***TRIGGER WARNING: DISTURBING CONTENT PERTAINING TO ALL KINDS OF ABUSE***

This beautiful, vivacious lady is Precious.  We met a few months ago at church, after she fled her hometown of Muskegon, Michigan and moved halfway across the country to Oregon. She left  Michigan because after fourteen years, her abuser is getting out of prison in October of 2017. She has wanted to tell her story for a long time.  When she found out that I was a writer, Precious asked me to write it.  I could not be more honored or humbled. It is a release for her to tell it, because any shame or guilt that goes along with it is not hers to carry. It was hard to hear and it’s hard to write and it will be hard for you to read, but I hope you do, because Precious’s story is important. And the first thing she wants you to know is: Jesus was there the whole time.

Precious was born in 1987 in Michigan to a sixteen-year old mom.  She was a preemie, weighing in at 2.6 lbs. Her lungs were so underdeveloped that she was not expected to live. She remained in the hospital for about five months in an incubator until her parents, Edward and Patrice, took her home.

They lived in an OK neighborhood, but there were always people coming in and out of their house, drinking and doing drugs.  They threw a lot of parties. Edward didn’t have a job, so Patrice did hair and sometimes went out on the streets to sleep with men for extra money. Her parents fought all the time, especially about money. Precious was mostly happy–she liked playing with her cousins and her two little brothers, but she had frequent, severe, asthma attacks.  She desperately wanted to go outside with the other kids, but her parents wouldn’t let her. They didn’t have money for doctors or medicine or treatments, and they couldn’t afford for her to get a cold that might lead to an attack, so their solution was to keep her indoors. She mostly stayed in her room and played with her dolls.

One day when Precious was 7 years old, her mom was out and her dad said they could all play a game.  Precious picked, “Hide and Seek.” She ran and hid in the closet.  After a while her dad found her but instead of letting her out, he came into the closet with her and shut the door behind him. He told her that they were going to play a new game called, “Man and Woman.” She could never tell anyone. Precious didn’t want to play “Man and Woman” and tried to escape, but he put his hand over her mouth and slammed her down. When her brothers came and knocked on the door, her dad shooed them away. He told her, “If you tell, I will kill you.”

Precious became a totally different person. She cried in the bathroom mirror and wondered, “What did I do?” Her world went very dark. She wouldn’t play with her brothers anymore. She shut down all talking, and started pointing and using hand signals to communicate.  Her dad did not allow Precious to be out of his sight. He walked her to school every day, and everyday he reminded her to stay quiet. He would say, “Remember, those white folks at school don’t give a damn about you. If you say anything, I’ll whoop your ass.”   So Precious stayed quiet. When her teacher called on her or handed her an assignment, she would put her head down on the desk.  Her classmates said she was dumb. She wanted to tell them that she wasn’t dumb, but she couldn’t speak.  Her teachers put her in Special Ed, because they said she had delayed speech and low comprehension. She just sat and watched the clock all day. She hated the end of the day when you got your backpack ready, because she didn’t want to go home.  But she had to hurry or her dad would come looking for her. On the way home, she saw other dads goofing around and patting their kids on the back, and the kids would smile and laugh. She didn’t know why her dad wasn’t like that. He frequently came to school to check on her, which made her even more anxious. Most of her teachers just thought he was a doting father who wanted to make sure his daughter was doing alright in school, but one teacher was suspicious. She came to Precious’s house uninvited one afternoon to check on things.  But Precious’s dad was a slick guy.  He charmed the teacher and after she left, he beat Precious for letting a white woman into their house.

Her parents kept her in a room downstairs and didn’t let her out much, unless it was to eat dinner or clean the house. Right after she ate, they sent her back to her room. She wasn’t allowed to set foot in the living room and was rarely allowed to watch TV with her brothers.  Because she didn’t speak, they told her she was disabled.  When their friends came over, if any of them asked about Precious, her mom would just say that she was handicapped and they had to keep her locked away. “Man and Woman” continued pretty much every time her mom was out, which was often. Her dad came into her room at night.  He put glue on the lock so that Precious couldn’t lock it, and he put newspapers on all her windows so that no one could see in, and she could not look out. It made her room very dark because no sunlight could get in. Precious cried herself to sleep in her Barney nightgown. She didn’t talk to her brothers, or the new little sister that had come along. In fact, her little sister had been ordered never to talk to her because she was, “too stupid.” Her mom hated her. She told Precious that she was dumb and ugly. The only one Precious talked to was her doll, Baby.  Baby had tan skin and brown hair, which Precious styled every day. She dressed and tended to her like she was a real baby.  Precious wore pink every single day because when she wore pink she felt like a beautiful presence was surrounding her.  She didn’t know if it was God, or what, but she felt safe when she was wearing pink.

Precious Age 8

There was a lot of smoke in the house. When she was twelve, Precious had an asthma attack that landed her in the hospital. Her parents had been arguing about whether or not to take her, and by the time they did, the doctor said she was seconds away from death.  She spent two weeks in the Ronald McDonald house hooked to a breathing machine.  Her dad came and wouldn’t leave her side. He molested her in the hospital.  Precious tried to catch the nurse’s attention with her eyes, because she wanted to stay there and never go home, but her dad hovered over her. Her uncle came to visit and while her dad was in the bathroom, Precious got brave and was going to tell him, but she lost her nerve. She knew her dad was a slick talker, and her aunts and uncles had all been told that she had a mental disability. She didn’t think her uncle would believe her.

She was happy to go back to school, not to learn, but to be safe and look at the clock. Her dad followed her to school every day and showed up randomly to watch her in class or at lunch. He sat on their front porch and watched her walk home.  Every day after school he would ask her if she had talked to anyone. If she even so much as looked at a boy, or a boy at her, he flew into a rage.  The beatings and the abuse got worse. When her teachers saw her bruises, she told them it was from her brothers. Around this time she met a friend, Janae, who lived across the street. When her dad found out that Janae had an older brother, he said that Precious couldn’t go inside the house. She could play with Janae if they stayed out on the front porch where her dad could watch, but she could only stay for thirty minutes. Meanwhile, the rest of her classmates bullied her. They made fun of her because  her dad was always around.  She had missed her early education, so she couldn’t read or write very well. Her parents wouldn’t let her do anything, like go to sleepovers or join any clubs. They told her that she was too dumb to be successful or to be a cheerleader. They also told her not to act smart at school, or it would affect the amount they got for her social security check.  She still wore pink every day, and the kids at school called her “Black Pink.” They teased her because she brought Baby in her backpack. On the last day of sixth grade, they had an awards ceremony and all the parents came.  Precious scanned the bleachers, and saw Janae’s mom, but there was no sign of her mom or dad.  When she got home, she showed them her award for good attendance. Her mom just said, “Good. Now get that paper out of my face.”

That summer on the Fourth of July, her dad wouldn’t let her go watch the fireworks with her cousins and the rest of the family. He wanted her to stay home with him.  When her brother came back to get her, she tried to leave with him but her dad slammed the door in his face and then beat her for wanting to run away.  She really did try to run away after that, but the police brought her back.  The next fall, her dad showed up across from the school when Precious was talking to a boy. He knocked her out cold, right there in front of all her friends. She woke up at home, in the closet, her face all bloody.  But the physical pain was nothing compared to the humiliation she felt about going back to school. The next day, everyone talked about her dad, and they bullied her even more. Even Janae turned against her. She had found a new best friend because Precious was never allowed to do anything fun. This time, Precious fought back. She started getting into a lot of fights, and even choked a girl.  A teacher knew something was wrong and kept asking her, “Are you OK? Is anything going on at home?” But Precious wouldn’t answer.

Precious and Baby

Her dad knew that what he was doing was wrong, and he tried to make it up to her. He gave her dolls and barbies in lieu of real friends.  She spent all her time in her room with her dolls.  One day, alone in her room, Precious felt the presence tell her to keep a journal. So she started writing down in a notebook every time her dad came into her room and what he did to her. She had four journals by the time she was fourteen. That year, her dad decided to be nice and take her shopping. While they were out, he told her they were going to run away together. He was going to let her drive, but he didn’t give her any lessons. He screamed at her the whole time and said she was heavy-footed, then slapped her head into the steering wheel.

In high school, her dad became sick. He was always either sleeping or throwing up. So she had a little more freedom, but she still had to be home by 5:30 or 6:00. She met a boy she liked, named Markeith, or Keiffy. They hung out a lot together. He had two sisters, so Precious told her dad she was hanging out with his sisters.

One day when she was fifteen, while walking home from school, every step toward home made Precious feel nauseous.  When she got to the front door a voice told her, “Don’t go in!” She hesitated, but she didn’t know where else to go, and she didn’t want to get in trouble with her dad.  As soon as she opened the door, though, she knew something was wrong. Her mom was waiting for her. She had found the notebooks. She told Precious, “come here,” and then she began berating her. She yelled, “Why did you make this up?” She screamed so loud she woke up Precious’ dad. He started coming down the stairs.  Everything happened in slow motion.  Precious looked at her mom holding the notebooks.  She turned and looked at her dad walking down the stairs. She looked back at her mom. She heard a voice say, “Run!”  She looked down and saw that her shoes were still on. Before her dad made it to the last stair, she turned and bolted out the door.

She ran all the way to Markeith’s house.  It was a house in the hood, a few blocks away.  Because of her asthma, she was so out of breath she couldn’t talk. She stood in the kitchen with Keiffy’s family, and wheezed and tried to tell them, but all she could squeak out was, “Help!”  Keiffy finally said, “Does he abuse you?” and Precious nodded her head yes. He yelled, “I knew it!”  Markeith’s mom was nice. She had a house full of people already, but she told Precious that she could stay there.  But just then, they heard banging on the back door. It was Precious’s dad.  He shouted that they had kidnapped his daughter and he was going to call the cops. Markeith’s mom could not have the cops show up there.  She said, “I’m sorry, but you have to go!” So Precious left with her dad. As they drove away, she turned and looked behind her.  Out the window, she saw Keiffy running after the car with a long pole that they used to chain up their dog in the backyard. He wanted to beat the car in but he couldn’t run fast enough.

At home, her mom said, “Did you tell anyone? Because we’re going to put all this behind us. Your dad won’t stalk you anymore, and we will let you go out.” Precious said she had not told anyone. But when she glanced over at her dad, he was glaring at her and looked dangerous.  His eyes were all red, and Precious thought he looked like the devil. One thought came clearly into her mind: he was going to kill her. But before she could move to run, she heard a loud voice behind her say, “FREEZE!” The police had broken down the front, back and side doors all at once and had them surrounded. Her dad was on the ground, in handcuffs. Her mom was screaming. Precious stood there frozen. It got quiet for a second and she heard a voice say, “Grab the notebooks.”  She snatched them up and handed them to the police. The policemen searched the house, and they saw the glue on her bedroom lock and the newspaper on the windows. A kind detective looked her in the eyes and told her, “It’s all over, Precious. You’re going to be safe now.”  He said that she was very brave and that she was going to be somebody someday.

Precious had to go to court. Her dad confessed.  The newspapers ran the story as, “Man Has Relationship With Daughter.” He was convicted on three counts of  sexual criminal conduct in the first degree and received a fourteen-year sentence. The police wanted to charge her mom as well, but Precious said no, because of her brothers. She didn’t want to live anymore. Her family had turned against her and her mom continued to act like it was her fault.  She told Precious to get out and not come back. She said, “Don’t ask me for a dime. You took my husband. I’m keeping your social security.” So Precious got her clothes and went to Keiffy’s house. She was scared to go to school. The story had been in all the newspapers.

But when she went back to school, something had changed.  Her classmates were nice to her. Even the meanest ones, who had bullied her all those years, said they were sorry for calling her “Special Ed.”  She forgave them, but she still couldn’t trust them.  She was unstable, lashing out in anger and fighting with people. When it came time to graduate, her grades were bad and she didn’t have enough credits.  Her counselor sent her to a women’s shelter that would help her get stable and get the credits she needed. She hated it at first because it was a lot of work, but Precious was able to graduate from high school on time. Her teachers pitched in to buy her a cap and gown. Her aunts and uncles and cousins came to the ceremony because her cousin was graduating too, but they did not congratulate her.  The only one who came to take her picture was her Granny Judy. Everyone else in her family gave her dirty stares.

Precious at Keiffy’s – 11th grade

After graduation, Precious still had a lot to overcome. She was torn down, she had no family, no support, college was not an option.  She lived off and on with Markeith’s family, but sometimes there were difficulties in the house. She entered into a lifestyle of drugs and alcohol.  She became known as, “The Fighter” because she got in fights for people. She just wanted to protect people. And she was still fighting with her mom, trying to get her social security money.  She loved Keiffy’s family, but it was rough living in the hood with the fights and drugs and shootings.  When she was twenty, she gave birth to a very happy and healthy baby boy, Markeith Jr. The baby changed her life. She wanted to be a good mom, not a selfish mom like her own. She stopped smoking and drinking. She did hair to earn money. She called her baby, “Face,” because his face changed colors when he drank his milk. One day, when Face was nine months old, there was a police raid.  Precious came out of the bathroom and a cop grabbed her and held a gun to her head. Another cop was coming down the stairs, holding her baby.  She knew that she had to make a different life for her son, so she left Markeith’s house for good.

She ran back to her mom’s house, but her mom threw her and her baby out.  Precious had met a worker at the women’s rescue mission named Natalie. She called Natalie, and Natalie took Precious under her wing and became like an adopted mom to her and Face. She invited Precious to her beautiful home. She helped Precious and Face get an apartment. She gave Precious a bible and Precious laughed, because it was pink. Precious started going to church with Natalie and her husband, Mitch, and that was where she realized that the kind presence she had felt during all those years of abuse, and the voice she had heard, was actually God.

Precious working at the women’s shelter

Over the last ten years, with Natalie and Mitch’s help, Precious has cared for her son, styled hair, and, by God’s grace, managed to forgive her parents for their abuse and neglect.  She still has panic attacks. She has not been able to get her driver’s license because of the traumatic experience in the car.  From her small apartment, she walks to church and to the store. Face walks to school. She feels happy and mostly safe.  On her twenty-fifth birthday her dad sent her a card through a family member that said he was coming to find her.  He believes that her son is his.  He got out of prison, but he has a tracking device, is not allowed to leave the state, and is too sick, mentally and physically, to come after her.

Natalie and Precious

Natalie and Precious

Precious spent her childhood alone and afraid, in darkness, not talking. Now she wants to be heard. Precious wants you to know that she is raising her son to be a strong and kind man and that he is exceptionally smart. She wants you to know that even when she was fighting with girls in high school and on the street, she always had a good heart underneath. She wants you to know that  although she still has nightmares, God is with her.  She can sense his presence even when she is not wearing pink.  She wants you to know that her life is like this scripture verse:

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come so that they may have life, and may have it abundantly.

John 10:10

Precious says it’s time to stop running away from her story and her past. She is not ashamed. She wants to help other women who have been abused find their voice. She is ready to come out into the light, and to live the full life Jesus died to give her.

Amy and Precious

P.S. On the day Precious and I determined to post her story, I bought her some roses.  I didn’t notice until I got home what they were called:

Written by Amy

Amy Shively Hawk is the author of Six Years in the Hanoi Hilton: An Extraordinary Story of Courage and Survival in Vietnam, with a foreword by John McCain. She lives in Hood River, Oregon, where she serves on the elder board and teaches bible classes at her local church. In the summer, she may be found on the sunny Columbia River windsurfing, paddle boarding, or doing SUP yoga with her husband Steve and their lively teenagers, Savanna and Cruise.