I struggle sometimes to find the words to describe the women I have had the privilege to work with. I am moved by their stories and the place of honesty from which they tell them; and while I can’t change the legislation that placed them in prison, I can listen with an empathetic ear, and share their stories to those who are open to hearing them.
I want to share with you Jane’s* story. She was kind enough to not only share her story, but allow me to tell it in her own words.
This week I am honored to bring you Part 1 of Jane’s* journey.
My name is Jane*. I am 33 years old. I moved away from my home in Washington State to Oklahoma in February 2003. I’ve been incarcerated for the past 9 years, and I have 25 more years to go until I come up for parole. I was convicted of felony child neglect in August of 2003.
…My case is a little different than most. With my case there aren’t a lot of facts or evidence. It seems to be mainly opinions. It’s hard to fight against opinions because whose opinion am I following? One may say that my actions were not that of neglect, while someone else may say they were. How do you fight a case against someone’s opinion?
I have a story to tell, a story that can change the lives and hearts of many. I would like to share with you that story and allow you to decide for yourself what there is that can be done.
At the time I was charged, the main problem I had was a complete nonexistence of healthy emotional and mental boundaries. I was extremely co-dependant with severely low self-esteem. I lived in a world of being the victim. My needs were constant approval, recognition and validation from others. I would like to take you to the beginning of my story so that you can better understand where I had come from, and what had led me to end up in that place in my life.
I was 3 years old when my parents got divorced. Somehow my dad got full custody of me and my little brother. I didn’t see, or hear from my birth mom again until I was almost 16 years old. It was also when I was 3 years old when my dad first started touching me inappropriately. After the divorce, I became a mommy to my baby brother and a wife to my dad. By the time I turned 7 years old, my dad had remarried and divorced two more times. His third marriage was his final one, and I thought that maybe this time he would stop treating me as his wife, but it didn’t stop-it only became more frequent until eventually it was happening every day of my life —literally. One day, when I was about 12 years old, he had noticed that there was a couple of months break in my monthly cycle. He gave me a pregnancy test. I was pregnant and he was the father. He took me to some clinic and told them that I had been out running around and got myself pregnant. He said I didn’t want the baby. I had no choice but to agree. At 12 years old, I had an abortion. That night I went straight to my room. I wouldn’t eat dinner and I wouldn’t talk to anybody. He came in and had sex with me again that night only this time he used protection. That night hurt worse than any other night.
The abuse finally ended when I was 15. I accidently told the lady who had acted as my mother for the past 8 years while having an argument. Shortly after that he went to jail. She coupled up with a man who was extremely sadistic. He ended up sending me away to live with my birth mom, who I hadn’t seen since I was 3. At 16, I moved to a new state, a new family and a new school. This is the point in my life when I discovered the numbing effects of alcohol and weed. I loved how they made me feel; or rather I should say how they helped me to “not feel”. I guess you can say that I kind of went wild. I started being promiscuous. I skipped school and I partied. Only a year after I was re-united with my mom, she kicked me out. I guess that she just couldn’t handle me—that seemed to be a common theme throughout my life.
I was 19 when I met the man who would later become my husband. Finally someone wanted to love me and protect me. He wanted to keep me safe from my past, at least that’s what he told me and I believed him because I needed to. I did find out very quickly that he was really not a very nice person, however I said yes when he proposed to me. I truly believed in my heart that no one else would ever want me enough to marry me. I didn’t want to miss my chance. I didn’t want to die alone. On September 10th, 1999, I married a man I knew for a fact to be very abusive; mentally, emotionally and times physically. September 27th, 17 days later, I gave birth to my first baby. This was the best moment in my life. I loved my son so much already. Over the next 5 years, the abuse continued and worsened. I had two more babies, they were my entire world. I really believe that it was because of that, that they had also become the main source of my husband’s anger and hatred towards me. He always claimed that I spent too much time with them, that I “babied” them too much. He felt like I was selfish because I spoiled them.
Even though we were still together, our marriage was over way before it began. I had tried unsuccessfully many times to pack up my babies and leave him. I always came back. I really had nowhere to go and I knew that I could never survive without him. Plus I would always end up feeling bad and sorry for him. He had had a hard life and everyone always told him how bad he was and would turn their back on him. I had promised to never do that. Knowing these things, kept me a prisoner in a highly poisonous marriage.
There is one common thread in many of the journey’s I’ve listened to over the years. So many women were in a “prison” before they were incarcerated. They were a prisoner in their home, conflicted by loyalty, family and responsibility. By staying in their “prisons” they were attempting to create the family life they desired, but the pieces just wouldn’t fit.
Join me next week as Jane* continues to share her story and the opinions that shaped her future.