From Survivor to Caretaker: Caitlin’s Story


By Ginny Ollis

Caitlin is the oldest of three girls who did not know their fathers.  These men were absent because they had been murdered, were in prison or were just not around.  Which puts the question of life and death forefront in your life very early.

The absence was normal but not safe.  Mom was an alcoholic and mostly absent, and moved her three daughters around a lot, changing households, always living in shared spaces.  Caitlin was first molested at 7, and by 12 had been in eight schools in four states.  By the time she was 13, Mom was gone for weeks at a time, abandoning her girls in sketchy places.  Her little sisters, 10 and 5, were Caitlin’s responsibility.  At 13 Caitlin became a child prostitute.  Working El Cajon Boulevard, drinking, doing drugs, rape was normal to her. To her, her story was not unusual.  At 15 she was picked up by vice, taken to juvenile hall and became a ward of the court.  For 890 days, almost three years, she had no power over her life. 

But Caitlin didn’t collapse.  She grabbed the educational opportunities, read a great deal, earned her GED and started community college courses on line while in custody.  She was released to a group home in Los Angeles, but not ready to accept help, she ran away, and got hooked: cocaine, then crack, then a mixture of meth and heroin.  She lacked self-acceptance, didn’t know where she fit, but liked being free from restrictions, was proud of her survival…

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