My Reasons for Lying to DCFS ~ S.A.A.M.

"Sexual Assault Awareness Month" I’m not sure if I’ve ever shared this part of my story as it related to my childhood sexual abuse but here goes. There are parts of this story that are hazy to me and there are parts that are so clear that I swear I’m experiencing them again. At some point in my childhood, someone else knew about my sexual abuse.

We know the story. A family member read my journal. Then Ma Lesley comforted me. Then my ex step father denied it. But then a week later he admitted it. Then we told the pastor. The pastor pretty much told me to shut my mouth or go to hell. (I kid you not!) The abuse stopped…for a few weeks. Blah blah blah. Things get crazy. The abuse starts up again and its worse. I become full of rage. Then Daniel beats me. I tell the cops. They blame me. They lose my case. My ex step father goes free. He spends the next decade plus more trying to wreck havoc and stalks me. Blah blah blah. That’s the story in a nutshell. (If you want more just click the “sexual abuse” tab or the “ex step father” tab or the “sexual assault awareness month” tab.)

There are a few other things to note. When that family member found out about the abuse and Ma Leslie was told but before the pastor found out….someone else found out. I don’t know who told. I mean, in retrospect I’m glad they did although it ended up not helping as I will go on to explain but someone told my secret.

This is how I know.

My godmother at the time approached me in church one day. She said she heard someone was sexually abusing me and she wanted to know who. I told her the abuse was true but for some reason I was extremely scared of telling her who was doing it. For some reason. No, I know why. It was because at 12 years old the ADULT  pastor, our cult leader told me I would go to hell if I uttered a word. My ex step father was god’s anointed and I was commanded not to touch him. Although he had full reign to literally touch me. Religious zealot freaks. I’ll never understand them. So I’m scared to tell her because I know the earth will open up and Satan and his minions will swallow me whole.

“Is it someone I know?” she asked.

I shook my head yes.

“Is it someone at the church?” she asked.

I shook my head yes.

“Is it ….” and so her questions continued until finally she asked…., “Is it your father?” At this I nod yes. She hugs me and ask if she can do anything and the rest is a blur.

The point is someone told her.

And either that family member, Ma Lesley or my godmother called DCFS. (Illinois Department of Child and Family Services.)

I know the pastor didn’t do it. He had to cover his ass and he informed us not to tell the police or the state or anyone for that matter. He demanded silence and he wanted a memory loss of all that happened.

But someone called DCFS. Now I don’t know who exactly. Obviously someone told my godmother, so it makes me wonder who else was told but one of those unknown people or the three mentioned above made the call.

One day, during some weekend afternoon when my entire family was home, a woman rang our doorbell. She stated her name, mentioned she was from DCFS and asked to come in. All I remember is not exactly knowing what was going on but I could read from my family’s expressions that this was not good. What was about to happen was not good and I was frightened.

One of the adults in the room asked what the situation was regarding. She, whose name I don’t recall, mentioned something about an anonymous call, this being a wellness check and needing to speak with me alone.

I remember we walked into my bedroom, she closed the door and I just couldn’t breathe. She was nice, professional and seemed caring but I knew something was wrong. Alarms were going off in my head. All I could think about was punishment, alarms, the devil, my family in the other room. I didn’t feel safe. I felt caught. I was in trouble.

She mentioned that someone called about the abuse and they wanted to know if it were true or not. I was pretty much mum. She said if I was being hurt, they wanted to know because they didn’t want me to be hurt anymore. She said if something was happening, they would take me away from the danger while they investigated what was happening.

I’d seen enough lifetime movies to think I knew what that meant. I was going to be pulled from my family, temporarily or permanently and put in foster care or in some state ward. This didn’t seem like it was going to help with my pain. As much as my father was abusing me, I didn’t want to leave the rest of the family. I didn’t want to leave my room or my barbies or my school or my friends or my bike or my books or my Disney comforter. I didn’t want to leave my home. I didn’t do anything wrong, so why would I have to leave? I didn’t understand her logic. It freaked me out.

And I knew I wasn’t supposed to say anything. The pastor told me I was going to go to hell. And if Jesus was real and the bible was true and church is right, then all points led to me in hell with my father still preaching on Sundays.

I couldn’t do this.

And it was there that I made a decision that has more than likely affected the rest of my life. One that I don’t regret but I wish I had known better.

I told her there was nothing wrong. No one had hurt me. I wasn’t in danger. My family was ok. I loved my life. I told her I was NOT being abused.

She asked me again. I shook my head no and said nothing was going on.

She sat with me in silence. I just looked at her. She thanked me for my time, opened the door, said something to my family and she left.

Afterwards I was grilled. “What did you say?” “What did she ask?” and so on and so on.

The next day at school an announcement was made over the speaker, “Would Sheena Young please report to the principal’s office.” Being that I was a star student and honestly could do no wrong in the eyes of my school administration, I thought nothing of the announcement. Perhaps I was getting an award or was being asked to work on some special project. Who knew? It didn’t matter. I liked the principal. Yea, I was one of those geeky students.

When I arrived to the principal’s office, I was pulled into a small conference room. The principal said someone was at the school to see me. In walked the same lady who had been to my house the night before. My heart stopped. I felt trapped. I felt tricked. I didn’t feel safe. What if my family found out? Was she going to take me away from school? I loved my school. How dare she follow me here? I was angry and mad. I didn’t want to see her.

“Hi Sheena,” she said nicely. Her niceties did not distract me. I didn’t like her. She was trying to mess up my world. Why wasn’t she questioning someone else?

She explained that she wanted to follow up with me from our first meeting. She said she wanted to make sure I wasn’t feeling pressured when I was at home. She wanted to ensure me that my safety was important to her. Blah blah blah. I don’t remember all the details.

When asked again if I was being hurt? Or if everything was ok or if there was something I wanted to say, I replied, “No. I was fine. Everything was well.”

She looked at me. I can’t tell if she knew I was lying or what. “Alright,” she said standing. She gave me her business card and said if there was something I wanted to share with her, I could call her at any time. And then she left. Years later, I wonder if this woman remembers me. I wonder what her name was. I wonder if she knows when children are lying. I wonder.

I threw her business card away before leaving the office and I continued about my day.

This is what I suspect.

If I had told, I would have been put in foster care temporarily or permanently. He may have gone to jail. Maybe he would have even served time. The abuse wouldn’t have continued for two more years. But I wouldn’t have my sister Hanna or Dasia. And maybe I would have never lived in Waukegan or in that attic. (I’ve never told that story either. The time when we were practically homeless and had to live in an attic.) I don’t think my work with Sunshine Gospel Ministries in Cabrini Green would have happened the way it did which means the director wouldn’t have insisted that I go to Wheaton College. Wheaton was low on my list. And Wheaton was a catalyst to my freedom. And my time at Arena Theater at Wheaton changed my life.  And many of the most influential people in my life came from Wheaton. There would have been no Sheena and James. Would I have met Lola? What about Jantira?  Would I still be a Christian? Would I have gone to school out of state? Would I have suffered from depression? There are so many what if’s and perhaps in all the alternate universes each scenario is playing itself out if I had simply told the truth.

But it wasn’t that simple. I was a frightened, uninformed scared girl who was told by spiritual authorities to be quiet and who when offered an out, was scared of being pulled away from my life. It just didn’t make sense to me that he wouldn’t be pulled away since he was the only one harming me. It seemed that to get justice for his crime, I would have to lose everything else and be condemned by god. At 12 years old, that weight was too much to bear. I wasn’t willing to pay that cost.

I hold responsibility for that but I do not take the blame.

This month is Sexual Assault Awareness month. Every day I’ll be writing all types of posts regarding this issue and my personal experiences.

I create videos as a way to share my story. You can watch three related ones by clicking the titles below.

My Name Is….Sheena LaShay

Sexual Assault Awareness Month – 2010

Sexual Assault Awareness Month – Day of Action 2011

If you are a victim of abuse and assault and you would like to seek help or report your crime, please find all kinds of resources at RAINN. If you would like to share your story with me privately, be featured this month either publicly or anonymously or you just need an encouraging word, please shoot me an email at SheenaLaShay [at] Gmail [dot] com.

I write my heart out. You can read some of my musings by clicking the titles below.

A Quote and A Trepid Step Towards Rage

What is Sexuality?

How to Rescue Victims


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Showing 10 comments
  • crystal johnson

    What a powerful perspective! You’ve aways been strong, Sheena, but I do believe that your life’s experiences have shaped you into an exceptional young woman with a voice. A voice not only for yourself, but a necessary voice for those still struggling with this currently or with the pain from past abuse. A voice that most likely would not have existed if you had not gone through what you did. Possibly the voice of those who can’t find theirs. There’s power behind your words & your transparency is needed & appreciated.

  • Mark Hauck

    Thanks for writing this. I am all to familiar with the story you tell–from the perspective of an adoptive parent of a young person who was finally removed from his family due to life-threatening abuse. The tension you describe between safety and familiarity, between deep family bonds and profound violations, is shared by many of the young people I have met over the years. It’s one of the secrets abused kids carry with them into adulthood–and it desperately needs to be spoken. The internal and, sometimes, external chaos that abuse creates is so much more complex and nuanced than our popular, black and white cultural images would suggest. Speaking the truth is the only way to create real understanding and allows a new wholeness to emerge. We regularly say to our kids when they are struggling with the internal conflicts abuse creates, “You’re not crazy. This stuff is really messy and it is okay to have messy, complicated feelings to go along with it. We are just going to keep working so that the messiness doesn’t overwhelm the beautiful person this crap happened to.” Thanks again for the brave writing. -A fellow Wheatie (though a bit older).

  • SLY

    @Mark, Thank you so much! And thank you for the link to the other article. I’ve never shared this part of my story. I think in the past I had shame attached to my denial. But I needed to sort through my experience and share this part too.

  • SLY

    @Crystal, Thank you so much. I really appreciate your encouragement!

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