Looking at the smile on bright-eyed, 21-year-old Rayshaye Scott, one would not suspect that she has been subjected to abuse, homelessness and separation from her family. Moreover, Rayshaye was devastated at age 15 when she learned that the woman who raised her was not her birth mother. Some youth who come to UCAN shut down and feel unnecessarily ashamed of their past. Rayshaye takes a different approach and lays everything out on the table with the hope that it can encourage her peers to do the same.
“My mom was abusive. Me being the child that I was, I was always coming home with good grades. I was never disruptive in school because I was scared that I was going to get a whooping when I came home,” she recalled. “As I got older the abuse got worse. It went from verbal to physical. She would find any reason she could to whoop to me.”
Rayshaye said her mother would say unfounded negative accusations like telling her she was promiscuous and would become a teen parent and a high school dropout.
The abuse escalated until one day her mom called the police on 13-year-old Rayshaye and made claims that the young girl was doing drugs, dating an older man and stealing from her. That led to police removing Rayshaye from her mother’s home and taking her to Heartgrove Behavioral Hospital for an evaluation. She was placed there for a week but after her mother refused to come and get her, her stay was extended for a month until her mother took her home.
The stay at home was short-lived. After a week, the police were called again and her mother requested that Rayshaye be removed from her house. Her mother made claims that the 8th grader had been destroying property. In fear of retaliation if she told the truth, Rayshaye kept silent and told the officers that she did not remember what happened. She was again removed from the home and this time was subjected to a two-month stay at Riveredge Hospital. At the time, Rayshaye did not know this would be the last time she would see her mother.
During her time at Riveredge, Rayshaye found the courage to tell hospital staff what she experienced at home. Eventually, the staff started to believe her after observing that her behavior was a stark contrast to what the mother told authorities. She described her time at the hospital as “weird”; that she knew everyone was outside and going to school while she remained in the hospital.
She soon found out that her mother was not her birth mother. “I was told that I was adopted when I was a baby. My mom was my foster parent at first and then she adopted me at the age of seven.”
“I was in a group home and was going to go into another foster home. A foster parent from UCAN came to Lydia House in hopes to get another foster child. We went out a few times, she came to the site to visit me and I picked her.”
Rayshaye has tried to reconnect with her adoptive brother in the past year but has been unsuccessful. As she left the home when her brother was an impressionable 11-year-old, she said his thoughts about her have been shaped by her adoptive mother.
“To him, he does not know what is going on and it looks like I am getting whoopings because I am being bad but in actuality I was being abused. I did not even realize then that is what was happening. I just thought it was normal and she was being a parent. He doesn’t want anything to do with me and that hurts. I tried to explain everything to him and he did not want to hear it. Now I don’t have a brother anymore. That was the only little hope I had left to get in contact with them.
“I wanted to tell him that I loved and missed him. It breaks my heart because he and my (adoptive) grandma were the only people I was close to. To know this is how he feels about me is messed up.”
Rayshaye reflected on her relationship with her maternal adoptive grandma who resided in the home with her: “I was attached to the hip with my grandma. I went to the church, store and everywhere with her. My adoptive mother did not like that we were so close. My grandma saw how she treated me and finally called the police. My adoptive mom told the police that she was crazy and had dementia.”
Fighting back tears Rayshaye elaborated, “She left and I told her I wanted to come with her and she said I couldn’t. I had to stay there and I really wanted to go with her. It hurt my feelings. I at least wanted her to stay with me. My mom put her in an assisted living building. This was before I went to the hospital. When my grandma left, the abuse got worse.”
Rayshaye described the constant fear that she lived in; that her mother could beat her at any time. “I have anger management problems because of what I went through. I walked around the house scared of doing anything. To this day I still have issues. They diagnosed me with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and I can see why. I do have flashbacks and a lot of bad memories.” Rayshaye has continued to receive therapy on and off since her first stay at the hospital to address her trauma.
This is part one of two installments. Please check out our blog (in late February) or sign up for UCAN’s newsletter (below) for part two.