Julie left a life of physical and emotional abuse to try and find a safe, healthy direction in life.
Growing up in the Midwest, "Julie" was ridiculed, teased and beaten by her foster mother for most of her life. She would dream of running away, but she never found the chance to escape until she was 19. (Her name has been changed because of the nature of the abuse she suffered and other family members involved.)
She faced hardships on her own, falling ill, losing a daughter. She was lost.
But today, Julie has found stability, hope and, above all, forgiveness.
Below is Julie's account of the trials she faced growing up and how she has triumphed over her abuse to go on and have a happy life in Lodi.
When I was a year and a half old, I went into foster care. The problem with the foster care situation was that my foster mother only took babies in, and then they were able to go to other homes. But in my situation, my foster father wanted to keep me, and my foster mother didn't want to keep me. Then we had that struggle throughout my life. I know what it is like not to have any affection, physically, emotionally, in any way. ...
I remember just crying out to God, asking if he was there. I went to church, said the Rosary during Lent, but it didn't have an effect on me.
My father knew my foster mother and I had a very strained relationship. He got tired of fighting her. So he just backed off.
I was very fun as a child. I would sing. My father said I was so happy. As I grew up, I stopped singing. I became inward, more insecure and unsure of myself.
My foster parents became foster parents because financially, taking in babies helped them. They got money as a foster mother for infants. She got an income that way. It was a financial help to them.
I did run away when I was in eighth grade. I decided I wasn't going to come home. I used to dream about it when I was a kid. They had these little huts, houses that were abandoned. No one lived there. They were just a couple of blocks away. And I would walk by there and think, "Gosh, I could make this my own house. I could make it into a bedroom and I could have canned food, and I could make it." Whenever I saw a place that was abandoned, I thought, "Well, I could go there."
When I was older, I went to a counselor in high school. He didn't believe a word I said. I stayed in the same house until I was 19 years old.
Right after I graduated — a week after, actually — the family went camping, and I moved out while they were away. I moved in with my then-boyfriend. That didn't work out so well. I couldn't stick up for myself. And that relationship wasn't good. So I moved out and went from house to house.
Because of what happened at home, I didn't make good choices later in life, initially.
I was always scared. I became a survivor. I just survived through everything. I didn't know how lost I was. I never quite fit in with kids at school. I was always the outcast, even with the friends I did have at school. I don't know how to even describe how lost I was. ... It was hard to accept the belief that I do have gifts. That I could believe in myself, do things that I was not even aware I could do.
"You are stupid, you are no good. You will never be anything." That was constantly being said to me.
I ended up pregnant when I was 21. I aborted the baby. I didn't know who the father was. I didn't know what I was doing. I then later had a little girl, who was born with heart disease. She died when she was 9 months old. All of this was a whirlwind.
Sometimes, I have to wonder what it was like to have a family that was nurturing. To have a family to love you. But that wasn't going to be my road. That wasn't going to be road I walked. And a lot of people are going to have to walk a certain path that doesn't seem to make any sense to find out who they really are. I have a son now, who is 24, and he got married this month.
I do remember when he was little and he was in the terrible twos, and you don't think the same pattern you were raised under will come upon your life, and then it hits you and it does try to do that. I found myself spanking him more than I should. If you talk to my son now, he will say, "Oh, my mom is the best mom in the whole world."
I have a great deal of compassion now for people that are hurting. I understand more than most.
Contact reporter Katie Nelson at firstname.lastname@example.org.