuss their case with the child’s parents. So I was not allowed to see my daughter until the detective was done questioning her. After waiting for 2 hours I finally got to see my girl and my heart broke. She was covered from head to toe in bruises and bite marks. She hadn’t eaten the entire time she was gone and the boys she was with had kept her drunk and high. She was raped repeatedly but because of the circumstances she thought it was “consensual sex” and told the detective as much.
I was advised to take my daughter to the hospital anyway to do a rape kit on her. We spent the next 8 hours at the children’s hospital while my daughter was poked and prodded, forced to talk about what she’d been through with complete strangers. She was so scared and battered that she kept wanting to just hide from everyone.
When I finally got my little girl home, she decided to take a bath. As soon as she undressed in front of the mirror she fell to the floor in hysterics because of all the bruises and bites on her body. She insisted that I cover all of the mirrors so that she wouldn’t have to see what had been done to her. That night as she was trying to fall asleep there was a loud boom outside our window which startled her so much she nearly jumped out of the bed and couldn’t stop shaking and crying. She was terrified that the guy who had done this to her knew where we lived and would come after her. It was at this point we decided to abandon our lives in Seattle and move back to Utah where I could get the love and support of my family and where my daughter would feel safe.
With this decision I had to leave my job and break the lease on our new apartment. My sister and mom drove up to Washington, we packed what we could into my sisters car and left everything else behind. Everyone kept telling me that we would figure things out down the road and not to worry about it right now, just worry about the safety and well being of my daughter.
We went to live with my mom. We brought our cat and dog with us, which was not ok with my mom’s new husband. We decided to stay in their small camper where the pets would be allowed to reside. We figured this would be a very temporary situation and before winter hit we would be in our own place once again.
For the first month we were in Utah I tried diligently to find housing, get food stamps and medical coverage for my family. Every step I took there were roadblocks and delays. I was denied services because the State of Utah couldn’t communicate directly with the State of Washington to confirm that my case there had been closed. During this time I also worked closely with the detective and Prosecuting Attorney in Washington to attempt to find justice for my daughter. Justice was not to be found. The boy who had done this to my daughter was 2 months under the limit of pursuing rape and assault of a minor child (he was almost 19 she was 15). He was charged with a felony assault after 30 days in jail and was released to prey on other young girls.
I asked family in Washington to help clean out what was left in my apartment and send the remainder of our clothes, coats and shoes to us. That never happened. Our belongings were given to the Good Will instead. A few weeks later I received a notice from the apartment manager stating that I owed $4800 in fees for breaking my lease and cleaning of the apartment. Being unemployed and homeless I had no way to pay those fees so I created a Go Fund Me Campaign ( https://www.gofundme.com/xf3syv5f) in an effort to raise the money to pay off my apartment. Unfortunately that campaign has only raised $300 to date which doesn’t even put a dent in the money owed.
So now here we are, nearly 5 months later, still living in a camper with the weather getting more frigid by the day and no end in site. Relations between my mom, her husband and other family who live there become more and more strained as time passes. I now have a wonderful job which will go a long way toward helping me become self sufficient once again, but the reality is sinking in that we will be stuck in this camper, in the cold through the winter and that breaks my heart.
I’m writing this post now for several reasons. I need to express the pain and trauma we have experienced. I need to ask for help in getting my family back on our feet and I need to remind those who asked me to “come home” why it is that we are in the situation we are in.
In asking for help: If ever my words have touched your soul, if ever you’ve felt the desire to help a family who truly needs the help, if ever you’ve wanted to do a great good in this world I am presenting you now with a perfect opportunity. Please visit my Go Fund Me page located here: https://www.gofundme.com/xf3syv5f. Every penny helps. In this giving season, this is a cause worth giving to.
Thank you for letting me share my story once again.