Jail Diary Part Four - Marissa Calhoun*
When I told Marissa that I was a reporter she smiled and said "I knew it! I knew there was something about you that was different!.
Marissa and I talked in her cell about her experience and it's an interview I'll probably never forget.
Marissa's mother started prostituting her when she was 5 years old. Her mother was addicted to drugs and needed money. Marissa says she would let drug dealers sleep at their apartment and her mother knew that they were abusing her because she would scream for help while they raped her. She also knew that her mother was on drugs and cared more about them than her brothers and sisters. The sexual abuse and rape continued until she was placed in foster care.Read more Behind Bars Part One Behind Bars Part Two Romney's Jail Diary Inmates Question Romney Inmate Abuse
Marissa says she was physically abused in foster care and she began running away at age 13 and prostituting herself because it was the only way she knew how to get money and find shelter for the night. She grew up without a network of support â" her mother used her, she had no contact with her father, didn't know where her siblings were, and had no other family to take her in. Marissa says she was always taught that she was nothing and would never amount to anything. This wasn't directly told to her, but she felt it because of the way she was treated. She smiles while tearing up saying she wishes she could have had parents that loved her and let her be a child.
Marissa had her first child at 15-years-old. At this point she dropped out of high school and worked at McDonalds when she turned 16 years old. Marissa had a total of four children by four different men before she turned 23-years-old. She's been in jail for three months for probation violation and she's only 24-years-old.
Years of sexual abuse, rape, and unprotected sex lead to Marissa being HIV positive and contracting syphilis. She says she's been raped five times. It hurts her to think about it. She says the worst was when she was 17 and had sex for five dollars in the woods by a school. The man she was with took all of her clothes away from her and drove off. She was hiding when the man came back, pointed a gun at her, and took his money back.
Marissa has been in the Dougherty County jail a few times for robbery and probation violation. She says the only reason she robbed a convenience store was to get pampers for her baby. Her children are spread out between her sisters, a friend, and another is in foster care. She cries thinking about how she's not a good mother or good example for them.
Just as we are wrapping up I'm thrown another curve ball. An older female inmate stands in our doorway and stares at us. Marissa says "I'll be right there mom". My eyes get wide as Iook back and forth between them. I blink hard. This isn't her "jail mother"â|the older inmate is her biological mother. Her mom walks away and I ask her how she's able to talk to the mother that prostituted her out when she was 5-years-old. She says at first she was so angry with her mother that she asked the guards to put her in a different area of the jail because she would try to kill her. Since they she's participated in bible studies, seen counselors, and says she works hard every day to continuously forgive her mother. Her mother is now her cell mate.
Marissa will be in jail another few weeks and says her goal is to secure housing and try to get all of her children back into her custody.
Marissa smiles and begs me to share her story so she can be an example. She wants men to know that women are not objects to be discarded and they will pay for the crimes they commit against children and women. She wants mothers to know that they need to support their children and encourage them to be the best they can be. "Tell your daughters they are beautiful, tell your sons you love them, and mean it because its true" she says.
Most importantly she wants young women to know that no one can tell you your worth. She's been through a lot and had an extremely low self esteem growing up and still struggles with self esteem today. "If no one tells you your unique, special, and have something to offer the world tell it to yourself. Read the bible â" Jesus says we're all special and I believe that now. I have more to offer in this world than my vagina" says Marissa.
With tears in my eyes I hug Marissa as she leaves to return to the cell with her mother. I look at her mother and unknowingly shake my head. Marissa's mother looks at me and with a stone face says "I had to do it. I loved the drugs more than I loved her." Marissa looks back at me and laughsâ|. "Pray for us Romneyâ|girl we need some prayer".
I was thinking about Marissa when I left the jail and how I can't believe what she went through as a child. She had no support, no real home, no real family, and all of the abuse weighed on my heart so heavily that it manifested itself into tears that I couldn't hold back.
*Name has been changed for security purposes