My next foster home was in San Francisco. This was 1989, the year of the earthquake. The earthquake story is now somewhat humorous to me, however a lot of what went on in this foster home was not amusing at all.
They were a couple who appeared to be in their forties. For some reason they had been unable to have children of their own and they had already adopted a daughter (L). I was coming in as a foster-adopt situation. L. had behavioral issues, but she had been with them for years and as I was the new kid they tended to believe her over me.
Upon arrival, all of my toys and most of the clothing I had brought from my previous homes were taken from me. They believed that children should not play with toys but should occupy themselves by reading the Bible (or a select few Bible story books) or doing housework. My clothing was taken away either because it was found to be immodest (a lot of my dresses were about mid-thigh length, but they were worn with thick tights… come on, I was six years old) or simply because it was a tie to my history. What was most distressing is they took away Toby- a stuffed cat that I had been taking with me from home to home ever since I left my birth family. They could have taken the rest of the toys from me (though I did not enjoy it) but when they took away Toby I was devastated. They claimed it was proof a demon lived in the stuffed animal.
One thing that struck me as somewhat odd is that when I first came to their house I was not being sent to school. I was being taught in the kitchen, using what I now recognize as A Beka materials. Secondly, they refused to talk to me in English. I was being taught in French. I did not know a word of French when I walked into their home and I lost it very quickly after I was taken away from them. I would be punished for replying to them in English, even if I did not know how to reply in French. A time or two I even had cayenne pepper poured onto my tongue to teach me not to talk to them in English.
Eventually, the state found out that I was not being sent to school, and I was still technically a foster child they required me to be sent to a public school. This went against the very grain of their being, but they knew they would lose me if they did not comply. I don’t think the state of California ever found out that I was not supposed to speak English in their home or what happened to me if I did.
The story of the earthquake is somewhat humorous. It was in October, and I was getting my bath and was going to be put in bed when I noticed waves in the tub. Well, she had forgotten to bring in a towel, and there was no time to get my clothes back on me, so I was raced outside, right in my birthday suit. Good thing I was only six years old, but I have never forgotten it. It was humiliating at the time. I wish I had at least had a towel.
Things got worse following the earthquake. Achievements and good behavior were not rewarded, bad things and misbehavior were punished severely. L. was a bedwetter, but they had believed she grew out of the problem (she was 10.) I had never been a bedwetter, in fact if you remember I potty trained myself. Well one morning after I got up she peed on my bed (she was jealous of all the attention I was getting, I think) and she told them I had wet my bed in the night. I did not go to school that morning. Or the next. In fact, I was locked in my bedroom for the next couple of months (L. moved out to the living room) and not allowed to use the bathroom. I got to eat maybe a couple of pieces of toast in a day (if I was lucky, some days they forgot to feed me at all, or refused to) and whipped with a belt (and often the belt buckle) at night when he came home. Then I was subsequently raped by both him and the woman night after night and then tied back onto the smelly bed. I was tied whenever I was not eating or being raped, and the door was locked behind me.
One day, they either forgot to tie me up again, or thought I wouldn’t try getting out as I had become rather complacent. They were wrong. Although we lived on the third story of an apartment complex, I had to get out, or die trying. I opened the window, knocked out the screen, and just jumped. Looking back I’m sure I could have died, being about three feet tall and only weighing around twenty-five or thirty pounds, but miraculously I survived and was not even injured besides for a little bit of bleeding on my hands as they touched the concrete when I fell. Then I unlatched the gate of the shared backyard and ran across the street. Right into Golden Gate Park.
Now, being in that park alone is scary enough at night if you’re an adult. As a child, it’s even scarier. It’s a haven for the local homeless. There were search parties for me, I saw them. I even saw the couple, who were searching for me themselves. They were a mere five feet from me at one point. But miraculously, I was not seen. So it went for three nights. I went to get water from fountains after most people had left the park and used the bathrooms then. I saw a few of the homeless but I don’t think they saw me.
On the fourth day, I was found by a lone police officer. He was kind and asked me why I had run away. I did not know how to describe rape but I told him that I was being hit with the buckle of a belt. So instead of being taken back to them right away I was taken to the police office, where my social worker was called in and pictures were taken of my bruises, etc. I don’t remember exactly how long it was until I left them for good, but I did have to go back as there was no other place to put me for a while.
However, the day came when I was loaded back into my social worker’s car and driven away to yet another foster home.
As far as I know, the couple who did this to me never had to face jail time.