When I was 13, my dad sent me to live with my mom because I was disrespectful to his new wife and the new family they started.

The start of their family was detrimental for numerous reasons that I won’t get into but needless to say, my anger and confusion were not unreasonable. I had never done drugs, never had sex, and never drank alcohol. With one day’s notice, my dad sent me to live across the country with the woman who had sexually abused me: my mother.

Within two weeks of living with her, she would leave me at school and tell me to take a cab home. I was only 13 years old at the time. One time, she traded services with a client of hers who came into my house and watched me clean my room while he licked his lips. I was 15 years old at that time. When I told my mom about it, she told me she wanted him to finish his job, and then she would tell him to never come back. Getting a stone wall built for free was more important than the safety of her child.

I started to act out but still kept it together enough to be a varsity athlete in two sports for my Freshman and Sophomore year in high school. During my Junior year, I couldn’t keep it together anymore. My mom would refuse to take me to school on days I had track meets because she wanted to punish me. Despite my attempts to stay on a good path, she took everything good away from me. Eventually, I started partying to cope and got a DUI.

Shortly after, I found myself in a childproof car being professionally transported to a boarding school in South Carolina. A month prior, the man transporting me had told me that he had a friend who would pay me if I let him take naked pictures of myself. I was 16 years old at the time.

I did not endure abuse at Carolina Springs Academy but due to the abuse I endured before CSA, I was labeled and taken advantage of because of the exploitation of troubled teens. While at CSA, I followed all the rules. My parents hardly called and if they did we had 5 minutes to talk about our “issues.” My parents paid $40,000.00 for me to live in a single-story rancher that was no more than 1,800 square feet with at least 20 other girls. The staff members had no education and constantly used their authority to hold points over our heads. I once received a Cat. 5 for accidentally touching a staff member’s pizza crust. I filed a grievance stating it was unfair for me to receive that correction for an accident. I got my points back but the staff member promised me she would make sure I lost them one way or another.

I moved quickly through the program because I knew my parents were not going to take me out early. My mom came for a visit one day and asked me to write a letter saying I had never smoked weed or drank with her while underage. This was not true. I wrote the letter because I wanted to get out of CSA. 23 hours a day of silence, weight gain, and the constant ridicule from the staff were too much. After I wrote the letter, my mom never came back until the day she pulled me. I later found out my dad had threatened to get her disbarred so she was trying to discredit me.

One day a new girl came to the program, she must have been about 14. Within the first week of her being there, she showed me her wrists that she had slashed with the end of a pencil. I was concerned and wrote her a note telling her she needed to tell the staff. Upon her doing that, they put her in isolation and mocked her. I asked if I would try to speak with her. I was able to get her to put her hair back up and follow the rules. However, the next day they shipped her to Jamaica.

As a mother and now a special education teacher, I am disgusted with the way that this school was run. A child that has endured sexual, physical, or mental abuse should not be punished for reacting to that abuse. Children need to be taken care of, they need advocates and healthy adults to support them. Schools like CSA put the blame on the children – telling them what they do is for attention, that they are dirty, and that they have issues.

These schools paid their staff $9.00 an hour to work 12 hour days with no training, no education and no benefits. Students are left with abandonment issues, PTSD, and the label of a troubled person. To this day, I fight that label. My sexual abuse is used by men to label me as crazy and damaged when that is far from the truth.

Since CSA, I have gone on to complete my master’s degree and become a very successful woman. My success intimidates those who are accustomed to getting what they want by taking advantage of people.

I hope and pray that this movement will bring a voice to the CHILDREN that are blamed for things that are outside of their control. I hope and pray that this movement sheds light on the people who capitalize on the children and families that are desperate for love and help. Children don’t wake up scared and angry for no reason. Ask the hard questions, hold the appropriate people accountable, and stop the exploitation of childhood trauma and abuse.