A History of Abuse
Uncle Nick told me I would never amount to anything and I think I’m starting to believe him. He is the seventh uncle that mom has brought home to stay with us. I was nine years-old when he started hanging around our house. At first, I liked having him here. Uncle Nick really spoiled me and my brother. Then, two years later, Uncle Nick lost his job and started drinking and partying every day. The parties were too much for my brother, so he moved out and went to live with his dad. I never met my dad. So, I stayed with my mom. It’s not bad. Mom sleeps all day and let’s me do whatever I want. The parties at our house are loud. I don’t like it when Uncle Nick drinks too much. When he’s not drunk, he looks out for me. He makes sure I have something to eat for dinner and we watch movies together. When he’s drunk...he acts weird. He sits too close to me and tells me I’m special and that he loves me. I guess I shouldn’t have said that, I’m supposed to keep that and the other stuff he does a secret.
Then, mom and Uncle Nick got into a big fight because mom lost our rent money at the casino. Uncle Nick told mom she had to find a way to pay the rent, but she didn’t have a job. Luckily, Uncle Nick had friends that would give us the money. All mom had to do was spend time alone with Uncle Nick’s friends. I stayed in my room when his friends came over.
We had enough rent money for a while. Then Uncle Nick lost his disability benefits. Mom and Uncle Nick fought all the time about money. I hated hearing them yell. Mom was tired of Uncle Nick’s friends coming over to see her. Uncle Nick said that was fine because his friends wondered if I was interested in partying. Not a chance! Every time they came over, I locked my door. They laughed too loud about things I didn’t understand and I could hear them teasing my mom. Even when she cried, they didn’t stop laughing. I didn’t like them.
I guess we needed more money because mom came to my room and told me Uncle Nick’s friends were coming over to party with me. I begged her to tell them no, but she said they were already on their way. I was freaking out and mom gave me some medicine to help me relax. I don’t know what the medicine was called. I don’t remember what happened that day, or the next day, or even the day after that. Everything was a blur. If I didn’t take my medicine I got sick.
I was tired all the time and only wanted to sleep. I hated school and missed a lot of days. Uncle Nick was upset with me. He said I was causing problems and making people notice me. He started calling me, “loser” and “good-for-nothing-whore.” I used to cry when he called me names. Not anymore. Why does it even matter? Maybe he’s right. Maybe I am a loser who’s going to screw-up everything I do. What do I know? All I know is that if I keep the secrets, keep taking the medicine, and keep partying with Uncle Nick’s friends, I have a place to sleep and dinner a couple of nights a week.
Three months after my fourteenth Birthday...
Three months after my fourteenth birthday, I found out I was pregnant. I was sick and not getting better, so mom took me to the health center. I guess the nurse figured it out pretty quickly. When we got home, I had to go to my room. Mom and Uncle Nick were fighting again. They were yelling about money and fixing my mistake. I could not see Uncle Nick’s friends for a few weeks while I healed. Once I was better, I had to spend more time with Uncle Nick’s friends. I hated it. Those guys came over every day, sometimes more than once. I had no choice, I owed mom and Uncle Nick money for my mistake and we needed to pay rent and buy food.
We also needed money for my medicine. Mom made sure that I had as many pills as I wanted, so I never had to get sick or remember.
I had to bounce. The Summers were nice people, but they had way too many rules. Plus, I couldn’t tell them I was pregnant. I’m almost 18 and old enough to live on my own. So, I left with my boyfriend, Ryan. We crashed with his crew uptown for a while. I met my bestie Tara there. She has two kids, but one lives with her mom, and the other one was adopted. I hated hearing her talk about her kids because she always ended up crying. She missed her babies so much. I caught a ride to Baltimore and handled my pregnancy so I would never have to go through the pain of missing my baby. I’m not sure if that was a good choice. I was using and that can mess-up a baby. I didn’t have the money to take care of myself, let alone a baby who might be in the hospital a lot, or have issues.
I know it sounds selfish, but I really didn’t want to cry like Tara all the time.
Ryan and I party a lot more now. It’s cool though. It helps me forget about what I did in Baltimore. Ryan started selling to get some cash, but it still isn’t enough money. All it really gets us is some free dope.
At the club...
Ryan was at a strip club the other night. He said Tara and I are much prettier than the women he saw at the club. He thinks we could make some serious cash there. Tara and I went a couple days ago and tried it out. At first, it was weird to have guys looking at me like that, but if I drink enough, it’s alright. Working at the club is the only place we can get hired because neither of us have any ID. I think the Summers still have my ID and I don’t know how to get a new one. Ryan said if I have an ID that’s how people will track me. I don’t want to get picked-up because I left my foster family before I was 18. Plus, it’s not like we can get a day job. We will never pass a drug test. We need money now and we can’t wait for a day job’s paycheck in three weeks. Plus, getting a ride is a hassle. Ryan won’t get up early to drive me to a day job and I’m certainly not cool with riding a bus for hours.
Dancing is pretty easy. I just put on my makeup and the outfit Ryan bought me. Suddenly, I look like my dancer name, Kit. As long as I have enough dope and a few drinks, Kit can handle any of the guys that come into the club. Yeah some guys are nasty, but it isn’t like I have to sleep with them. Plus, the money I make keeps Ryan happy and we don’t fight as much. He even offered to manage Tara and my dancing careers. He says it’s important to have a good manager who will keep us safe and look for new dancing opportunities. Ryan will pay our bills and take care of us. All Tara and I have to do is dance and give him all of the money we earn.
Tuesday nights at the club are weird though. These church ladies hangout. The first night I was at the club was a Tuesday night. I was so confused when a bunch of dancers left the dressing room and returned with homemade chocolate chip cookies and a rose. I asked if one of their regular guys brought them a gift. The dancers laughed when I said that. They said the church ladies bring dinner and desserts on Tuesday nights. Who does that? I mean, the dinner was great and I don’t remember the last time I had a homemade chocolate chip cookie like that. Seriously, church ladies hanging out in a strip club? I don’t know. It was just weird.
I’m not sure what happened, but after a while I couldn’t make money in the club anymore.
I mean yeah, I have been nodding out a lot because I am using more, but still I needed to make money. Ryan, Tara and I just got a new place on the Hill. Ryan is counting on me and Tara to pay the rent. It just isn’t working anymore. Those church ladies said they could help me and Tara, but I can’t tell them everything I’ve been doing. I’m not sure that I could even work a regular job? All I really know how to do is get money from men. I still don’t have an ID and dropped-out of school from all of the absences. Plus, I missed a bunch of court dates.
Ryan knows some of the guys ask me and Tara for dates outside of the club. So, Ryan made us a deal. If Tara and I meet-up with the guys after club hours and do whatever they want, we can keep twenty percent each time. Even though I really don’t want to do more than dance, I need the money. If I don’t keep enough dope in my body, I get dope sick. It feels like the flu - cold sweats, vomiting, diarrhea - with depression and anxiety. It’s awful. I’m nervous about going on dates with guys that I don’t know, but Ryan said that he will drive us to our dates and wait for us in the car to make sure that we’re safe. We just have to give Ryan all of the money from each date. If we don’t, it gets bad.
A few weeks ago, Tara got stupid one night and tried to keep more than her twenty percent. Ryan beat her so bad, that she couldn’t work for a week. In order to cover Tara’s bills and bring in the same amount of money that she does each week, I had to accept extra dates. I understand why Tara wanted to keep her money, but it taught us both a lesson. Never, ever cross Ryan. When we do what he wants - he looks out for us. If we don’t listen to him, well, it’s bad. Really bad.
Another thing, I’m okay with Ryan driving me to dates, but sometimes his friend, TJ drives me. TJ thinks he can do whatever he wants to me. I’m tired of it and told Ryan. I thought Ryan would defend me. Instead he told me that I owe TJ for his time and gas money. Ryan said I should stop being ungrateful.
I got a bad bag of dope. I don’t remember much about that night. When I woke up in the hospital, the nurse told me that it took three doses of Narcan to bring me back. Some of the other dancers are mad at me. When the ambulance arrived at the club, the cops showed-up, too. Sami is another dancer and she had a warrant for violating her parole. When the cops went into the club, they found Sami’s stash and her man’s 22 in her bag. The cops arrested her and she is probably going to be in Dauphin County Prison (DCP) for a few years. The same dancer who called the ambulance for me also called one of the church ladies and told them what happened. Two church ladies showed-up at the hospital to see me. They offered help if I wanted it. We talked about my options. They asked if I considered going to rehab to get clean. I know I need to go, but church ladies have no idea how hard it would be for me. I mentioned rehab a couple of years ago to Ryan. He told me it wasn’t a good idea. He needs me and I need him. We’re a team. Without him, I don’t even have a place to crash. Church ladies can make dinner and show-up at a hospital, but I doubt they have a place for me to live.
It’s been a rough year. I overdosed four more times. Then, one of my dates beat me into a coma for three days. I can’t even remember myself before I started doing all of this and became Kit. Ryan said he was done with me. I’m not making enough money. There are two new girls living with us and they look much younger than me. They’re so fit and don’t get dope sick all the time. I want all of this to stop, but I have no idea what to do. Don’t tell anyone, but I started hoping that if I overdose again, no one finds me. I’m useless anyway.
Ryan and I were fighting in the car last night and someone called the cops on us. Ryan pushed me out of the car and took off so he wouldn’t get busted. He had just picked-up more dope to sell and had so many warrants, the cops would have put him in DCP for sure. I had dope on me, and an open warrant from the night Ryan and I broke into my foster family’s house for cash and electronics. Plus, I’ve missed all my court dates. The cops took me to DCP. It was the worst place ever. I was detoxing and felt so sick. Inmates at DCP don’t get any meds to help with dope sickness. While I was at DCP I got mail. One of the church ladies sent a card telling me she was thinking of me and put money on my books. Now, I can buy some things I need from the commissary. I was hoping the card was from Ryan, but I know he’s already forgotten about me. He always told us that if we were stupid enough to get picked-up, there was no way he was ever putting his hard-earned money on our books. I appreciated the money from the church lady, but I can’t write back. It’s just too weird. When I finally went to court, the judge said I had to go to drug court. That means a transfer to another facility and more waiting.
I never got visitors at DCP. So, I didn’t really pay attention to visitation until the church ladies walked in. I will never admit this, but I am so happy to see them. I forgot all about Ryan telling me to stay away from them. I jumped up and hugged them. I asked if they had seen Tara because I really miss her. They got tears in their eyes when they told me that Tara was found behind a hotel last week. The police didn’t know who killed her. It might have been a date, but I think it was TJ. He always had a thing for Tara. He raged every time we told him no. I was always afraid of what might happen if I didn’t do whatever he wanted.
Maybe I do need to do something different.
I’m pregnant again and have no place to go when I get out of here.
WOW! I can’t believe I have been clean for two years. My little princess, Hope, is getting so big. I named her Hope because that is what I have now. Those church ladies really stepped-up. They call their work, Peace Promise, but I call them my family now. Church ladies started with going to court with me and helping me get my vivitrol - medicine that helps me stay clean. They would check-in on me and ask if I saw my probation officer. They also helped me figure out how to get a job and a place of my own. I really wanted to live on my own, so Hope and I could be safe together. I started studying for my GED and plan to take classes at HACC. I’m thinking about studying social work. I know how hard life was for me and it would be cool if I could help other women. I still have rough days. Being a single parent, working, and going to school is a lot of work, but the church ladies remind me that I can do it. I’m learning I can do a lot of things for myself, and if I need help, the church ladies make sure I have the tools I need. I’m healthy now, too. It took a while to heal - drugs and prostitution took a toll on my body. I’m learning how to make and show-up for medical appointments. If I am nervous about an appointment, I can always call a church lady to come along with me. Sometimes I’m not sure what to do, but when I call a church lady, she listens to me, and helps me consider my options. I like that I am the one who gets to decide what happens to my body. I’m learning that I get to make choices and decide the direction of my life. I imagine that it might be like talking to a mom or an older sister - someone who knows me and wants the best for me.
I also started going to counseling appointments once a week. I wasn’t so sure that I wanted to talk about the stuff that happened to me. I worked really hard to forget. But once I got clean, my thoughts became clearer and I started to remember. The counselor was nice and helped me talk about my feelings. It was painful, but I slowly started to feel better and sleep without as many nightmares. Another new thing was my plan. The church ladies called it my Individual Investment Plan. Basically, it was a form with my goals on it and we discussed it together each week. Some things on my list were how to create and live on a budget, cooking lessons, parenting skills, recovery and emotional support. I wanted to stay sober and needed new friends and people I could hang out with. I never found out what happened to my mom when she overdosed and I went to live with my foster family. I didn’t really know what it was like to live in a family that looked out for one another. The church ladies and their friends welcomed me.
If you would have told me 15 years-ago that I would be helping a church lady carry a crockpot into the strip club, instead of being in the dressing room, I would have laughed and swore at you. I would have guessed you were on some good stuff and asked for a hit. But that’s what happened. The church ladies never mentioned their church, unless I asked about it. They cared about me when I danced, when I overdosed, when I was incarcerated, and when I was getting beat-up by my boyfriend. They never made me feel bad about what was going on in my life. They seemed to look right past all of that stuff and see me, the real me, Laney. Over the years, I started to realize that they loved me. I didn’t know that kind of love. I only knew love that wanted or demanded something in return - my body, the money I earned, or the drugs I scored.
It took awhile for me to trust the love that gives. Their love caused me to wonder about how they got that way. One night I asked a church lady about where all of her love came from. She told me her story. How she grew-up giving her body and her baby away. How she turned to drugs, alcohol, and men to help her feel better. She talked about her life now with a kind husband who treats her with respect and their son, who showed her she could be a really good mom, despite her mistake when she was a young girl. She talked about her friends who made her laugh and were there for her when she cried. Just like me, she never trusted church people and didn’t want anything to do with them. Until one day, her son asked to go to church. So their family went and kept going back. She found healing for her body and her heart in church. She learned about Jesus and that he loved her.
The same love that found the church lady, found me.
It’s funny, but I guess I’m a church lady, now too! When I look back on my life, I don’t understand everything that happened to me, but I do know that God has a purpose for me. The church ladies encouraged me to pursue my dreams and I now know that I can overcome challenges and live a life with the freedom to choose. I have proved to myself that I am capable of learning a new job, having good friends, and being a really good mom to Hope. There is so much more on the horizon for all of us…...
Recovering Hope and Stregthening Lives
Peace Promise has a message of love for the women we serve. Every situation and circumstance is unique. Laney’s Story, although fictional, is based on real life events and shows us the negative impact of sexual exploitation.
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2020 Peace Promise Partnerships
Peace Promise has partnerships with local business around the Central Pennsylvania region. Here are some of our committed partners for 2020.
Founded by Jeff Ebersole back in 2015, Ebersole Remodeling has established itself as one of the fastest growing and reliable providers of remodeling, focused on kitchens and bathrooms. We provide professional renovation and installation services with a real focus on customer satisfaction.
JP Wolfe Insurance is a family owned insurance agency serving the Central Pennsylvania community. Our dynamic team has over 150 years of combined insurance experience. We are dedicated to protecting the things in life that are most important to you, while providing you with outstanding customer service.
Roland Builder prides itself on building homes of exceptional quality and impeccable design. It is this standard of excellence and commitment to quality that home buyers have come to expect when they want the best.
Red Rock Landscape, Inc. is a locally owned and operated company that has served the greater Harrisburg area since 2001.From installing pavers, to planting, to outdoor lighting, to landscape curbing, Red Rock handles a lot of services that can help transform and maintain a client’s home or business.