My name is Nia, which means “purpose.” Through some of my darkest moments, I am proud to have found my purpose. Today I stand strong as a beautiful flower among withering weeds. But I haven't always stood strong and I’m not perfect I've been through trials and tribulations like many hurting young adults.
I remember the first time I was sexually assaulted. My twin sister and I had just been adopted by my former foster mother. My foster mom had a foster boy in her care already, he was around 13-years-old. My foster mom was taking her usual mid-day nap and I remember arguing with my twin sister. She separated us she sent me into my foster brother’s room to take a nap. I can't tell you the initial engagement... I just remember the unspeakable happening.
I could never tell my foster mom what was happening to me she already felt like my sister and I were too “sexual.” I couldn't tell you why she thought that. My foster mom was beyond strict — she was overbearing and emotionally, physically, spiritually, and verbally abusive. She would rant about how our biological parents did us so wrong and how we were sexually abused as kids. Little did she know that the sexual abuse started in her own home. My foster brother ended up going to another foster home, but not before he assaulted me three more times.
A few years later, my foster mom ended up adopting another foster boy and we would act out sexually. From time to time, my foster mom would catch on to little things. One day she caught us. My new foster brother was taken out of the home. I never heard about him or from him again. It killed me on the inside because I didn't know if I had ruined his life or where he ended up. My mom then went to church one day and told a large portion of the church what had happened. Her words are something I’ve had to live with for the rest of my life.
As I grew older, the abuse from my mom started becoming unbearable. She would do things like kick my twin sister and me down the stairs, or choke us to the point that we were unconscious. One day my sister’s mental illness start showing itself. It would show up in the way that she would talk, or the way she would do things like make her bed or write her name. My foster mom interpreted her mental illness as defiance and would chastise her 24/7. It broke my heart.
One day, I came home from school and my sister wasn’t there. My mom had explained that she had my sister checked in a residential home. I remember being angry every day that I got home and my sister wasn’t there. I felt like she violated me and took something from me that was mine, something that she could never replace, a piece of my heart and spirit. The audacity of this lady! As the days turned in weeks, I festered in on the anger I had towards my foster mom.
One day, on our way home from work, I got out the car and just walked away. From her. From everything. She told me to come back, and I didn’t. To be honest, I don't know why I didn't go back because I was usually obedient out of fear. As I walked away and got out of her eyesight and grasp, I felt a feeling I never felt before…. FREEDOM. Freedom to be a child, a teenager, and no longer a beaten down puppet.
I stayed away the whole summer. I house-hoped and stayed in abandoned apartments or houses under construction. When I finally came back, I was so busy trying to find myself I almost forgot about my twin sister. When I finally saw her, I could see that her mental illness had manifested more fully. She seemed to be a bit out of touch with reality.
The treatment at my foster mom's house didn't change. So, back to the streets I went. This time I meet an older man who introduced me to “hustling.” Because of the sheltered lifestyle that my mom had enforced, I didn't know the fundamentals of being a women or the life skills you learn as a young women beginning to engage in sex. I ended up catching several STDS from this older man. And a few months later, after I healed, he exploited me to anyone and everyone. There was never any money given to me. I was “just taken care of.” In my fourteen-year-old head, it was better than getting beat down by my foster mom, who was supposed to love me and never did.
One day, I got arrested for shoplifting. Instead of taking me to jail, the police officer asked me if I wanted him to take me home. I told him told no… that “home” didn’t feel safe or like home at all, and that I knew my foster mom wasn’t going to open the door. I don’t know how to explain it you all, but I knew deep down that day that my life was going to change. He took me to juvenile hall. And low and behold… things did change. My foster mom gave up custody of me, and I was sent to different group homes. My last group home actually helped me. To be honest, I resisted them for as long as I could. But, I ended up realizing that I needed support with my trauma. I needed time to heal and people to be there for me.
I graduated top of my high school class and got a scholarship to help with school funds and clothes. I went to live in their transitional housing. My twin sister is currently working on herself and her own healing. Last year I got my EMT license and went on to work as an EMT. I have also worked as a youth advocate for youth who had been in foster care or the juvenile justice system. Now, I am working with youth who have experienced homelessness, exploitation, and life on the streets. And, I’m going to school to pursue my degree in psychology.
One of my favorite quotes is “eat; don’t be eaten.” In my last year at the group home, I decided that I didn't want to be eaten by the things or the people of this world. Instead, I want to eat and to help others eat. Through my trauma and my own healing process, I realized I had found my life’s purpose and stepped into my name - “Nia.” I am committed to helping others flourish, strive, live, and love to the best of their abilities. We are all strong. And we will all rise.