Trigger Warning // Rape, Sexual Assault, Suicide
This will likely be one of the most challenging chapters I will write for my audible memoir. Some of the experiences I had from 12 to 17 years old are hard to digest, talk about and share with close friends, let alone share publicly. This is a whole new ballgame for me. Yet, I feel they are necessary to share because they directly link to my being adopted and why my mentality was the way it was in my pre-teen and teenage years.
Unfortunately, then, the world labeled me as a troubled teen who acted out as a typical rebellion, only increasing my feelings of badness. Adoption was never acknowledged or talked about as a contributing factor. In return, like most adoptees, I was failed and failed miserably.
Melanie packed up all her belongings and moved to Thomas and Laura’s, and I was left behind to stay with Patricia. Soon after she left, Patricia became obsessed with me and everything about me. She didn’t have a life of her own, friends, or hobbies other than sleeping and watching television. I had no other mother and daughter relationships to compare this one too, so I thought her behavior was normal and would frequently ask myself, “Is this how other mothers are with their daughters?”
At 12 years old, Patricia approached me one afternoon and asked me to sit down and talk to her. She had two printed forms she wanted me to sign. One was a Christian Covenant that I had to sign where I agreed not to drink alcohol or do drugs. The other was a Christian Covenant that I would have to sign that I would not have sex until I was married. Me signing the covenants was a promise to her and God that I wouldn’t do these things. In a nutshell, Patricia’s conversation with me was her letting me know that if I choose to do these things, I would be sinning, and God would be very upset with me. Ultimately, he would also send me to hell.
I went to Franklin Middle School, but I despised every minute. Nevertheless, I skated by and soon made it out of 8th grade. I never liked school, but soon I would be expected to go to 9th grade at Washington High School, only to drop out the same day. I refused to go back because I felt terribly out of place. There were too many people I didn’t know, and I experienced intense anxiety in the social setting of public high school.
While never going back to school again would have been a dream come true for me at that time, Patricia didn’t have it. She nagged me to death that I had to do something, and at 13 years old, she had the idea that I attend Metro High School, which was considered an alternative high school for dropouts kids and the kids who didn’t fit into regular school settings. I gave it a whirl, and I felt like I fit in more than the traditional high school; however, there was one problem.
Attending Metro was a better fit for me, but any of the kids who attended Metro were labeled as “bad,” and my feelings of badness were already planted in the core of my being due to being abandoned by my birth mother. This only magnified it, but I began to embrace being viewed as a bad kid, which influenced my decision to own up to the label! But, unfortunately, they hadn’t seen bad yet!
The best part for me about going to Metro for high school is that no one monitored if I went or not. I could show up once or twice a week, and no one would hound me. It gave me the freedom I wanted and got nagging Patricia off my back. I also could go at my own pace with no specific curriculum. If you showed up sometimes and even did a little work, everyone seemed okay with it. Of course, I would rather run the streets than get an education! I was free. That was my jam.
When I got arrested for the first time, I had to get a job to pay the restitution back for the burglary charge. So I started working at the Cedar Rapids Reds ballpark, but it was across town. I would hop on the city bus and arrive during game nights. This was my first job, and it was so much fun! By then, I was 13 years old, soon to be 14.
I made new friends that I worked with, and my circle got wider. Tosha was my age, a girl with who I immediately connected too. Tosha lived in Springville, Iowa, and was a school dropout. Not long after meeting, we became thicker than thieves and ventured out together outside of work. She was the first close friend I had outside of school acquaintances, and she had an untamed spirit about her, which I loved! We became close, and we’re constantly planning our next adventure!
Soon we met two Hispanic sisters at the ballpark named Isabella and Elena Rodriguez. Isabella was 17, and Elena was 21, so they were several years older than us, but they were the big sister type I was attracted to. They had a nurturing spirit about them, which felt safe. Soon they would invite Tosha and me to come to hang out with them at their house.
We would enter the home of the Rodriguez family on a Friday evening, and Mrs. Rodriguez would be at the stove cooking a wonderful meal for her family. Usually, homemade tamales or quesadillas. Hip-hop music played in the background, and the house smelled of a delicious dinner that I wasn’t used to. Everyone could get as much as they wanted when the food was ready, which was a rare treat.
Isabella and Elena had three other siblings, all older brothers named Diego, Mateo, and Andres. Andres was the oldest, and he wasn’t home much. Diego was 19, and Mateo was 17, and I would soon become acquainted with them and was profoundly drawn to them. Elena had her own apartment, so we would visit her also. In addition, each of the Rodriguez kids had friends who came over, which always felt like a considerable celebration.
The Rodriguez family lived together, hung out together, and seemed close. They seemed to take me under their wing. I don’t think they knew why I was so attracted to being at their house. I was drawn in because this is something I didn’t experience at home. My heart was filled knowing I was welcomed into this home, and I wanted to be there as much as possible. At 14 years old, I finally knew what a family felt like. This kept me going back.
The more I hung out with Isabella and Elena, the less I wanted to be home at Patricia’s or at school. Diego and I spent so much time together we started to develop a relationship, and soon he would become my first boyfriend. Finally, someone that loved me. This was even more reason to keep going back to the Rodriguez home. I felt like I finally had a surrogate family of my own. Patricia had no idea where I was, and I only went home every few days to shower and change my clothes long enough to leave again.
I would have been classified a run-a-way, but by then, Patricia was working the night shift, and with me popping in and out, even with me being on probation, she had no grounds to stand on. Patricia working the night shift with a teenager was one of the worst parenting decisions she could have ever made. She kept no tabs on me whatsoever. I know she didn’t think I would stay home like the compliant adoptee. That was not me. I learned to raise hell on earth from others in my life and from my experiences in the streets.
Little did I know, the Friday and Saturday evening “get-togethers” at the Rodriguez home were the beginning of a downward spiral and one I was not prepared to experience at 14 years old. Alcohol was introduced into the evening atmosphere, and I found myself at weekend parties filled with others who were much older than I was. Mrs. Rodriguez would retire to her bedroom for the evening, not to be seen until the following day.
Drinking alcohol would impair my judgment, and so would my adoption story because I desperately wanted to belong somewhere, and the Rodriguez family made me feel like I was a part of them. I had no filter on what crossed over to be an unsafe and harmful environment, and I had no one advocating in my corner to help me see signs of things that shouldn’t be happening.
Soon I would be hooked up with a family who had normalized terrorizing the city of Cedar Rapids. Before I knew it, I was an accomplice and interrogator to some troubling interactions. Diego and Mateo would load up in their decked-out Chevy Nova and hit the streets of Cedar Rapids, but they weren’t looking for fun, only trouble!
I learned what “ganking” was through them, and they labeled themselves “The C.R. Clique!” They had clothes and hats that had their name on them. This was when they had two Chevy Nova’s full of friends and family, myself included, and they cruse the strip on First Avenue, which was the popular thing to do on Friday and Saturday nights in Cedar Rapids.
They would catch a car at a stop light and block them in with both Novas so they couldn’t drive. Then, the Rodriguez family would get out of the Nova and storm the cars, beating everyone who was inside up and stealing their belongings. Then, they would pull off and find another car a few minutes later and repeat these same encounters for hours until they eventually retired home.
I remember being so influenced by this family I jumped right in to partake in the criminal activities; however, I never received a dime of the benefits if they got belongings or money. Instead, I was being used as an accomplice, and I was naïve enough to participate. I am not proud of my participation and have always been remorseful as I grew up and have come to grips with my part. At the time, Bad welcomed BADDER, and I crossed over into stepping into the shoes of being a part of the The C.R. Clique, and at 14 years old, I embraced my new life proudly. Finally, I belonged.
I would start fighting random people out on the street for no legitimate reason at all, and this deep rage was always brewing that my birth mother never came back for me like I dreamed she would my entire childhood. As a result, I was arrested more times than I can count and on probation repeatedly. As soon as I got off, literally within days, I would get arrested again for fighting or stealing and taken to jail, which resulted in six more months of probation.
You might ask yourself how my mentality and soul could participate in these activities? It was much deeper than that. Due to the root trauma and abandonment from my birth mother, I had a deep enate desire to be a part of a family, to be loved and belong, which was something I didn’t feel with my adoptive parents, Patricia or Thomas. In the Rodriguez family, I would be accepted and do whatever I had to do to FEEL like I belonged, even if horrendous things were happening.
A few short weeks into our relationship, Diego became controlling and abusive. At 14 years old, he would encourage me to drink more and more alcohol, and when I didn’t want to, he pressured me, eventually forcing me by holding me down and pouring it into my mouth. If I closed my mouth, it would spill all over my face. Eventually, he would tie me down on the gravel driveway by sitting on me and slapping my face until I agreed to drink it. If that didn’t work, he would pull my hair and insist, and in some time, it was evident that the only way this was going to go well was if I complied with drinking alcohol when he wanted me to, so I gave in to his demands. Little did I know, this wonderful family I was dying to be a part of had more dark parts that would ultimately impact me for the rest of my life.
One morning after a night of a late-night house party, I woke up foggy and uncertain where I was. Everything was dark and somber, and I didn’t have any clothes on. Then, I saw a glimmer of daylight coming through a crack in the wall, which allowed me a chance to scatter around to try to find my clothes. I was lying on a mattress on the floor in the attic of the Rodriguez home all alone. How the fuck did I get here, I asked myself? Why was I here? What happened up here? I had a sick feeling that something traumatic had happened, but I couldn’t pinpoint exactly what. The feelings of panic came over me. I needed to get out of here.
I found my way to the steps and went downstairs. On Sunday, it was early in the morning, and everyone was still asleep. Tasha was on the couch, and I quietly woke her up. I said, “What happened last night? I woke up in the attic, and I have no memories of getting there?”
Tasha said, “They had a house party, don’t you remember? Diego got you wasted and took you up to the attic and let some of his friends come? Do you remember that happening? Everyone was talking about it, but you passed out.”
“No, I don’t remember it. Who were his friends? I can’t believe he would do that to me,” I expressed to Tosha. She said she wasn’t sure who was up in the attic, but she expressed sympathy for what happened. We all knew what had happened. Not a single person stepped up to help me or protect me. Once again, I was no better than a piece of trash thrown away, just like when my birth mother passed me over to strangers and walked away. I was completely traumatized.
I remember going to the bathroom to take a little alone time to myself, and I will never forget having that moment to look at myself in the mirror and disliking what was looking back at me. I despised that girl. I was traumatized at the thought of what happened last night. I felt disconnected from my body and like I wasn’t a real person, yet only a shell of one, hallow and empty inside—a walking dead girl.
Who was I? Where the fuck did I come from? I have two mothers and two fathers in the world, and none of them were there for me to console me through this time of my life. So as a result, I began to hate myself, and the feelings of badness only multiplied.
I never acknowledged that I was raped by several people that night. It didn’t matter to me that I was in a house with almost all adults older than me, and at 14 years old, I had no business being there. Patricia had no clue where I was, and she damn sure couldn’t keep up with me. Coming to terms with what happened was a struggle because I only blamed myself for drinking too much. For years I told myself that it was all my fault.
I went home, showered and changed, and went right back to Diego’s house the same night. Why would I go back after this happened? THIS IS WHY I AM SHARING THIS PART OF MY STORY!
Do you see how significant this is to my adoptee journey? Do you understand my reasoning for sharing this piece of my story? Do you understand that when your biological mother tosses you to be raised by strangers, it creates a profound wound that impacts your self-esteem and how you view the world? I wanted to belong and be loved so deeply that I allowed these people to violate me again and again. Sadly, this wasn’t a one-time thing.
I had a friend named Johnson, who was 22 years old and frequented the Rodriguez home, and he even stayed there on occasion. He came home on a break in the middle of the day and walked into the Rodriguez brothers, holding me down on the kitchen floor, completely naked. After getting me intoxicated, I tried to fight them off while they raped me. I blacked out because Johnson told me what happened, and only after he told me did bits and pieces started to come back to me.
Johnson yelled at them and broke everything up. He then helped me up and helped me find my clothes. He was kind enough to take me home, and he was the first person in my life that went completely off on how they did not love me or care about me for them to be doing those things to me. He stood up for me when I couldn’t stand up for myself.
He went in the whole ride home on them not being my friends and that I should never go back there again. He also let me know that I wasn’t the only young female they did this to. They did it all the time, and I was just one of the victims who was lured in. In my case, because I had never experienced what a loving family was in my life, my desire to experience that was bigger than anything, even being raped and abused.
After Johnson saw what they did to me, knowing they were doing this to other girls, he stopped going to the Rodriguez house, and finally, after a good year of being heavily involved with the Rodriguez family, I was done too. But the damage was done, and there wasn’t one single adult in my life I could share these things with, especially my adoptive parents.
What would Patricia think? I violated both Christian covenants, and that was it. No doubt in my mind I was going to hell now. This whole Christian dynamic of my journey did not help me. On the contrary, it caused me great harm to know that I was disappointing God and upsetting him because of what happened to me. It would be a cold day in hell before I ever confided in Patricia about being raped, and still, to this day, she knows nothing about what happened at the Rodriguez house. Nor does Thomas or Laura. But everyone around wonders why little Pammy has completely lost her shit and rebelled to the most significant extreme.
I still have vivid memories like flashbacks of being involved with the Rodriguez family. I have had to make amends for my actions and deeply struggled with not blaming myself. It wasn’t until my 40’s that I acknowledged that this house was a house of horrors, and this family was filled with criminals.
For so much of my teen life, I just wanted to die. If my birth mother wasn’t coming back to get me, I didn’t want to be here. I left the Rodriguez house still not understanding that they were terrible people and I was just a kid. I internalized the trauma and blamed myself, and even after all these horrors, I still missed the pieces of this family that felt like family to me.
But one thing is for sure; alcohol was my new best friend. It stepped in the gap and helped me not feel the abandonment by my birth mother and the abuse in my adoptive homes. It also helped me not think about the rapes and how I was treated in the Rodriguez home. So I clung to the bottle every chance I could, and soon at 15 years old, I would be introduced to drugs and a whole new boyfriend. A new life was right around the corner.
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