Family Court and My Childhood

“The wounded recognized the wounded.”
Nora Roberts, Rising Tides

I have been spending more time focusing on law school and my family these days, but there’s also been this quiet voice inside that keeps speaking to me. You would think that after everything, I would have finally learned to embrace being open and vulnerable. It seems like every time I face these moments of hesitation, I take a few steps back to climb into my cave and hope the thoughts will go away. But then I remember that hiding doesn’t do anything, and I know that this could really help someone else out there.

My externship experience has been professionally very rewarding, but personally challenging. I have observed a number of courtroom proceedings ranging from divorce to CPS, and more recently juvenile cases. One of the reasons why I sought out this opportunity was because of my own childhood experiences. I had gone through child protective services twice — the first when my kindergarten teacher made a report after finding bruises all over my body, and the second time was when a neighbor called the police. There was a lot to both “incidents,” and I am not quite ready to express all of that in detail here… but, these memories continued to “come up” while in court.

It seems like an entire lifetime ago… almost like it wasn’t even me. And yet, when I sat there in the courtroom and listened to the attorneys and social workers, it came right back to me. The yelling, the hitting…  not always having food or anyone around to watch me… wearing dirty clothes, wishing I had “normal” parents like everyone else… wishing I had somebody who could help me sew the cut-out fabric for May Day. I was the 8 year-old kid who stole shoes from your front door and left the “IOU” note because my parents were busy playing hot potato with my life. I was also the kid who knocked on your door with a car vacuum, hoping I could make $5 to buy new markers for school.

I did a really good job surviving back then, and actually credit my resourceful nature to the unfortunate circumstances of my past. There were lots of times when I’d watch my parents fighting… biological parents, step-parents, it seemed like every time an opportunity to finally be a family just never worked out. I could see the pain in some of the children’s faces, and it reminded me of where I once was. I wished so badly that I could reach out to them, to walk up to them, and say something to give them hope that they will someday have more control over the circumstances of their lives.

I was there.

Many, many years ago, I had a wonderful friend that I met mid-year at Ala Wai Elementary School. I was the new girl again, but this time it seemed different. People liked me and were curious… My friendship with (let’s just say her name is Chloe) Chloe grew and I quickly learned that she lived right down the street in a little 2-story walk-up. Her parents were divorced and she stayed with her dad in the walk-up for part of the week. I would visit her and we would rollerblade along the Ala Wai Canal after school, sometimes even skating towards the McDonalds across from Red Lobster by the Ilikai Hotel. It felt so good to have a friend to play with again.

Then one day I went over to her place, but she wasn’t there like usual. Her dad invited me in anyway and asked how school was going. I hated school. I embraced getting “Ds” and proudly stated that “D” was for “Diana.” I liked Chloe’s dad. He had these really interesting silver figurines that he liked to paint. It looked like medieval characters, all lined up for battle in a sandbox. I asked when Chloe would be back, and he said that he could call to ask. So I waited in the living room and heard him talking over the phone… Once he got off the phone, he smiled and said that Chloe would be there tomorrow.

He walked into his bedroom, the only other room in the apartment, and asked if I wanted to see the figurines. I was excited to see them. It was the one thing that was “off limits” to us. He let me pick out some of the unpainted ones from the shelf, and when I turned around I noticed he was sitting on the edge of the bed smiling. Then he asked me to sit next to him…

This was what led up to the first time I was sexually abused.

As I sat there in that courtroom with the knowledge that one of the girls had been sexually abused, my heart completely broke for her. Again… I wished I could just give her a big hug, and reassure her that she can feel whole again… that she could learn to trust,  that it is possible to love yourself and others, and you can someday have that family you have always wanted.

Having to sit there passively stirred up so many feelings and thoughts. I could feel that fire in my gut burning with fury, that same fire that I used to push and tear down my past for the future. There is so much fear, pain, and suffering in this world. I absolutely loathe the fact that there are children all over the world who are sexually abused, physically abused, exploited, and neglected. Someday, hopefully soon, I pray that I am able to reach out to them… to share in the understanding of the pain, guilt, and sadness of being hurt in a way that never fully goes away. It’s a memory that I have learned to calm so that I could embrace the beauty that surrounds me… my children, my husband, my family… they are my light and I appreciate the second chance that I have been given in this lifetime, so that I can somehow help others who suffer.

I have never publicly shared what happened that day in the bedroom… I’m not sure if I can “go there” and talk about everything yet. But I want to share that it happened… because if there’s one thing that I learned from all of this, it’s that if my discomfort in being vulnerable can help somebody else out there, then here you go. Here is my heart through my words. I hope that it helps.

We can heal together.




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