“I am convinced that we can shape a different future for this country as it relates to mental health and as it relates to suicide.” David Satcher
Life had been brutal. At a young age, Jennifer had been adopted, after her biological parents had given her up for adoption. Her adoptive parents had been amazing, until Jennifer hit the tender age of thirteen. It was at age thirteen that the way that her adoptive parents treated her changed. Jennifer didn’t understand why the way that her parents had changed. All she knew was that something had happened, and that whatever it was, they now treated her differently By the time Jennifer hit her sophomore year of high school, she was tired of living a double life. At home, Jennifer would hide from her parents. She tried to stay away from the house as much as she possibly could. At school, Jennifer found that she had friends, was accepted, and felt comfortable being herself.
On one winter day, as the weathermen were predicting as massive snow storm for Chemical City Michigan, Jennifer walked home from the bus stop with several small baggies of heroine in her backpack. Jennifer couldn’t stand living like this any longer. For three weeks, she had been buying as much heroine as she could with her allowance, and saving it up so that when she felt that she had enough she could overdose. She planned to end her own life so that the pain she was living would would end, and so that she wouldn’t feel like she was living a double life. The first flake of snow from the snow storm that was coming falls. Jennifer couldn’t help but wonder what would happen to her body when she was found at home, dead from an overdose.
Having arrived at home, Jennifer sets her backpack down by the front door. After grabbing the heroine, she heads up to her room, where she closes the door behind her. This would be the last room she would see alive. This would be the place that she died. This was where she would be found, dead. Sitting down on her bed, Jennifer shoots up all of the heroin. As she blacks out, Jennifer takes a breath, and wonders if her friends will ask any questions about why she had committed suicide.
Outside, snow was falling gently. It was turning the world into a white wonderland. The snow crunches as Jennifer’s parents pull into the driveway, home from work earlier than usual. With the snow storm beginning, they had left work early so that they wouldn’t have to drive when the roads were horrible. There were bound to be countless car accidents tonight because of slippery roads. Inside of the house, Jennifer’s parents set their brief cases down, and hang their jackets up.
“Can you start dinner?” asks Jennifer’s father of his wife, “I’m going to go and check on Jennifer.”
“Sounds good.” Replies Jennifer’s mother
Jennifer’s mother heads into the kitchen where she begins to make a giant pot of chicken noodle soup. Jennifer’s father makes his way upstairs to Jennifer’s bedroom. He gently pushes the bedroom door open, not wanting to wake his daughter if she was asleep. As he pokes his head into the room, he sees Jennifer laying on her bed, several plastic bags, a lighter, a spoon, and a needle, of of the items laying next to Jennifer on the bed gave her father a reason to worry. He rushes in, no longer worried about if his daughter was awake or asleep. He was now only worried about if his daughter was alive or dead. At his daughter’s side, Jennifer’s father feels for a pulse. As he feels for a pulse he yells for his wife.
“Call 911!” yells Jennifer’s father, “Jennifer’s overdosed!”
Jennifer’s mother rushes up to Jennifer’s bedroom with the phone, having dialed 911. It was in Jennifer’s bedroom that she feeds information to the dispatcher about how Jennifer was doing so that the EMTs had the most information when they arrived and could treat and save Jennifer’s life. Within moments, a police officer was in the bedroom with Jennifer and her parents, and had administered a drug that would help to keep Jennifer alive until she could be treated at the local hospital for the overdose. The moment that the EMTs have Jennifer on the stretcher, they begin rolling her out to the ambulance. Jennifer’s parents follow them out into the driveway, where they climb into their car, and follow the ambulance to the hospital. They wanted to know that their daughter was alive. It was at the hospital that Jennifer comes to.
As she looks around the room, Jennifer takes in the fact that she had survived her suicide attempt. She didn’t know how or why she had survived her suicide attempt. The only thing that was clear was that she now had a nurse, a doctor, and her parents in the room with her. Jennifer’s only thought was to get her parents out of the room. She didn’t want to see, talk to, or interact with her parents after everything that they had done to her.
“Thank God you’re alive.” Says Jennifer’s father
“Can I talk to the two of you out in the lobby?” asks the doctor of Jennifer’s parents
In the lobby, the doctor begins to explain in detail what the doctors and nurses would have to do to make sure that Jennifer was okay and would be okay when they sent her home. In the bay of the ER that Jennifer was in, the nurse moves over to stand next to Jennifer. The nurse could tell that there was more going on than she knew.
“How are you feeling?” asks the nurse
“Like crap.” Replies Jennifer
“The look you gave your parents said that you don’t want anything to do with them.”
“You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to.”
“I think my dad raped me before the EMTs got to the house.”
The nurse takes a deep breath, now understanding why Jennifer had looked at her parents the way that she had.
“I’ll go get the doctor and get the rape kit started.” Says the nurse quietly
“Don’t let my parents know what’s going on.” Whispers Jennifer as tears begin streaming down her face
Out in the lobby, the nurse pulls the doctor away from Jennifer’s parents for a moment.
“Their daughter just disclosed that she was raped by her father.” Whispers the nurse
“What kind of man would rape his own daughter?” asks the doctor in a whisper
“A sick one. Jennifer doesn’t want her parents to know about this.”
“I can’t blame her. I’ll tell her parents that we have some concerns about her psychological state, and that until we can have a psychiatrist exam her, they can’t see her. Let security know not to let anyone that isn’t a member of the hospital staff into Jennifer’s room. I’ll be there to do the exam as soon as I’m done with her parents.”
“I’ll see you at the room.”
The nurse heads off to talk to the hospital security. Security puts one of it’s staff outside of Jennifer’s private hospital room to ensure that Jennifer’s parents don’t enter the room.
“Was that news on our daughter?” asks Jennifer’s mother
“It was.” Replies the doctor, “She’s fine physically, but we have some new concerns about her mental state. We’ve moved her into a private room so that one of our psychiatrists can exam her. We want to know exactly what we’re dealing with so that there is a solid plan to get Jennifer through this.”
“Can we see her?” asks Jennifer’s father
“Not until the psychiatrist has seen her. That’s how bad this is. I’ll make sure that you’re kept updated on how she’s doing. The moment that she can handle visitors, you’ll know.”
“Thanks for all of the information.” Says Jennifer’s mother in a near whisper
The doctor heads to the room that Jennifer had been taken to, where she does the rape kit. Throughout the process of doing Jennifer’s rape kit, the doctor and nurse can see the pain that Jennifer had already been through and that had brought her to this place. With the rape kit done, the doctor and nurse leave Jennifer alone with a detective and a Child Protective Services worker who were there to investigate what had happened to Jennifer. The CPS worker wanted to determine if it was safe to put Jennifer back into the care of her parents, and what services could be provided to Jennifer and her family to help Jennifer heal. The detective was there to investigate the report that Jennifer’s father had raped her. If it was determined that Jennifer’s parents had raped her, chances were that Jennifer would be placed into foster care until she was adopted or turned eighteen.
The moment that the detective and CPS worker are done interviewing Jennifer, the psychiatrist enters the hospital room. Jennifer was so tired from all of the attention she was getting from doctors, nurses, detectives, and CPS workers. She wanted as few people involved with what she was experiencing. She didn’t want to talk about what she had experienced at the hands of her parents over and over again. All she wanted was to move on, making a better life for herself.
“What do you want?” asks Jennifer of the newcomer to her hospital room.
“I’m here to figure out if it’s safe for the hospital to release you, and what the best situation to release you to would be.” Replies the psychiatrist
“I don’t feel like talking about what happened.”
“What would you like to talk about?”
“Nothing. I just want to be left alone.”
The psychologist sits down in a chair next to Jennifer’s hospital bed. For half an hour, they sit in silence. After leaving Jennifer, the CPS worker had made her way to Jennifer’s home to interview her parents.
“Can I help you?” asks Jennifer’s mother, having answered the door
“Are you Jennifer’s mother?” asks the CPS worker
“I am. Who are you?”
“I work for CPS. Can I come in?”
Jennifer’s mother leads the CPS worker into the living room where Jennifer’s father was sitting. Jennifer’s mother and the CPS worker sit down.
“I need to ask the two of you some questions about your lives and about Jennifer so I can figure out what can be done to help Jennifer.” Says the CPS worker
“What do you need to know?” asks Jennifer’s father
“Has Jennifer ever expressed that she’s considered suicide before this attempt?”
“She hasn’t.” Replies Jennifer’s mother, “She’s always been a happy kid.”
“Has anything in her life changed recently? It could be anything from the loss of someone she was close to, the slipping of grades, or the loss of a friend?”
“Not that we know of.” Replies Jennifer’s father
“It took me by surprise when my husband found Jennifer in her room after she had overdosed.” Says Jennifer’s mother, “I can’t understand why she’d try to take her own life.”
“When Jennifer went into the hospital, one of the nurses found evidence that Jennifer had been raped. Had she said anything about having been raped within 24 hours of attempting suicide?”
“No she hadn’t.” Whispers Jennifer’s mother
“She wasn’t raped.” Says Jennifer’s father, sure of himself, “My daughter and I had consensual sex.”
This news stuns the CPS worker.
“That would explain the signs of recent sexual activity.” Says the CPS worker
It is then that the CPS worker’s phone begins to ring.
“I need to take this.” Says the CPS worker, “We’re almost done here.”
“Sounds good.” Says Jennifer’s father, relieved that the CPS worker was taking his word at face value.
The CPS worker listens to what the person on the other end of the line has to say.
“Thanks for the information.” Says the CPS worker, “I’ll be there within half an hour. I just have to finish up here, and then I’ll head over to see her.”
After having hung up her cell phone, the CPS worker looks out the window to see that a police offer was walking up the driveway towards the house.
“Right now, we’re still working on figuring out what kind of services would help Jennifer the most. That’s why we’re talking to her friends, teachers, and the two of you as well as having her working with a psychiatrist.” Says the CPS worker to Jennifer’s parents.
The officer knocks on the door, and Jennifer’s father stands to answer it. Jennifer’s mother walks into the kitchen. Moments later, a gunshot comes from the kitchen. The officer, Jennifer’s father, and the CPS worker rush into the kitchen where they find Jennifer’s mother on the floor with a self inflicted gunshot wound to the head. The officer secures the gun before checking to see if Jennifer’s mother had a heartbeat. It was then that the officer radios for the coroner. Turning to Jennifer’s father, the officer asks him to turn around and place his hands behind his back. Having handcuffed Jennifer’s father, the officer reads him his rights, and informs him that he was being charged with first degree criminal sexual conduct.
It had been thanks to the fact that Jennifer’s father had been charged as a peeping tom years earlier that his DNA was already in the system, and had been quickly matched to the DNA from Jennifer’s rape kit. The CPS worker now knew that she would never be able to put Jennifer back into the care of either of her parents. She now needed to put Jennifer into foster care, and up for adoption. Back in the hospital, the psychiatrist was still sitting with Jennifer.
“How long are you going to sit there?” asks Jennifer
“For at least another half and hour.” Replies the psychologist
“I don’t want to talk. All I want to do is get out of here and away from the people called my parents.”
“From what the doctors and nurses say, you’ve been experienced something that nobody should ever have to experience.”
“That’s an understatement.”
The CPS worker quietly walks into the room.
“I’ve got some news you might be glad to hear Jennifer.” Says the CPS worker, “Your mother killed herself not long ago, and your father has been arrested for first degree criminal sexual conduct. I won’t ever put you back into the care of your father. Instead I’m putting you up for adoption, and am going to start looking for a foster family for you.”
Jennifer lets out a sigh of relief, and it is clear to both the psychiatrist and the CPS worker that this news had taken a load off of Jennifer’s chest.
After explaining how foster care and the adoption process works to Jennifer, the CPS worker leaves the hospital room, allowing the psychiatrist and Jennifer to continue talking.
“Is there any way I could get a pen and a notebook?” asks Jennifer
“I’m sure we can get that.” Replies the psychiatrist, “Give me some time to find both.”
The psychiatrist disappears in search of a notebook and a pen or pencil that Jennifer have and keep as her own. There weren’t any decent notebooks to be found in the hospital, so the psychiatrist heads across the street to a store that she knew would have pens and notebooks. It is there that she buys a journal and a package of five pens for Jennifer. Back in the hospital, the psychiatrist gets rid of the packaging for both the pens and the journal, and takes them up to Jennifer’s hospital room.
“Why did you go across the street to buy these for me?” asks Jennifer quietly
“I couldn’t find any pens or notebooks around here that you could write all over and keep as your own without anyone else missing them.” Replies the psychiatrist
“Thanks.” Whispers Jennifer, clearly grateful for the what the psychiatrist had just done for her, “I wish my parents had been more like you.”
“I wish your parents had cared about you much more than they did. I’ll let you get some rest.”
“Will I see you again?”
“Of course. I’ll be back tomorrow morning to see how you’re doing.”
The psychiatrist walks to the hospital room’s door. It is there that she stops and turns to look back at Jennifer. Jennifer already had a pen out and was writing furiously in the journal. This was the first moment that the psychiatrist had seen Jennifer relaxed, as if she knew that there was nothing to worry about. It was an hour later the the psychiatrist walks into her home, to the smell of a whole chicken being cooked in the crock pot. A woman with bright green eyes and blond hair named Stephanie walks towards her.
“How was your day Kate?” asks Stephanie of the psychiatrist
“It was one long day.” Replies Kate, “Knowing I was coming home to you made it easier.”
“Did you get another psychotic patient?”
“No. I got a high school student who attempted suicide after years of sexual and psychological abuse at her parents hands.”
“I hate stories like that.”
“Me too. This one really got to me. It’s obvious just how much damage this kids parents did to her. Yet it’s also obvious just how sweet she is.”
“What possesses a parent to treat their own child like that?”
“I have no idea.”
The following morning, Kate enters Jennifer’s hospital room to find Jennifer sitting up in bed with the journal and a pen, making her smile. The small amount of money it had cost to give Jennifer a simple journal and several basic pens was a good use of the money that she had spent.
“How are you doing this morning?” asks Kate as she takes a seat next to Jennifer’s hospital bed
“Okay. A little scared about what’s going to happen to me when I leave the hospital.” Replies Jennifer
“It’s perfectly fine to be a little scared about what’s next. What scares you the most?”
“Not knowing if I’ll like where I go next.”
“I’m going to guess that you want to feel loved in the way that your parents never loved you.”
Jennifer nods, confirming Kate’s suspicions. Kate had suspected that today Jennifer would feel better, and be more willing to talk, but scared of never finding a place to call home, or people to call her family that genuinely cared for and loved her.
“I want you to read the first two pages of what I wrote yesterday.” Says Jennifer to Kate, passing her the journal.
Kate takes the journal and begins to read.
I did everything I could
to be the perfect child
I wanted a happy ending
I wanted a fairy tale.
All I ever dreamed
was for my family to love me.
I never thought how I might feel
all these years later.
There’s always more
to the story
of how we got here
and why we came to this place.
There’s more to this story.
Now I know
that my parents didn’t really love me.
My parents saw me
as a belonging.
I was never the daughter
that they wanted.
I knew from the start
that someday I would
try to kill myself.
I never thought that I wouldn’t succeed.
There’s always more to the story.
What people didn’t see
was the pain
that I’ve lived through.
There’s more to the story
of how we got here
and why my parents never really cared.
What I was always told
was that parents love their children.
But that isn’t always so.
There is always more
more to the story.
Now I know
that my happy ending
isn’t what I always imagined.
Kate stands up, and as she hands the journal back to Jennifer, she sits down on the edge of Jennifer’s hospital bed.
“I went to court today. Your father plead guilty and was sentenced to thirty years to life, and if he is ever release will have to register as a sex offender.” Says Kate quietly
“How did he react?” asks Jennifer quietly
“He seemed proud of the fact he was getting prison time. People with his crime always have problems with being beat up in prison. He’ll be lucky to make it through more than six months without being beaten up several times. He’ll likely end up in protective custody.”
“Serves him right.”
“The good news is that you’re doing well enough to be released this afternoon.”
“Where am I going to go?”
“You’re going to come home with me. Last night I couldn’t sleep because I was thinking about you. I’m taking you in as my foster child, and if it is a good fit after six months, I’ll officially adopt you.”
Jennifer sits up, and wraps her arms around Kate’s shoulders, and Kate wraps her arms around Jennifer.
“I don’t think that I’ll every be able to say thank you enough.” Whispers Jennifer through the tears flowing down her cheeks.
“You don’t have to. All you need to do is learn how to be a kid again.” Replies Kate
Hours later, Jennifer is released from the hospital, and heads off with Kate to buy new cloths since she no longer had the cloths that her biological parents had bought her over the course of years. Having finished their shopping trip, Jennifer and Kate head home. It was at home that they carry the bags of clothing inside.
“Stephanie, we’re home.” says Kate as she and Jennifer walk into the house
“Your gay?” says Jennifer, surprised by this news
Kate nods, with a smile on her face. Stephanie walks into the front hall to meet Jennifer, and to say hello to Kate.
“It’s nice to met you Jennifer.” Says Stephanie as she reaches out a hand to shake Jennifer’s
“You too.” Replies Jennifer
Instead of taking Stephanie’s hand, Jennifer hugs her.
“I think you found a keeper.” Says Stephanie to Kate
“Me too.” Replies Kate
Kate and Stephanie show Jennifer around the house, and help her put her new cloths away in her new bedroom.
“How are you feeling with everything that’s happened since you got out of the hospital?” asks Kate
“It’s a little overwhelming.” Replies Jennifer, “But, for the first time that I can every remember, I feel like I can be me.”
“I can’t imagine how stressful this is for you.” Says Stephanie having just made the bed
“Having gay foster parents hasn’t seemed to phase you a bit.” Says Kate
“I’ve never known anyone other than myself that’s gay. It’s nice to finally see people who are just like me living normal lives.” Replies Jennifer
With that Jennifer puts the last of her new cloths into the dresser. Downstairs, Kate sits down at the computer to check her e-mail while Stephanie begins to cook dinner with Jennifer watching nearby. Stephanie notices that Jennifer is watching what she is doing carefully, as if she’s trying to remember for the future.
“Would you like to learn to cook?” asks Stephanie
“Yeah.” Replies Jennifer
“Come on over, and you can start learning.”
Jennifer stands and is coached through how to chop onions and sweet peppers.