Turning abusers into victims?

Posted: November 13, 2012 in jail
Tags: ,

She was petite and quiet. Almost never said a word in class but listened intently. Her short brown hair was messy and her bangs were too long. They fell over her eyes most of the time and she rarely swept them back. I often wondered how it didn’t drive her crazy because I knew when I needed to cut my bangs. It was the moment I found myself pushing them off my face and having to bat my eyes from the annoyance.

Her name was Angelica and at times, she looked like an angel.

My classes were doing well and I knew this by the amount of noise, conversation, laughter and tears that occurred. The better the class, the louder they got.

Suzanne was talking about her kids and how much she missed them. A few of the students nodded in agreement. I knew what was about to happen. I took the box of Kleenex I always brought in my briefcase and slid it over to the table to her. She looked up when it nudged her arm. She smiled, took one and dabbed her eyes.

“You’re not getting soft on me, are you Suzanne?” I asked. “Because I think if you ever revealed that you are indeed human, we would die from the shock.”

She laughed at this and blew her nose. “Teach, you are always busting me on shit. I’m not crying; I have allergies.”

The room was suddenly filled with laughter. Chanteel wadded up a piece of paper and threw it at Suzanne. A few others followed suit and soon there was a small stack of papers in front of her. Suzanne smiled, wiped her eyes and sat up straighter.

“How can you all laugh? You’re in here and there’s nothing funny about it,” Angelica said.

I turned around and looked at her. As far as I could recall it was the first time she had spoken.

“Sometimes laughing is the best thing to do. Sometimes it’s all we have,” I said.

She shrugged, turned away from me and stared at the wall. She folded her arms across her chest.

“Angelica, please continue,” I said.

She shook her head but wouldn’t look at me. The room had gotten very quiet. Everyone was staring at her. I didn’t want to push it.

Chanteel got up and sat down next to her. Angelica turned away from her. Chanteel turned her back.

“You don’t ever turn your back on Susan, you hear me? She is talking to you, so turn around and be nice,” she said.

“Yeah! Don’t you ever dis Teach!” said Suzanne. A few others grunted and nodded in agreement. They all turned and faced Angelica.

I stood back in amazement and awe. Suddenly my students were taking over. I wasn’t sure what to do. I stood there and let them. There was some unknown code they had that was going into effect that I was not a part of. Something was happening with them. I waited.

Angelica obeyed them. She turned around and faced me. “I don’t want to leave here because when I do, I have to go back to him,” she said and looked down at her lap. Chanteel seemed to immediately understand. She rubbed her back and nodded. The others relaxed and sat back.

“Him?” I asked.

“Yes, him,” she said.

I looked around the room. Many of the students were looking at each other. Some were looking down at their laps. There was an understanding passing between all of them that didn’t include me.

“Can you tell us more about him?” I asked. I had no idea what was going on, but it was eerily quiet.

“No,” she said. I looked at Chanteel.

“She’s talking about the guy she hurt. The one that hurt her for so many years. Her father,” Chanteel said and then hugged Angelica.

“He’s not my father! He’s the devil,” Angelica said and began crying. “Don’t you ever call him that!”

Suzanne got up and walked over to Angelic and stood in front of her. Suzanne had been arrested for crack possession and prostitution. She often asked me if she was my favorite crack hoe and I always told her she was. It was true. She was one of the funniest people I had ever met.

“Look Angelica, I know it’s been rough for you. You haven’t been here long, but you’ve sat in with us for a while. Everyone knows you shot the bastard that had been messing with you since you were a kid. It’s happened to a lot of us, so you’re not alone, but that whole crying shit has got to stop because you are really starting to piss me off. Besides, you’re just pissed that you missed and only hit him in the shoulder and he’s still alive. You really need better aim next time” she said and turned around and sat back down. She leaned back in her chair and looked bored.

I sighed and looked over at Angelica. “I have a question. You’re over 18, so why are you saying you have to go back to him? I don’t understand,” I said.

“He’s got my kid. No one believed me because I had never said anything about…”

I raised my hand. “That’s OK, you don’t have to explain,” I said.

“I have to go get her and I don’t have any other place to stay. He said he’s forgiven me and wants me back when I get out,” she said.

“Yeah, that’s what they all say,” said Rita.”They always miss us, don’t they?”

Several of the students chuckled.

“Isn’t there someone who could help you? I mean, I know I’m no expert but I would think there is something set-up somewhere to help,” I said. I felt useless and stupid.

“Do you know what it’s like?” she asked. I knew what she meant.


“Have you ever been hurt like that? Ever?”

“No,” I said.

“Then why are you here?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” was all I could think to say. Her eyes were on fire. She was holding her chin up and looking directly at me.

“She’s here because she gives a fuck, you dumb ass,” said Suzanne. She said this without looking up from her nails.

“Yeah, I am sorry that I missed the shot.” said Angelica.

I was sorry that she missed the shot also but said nothing.

That was the last time she spoke in class for a long time.

  1. stephie794 says:

    great post as always I feel so bad for these girls

  2. Paulissa says:

    A very, very compelling story. I have been in that place (not due to my sexual abuse, but due to domestic violence) where I nearly pulled the trigger at point blank range. To do that and then to feel that there is nowhere else to go but back so that one can rescue his/her own children would rip one’s heart out. The proverbial two wrongs don’t make a right but is one more wrong than the other? That is a question that I suppose each survivor faces at one point or another. Once again, I am moved by your commitment to tell these stories.

    • Susan Lewis says:

      Thank you, dear Paulissa,

      She was shut down and scared. but she did have a group of women that would listen and not let her have a pity party.

      I don’t know what happened to her but if what she said was true, it’s just not right.

      I almost can’t help but tell these stories. LOL