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TILL DEATH DO US PART



Between the ages of six and fourteen I had witnessed two murders, possibly three. I had seen at least ten dead bodies lying in the street, all while living on the streets and running the backs alleys of Jacksonville, Florida.

There is no way I could possibly count, or remember all the muggings, rapes and the numerous brutal beatings I witnessed as a young runaway.

Homeless people themselves committed several of those murders. A few of them beat to death because they had canned food, which they did not want to share. Four were shot trying to steal food or clothing from local merchants. One man had his throat cut because he would not surrender his new shoes. One teenage girl killed because she made a deal to trade sex for food, and then would not follow through with her part of the bargain. The two men raped her, and then strangled her to death with her own bra.

One young boy beaten so badly, that he had to be taken to the hospital and immediately rushed into surgery. The ten-year-old had been caught stealing beef-jerky from a man's shoulder pack. The hobo woke up and almost beat the boy to death, ripping one of the young boy's eyes out of its socket.

I remember standing and watching the entire incident take place. After an ambulance removed the boy, I walked around listening to the adults talk about what had happened. There was not one individual who felt sorry for the boy. Everyone felt that he got exactly what he deserved. There were times that I stole food from various stores, in whatever part of town I happen to be hiding. However, after that night, I never stole anything from anyone living out on the streets.

I remember seeing my first dead body. I am not sure how long she had been lying behind those garbage cans, but the smell was horrible, I nearly threw-up. She was blown-up like a balloon and her skin had turned completely blue. Her arm stretched outward and stiff, as if she was reaching for a candy bar or something right before she died. As they loaded her up, I stood there wondering what was missing from her, what would not allow her to move around anymore.

Living out on the streets is very cruel and a very difficult way of life. The streets will rob you of your childhood even faster than strict parents. The only difference is, strict parents sometimes leave a child feeling hurt, lonely, and unloved. On the streets, those types of feelings do not even exist.

On the street, you just accept the fact that no one loves, cares, or respects you. It is a jungle full of animals, and it is every man, or woman for himself; that is understood, without question. The need for "love" slowly seems to blow away, one grain of sand at a time. Then one day you wake up, and your need for "love" is gone completely.

Once a kid has lived on the streets, they are never the same, should they ever return home. They pick up feelings of distrust, anger, and self-preservation on the street and it follows them forever. Should they reunite with their family and friends, they become distant and no longer have a carefree spirit. A learned instinct to protect themselves will not allow their minds to make quick, innocent, childlike judgments, ever again. They will, for the remainder of their lives, sleep with one eye open.

I would suggest to anyone contemplating running away, that they think twice about such an unwise decision. The people you meet on the street may use and abuse you. However, it will be you and you alone, who will destroy your own self.

Trying to shed or forget feelings learned out in the street, is like trying to forget that two plus two equals four; once learned it remains with you FOREVER. The difference being, that "two plus two equals four" is only a thought. They are only numbers stored in the mind to be recalled when needed. The lessons learned from the street are stored in the mind as negative or positive feelings. Feelings, which a little bit at a time turn you into someone that you were not meant to be.

The feelings of distrust and hate that you learn while on the street will remain with you forever and ever. They will travel with you from relationship to relationship. They will follow you from marriage to marriage. You will not be able to shed them, and you will eventually pass those same feelings on to your own children. It is a true situation of, "Till Death Do Us Part."



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