“Child abuse casts a shadow the length of a lifetime.”
When I think back over my childhood, I try hard to find something I can hold onto as a cherished good memory—something that can share with my own children about who their mother was. But there is not a single memory that isn’t tarnished in some way by my parents. Everything has some sort of abuse or neglect tied to its underside.
I remember being forced to go to VBS (basically to be out of the way), and at the end of the week when all the other children’s parents came to see the crafts and worksheets the kids had done, no one was there to see mine. I can still feel the pain in the pit of my stomach, how embarrassing it was to be the only child with no one there. It was always the same at school; no one was ever there at shows or award presentations. So I quit even trying to do well. Why try when no one cared?
When we were little we were given big birthday parties to which our parents invited all their friends and my father’s co-workers. We would receive wonderful gifts that were then placed on shelves in our bedrooms and in our playroom that had been built in the garage. Only we weren’t really able to enjoy them because we had to play without making a mess. Messes were never allowed. Never make a mess, never sit on a bed once it was made, never sit on the living room furniture unless there was company and we were on display and had permission, and by no means were we ever to walk on my father’s lawn. My parents had priorities, after all.
By the time I was thirteen I had developed the mindset that if I was going to be used by men, I was going to call the shots. I was running around with men way too old to be hanging around with a 13-year-old, drinking and experimenting with drugs. I had two lives—the one my friends knew about, and the one that happened after dark. The only salvation I found was when I was lucky enough to be invited to spend the night at someone’s house and for a few hours I got to be a part of a real, normal family.
When I was fifteen, we moved from California to Louisiana. My father lost his job and decided to try retirement. He opened his own antique store, and for a while all was financially stable. After a while, though, my parents started having money problems so my father decided to pull an insurance scam and made me help him make it look like the house was robbed. I had to take a bunch of stuff up to the attic and hide it and then break out a window and talk to the police with my parents. When the insurance check came, my father refused to give me the money he promised me for helping him. Why I was surprised or hurt, to this day I still don’t know. By that time I was almost 16 and fooling around with a 29-year-old drug dealer. I just wanted out of that house so badly. The only thing that was keeping me from running was my one-year-old little brother. I couldn’t bear to leave Will behind, but I knew I couldn’t take him with me.
I had quit school, was going to night school for my GED, and was working at the mall when I met a guy who kept bugging me. He said he wouldn’t leave the kiosk where I worked until I said I’d go out with him. The guy I had been dating had left town, so I said fine, I would go. We started seeing each other and I soon found out that I was pregnant. My life was about to be forever changed.
And yet this is still only the beginning.
Shea Clarke was born and raised in Los Angeles, California, and after a 10-year detour in Boston now lives in Aiken, South Carolina. Having left behind a life that had played out like a bad Lifetime movie filled with addiction, abuse, and depression, Shea has now been happily married for the past six years to her very own Prince George. She jokes that he was worth the wait after sorting through a great number of toads. Shea is Mom to Kayla (26) and Marygrace (16)–her princesses here on earth–as well as Olivia (b/d 6-23-07) and Alessia (born still 11-13-08)–her Angel Babies in Heaven. She is also Grandma to perfect little Lorelei, who doesn’t allow Autism to get in her way. A dedicated canine rescuer, Shea highly esteems all of God’s creatures and loves bringing hope to the hurting.
Read more encouraging stories from brave-hearted women here. Be sure to grab your free copy of inspirational quotes and writing prompts while you’re there. (Look over on the right hand side!)