She is 15 years old and today she sits in an adult jail.
Annie, a pseudonym, is probably the youngest inmate at the penal institution where inmates are usually above the age of 16, but for Annie who will be 16 in February, her journey there was nothing a young girl would imagine, nothing that you would believe.
It was on 07th September that Annie along with other girls ganged up and beat another resident at the institution where she was a resident, but nothing seemed out of the ordinary as they always fight. On 29th October, her father got a call that his daughter was at the ‘station’ to be charged and without the chance to get representation for his child and even before he found out what happened, Annie was sentenced to 28 days in the adult prison.
“ How could this be?”, Johnson asked himself, “What happened to my daughter, I was never informed of any fighting, I could not even get legal representation for my daughter and I was not there for her, what happened?”
With tears in his eyes, Johnson broke down, revealing built up frustration of a system that went against his daughter, a system that failed to treat her like a human being, a system that constantly lied to him, that treated him as though he had no rights over his child.
“Annie is so loving, she loves to hug me and ask about her sisters and brothers and she just wanted to be treated fairly”, he cried. “This is so unfair, she has gone through so much”. This is all her mother’s fault, I told her not to speak out and she went to the press, now this.
Annie’s ordeal started when she was just 12 years old. She was in the bus on her way home from school when she kicked a younger boy in retaliation to something he did to her, but he got the hard kick in his genitals and his irate mother pressed charges against Annie.
It was that day in court that those in authority believed that Annie would be better off in a different environment, away from the home of her mother. Johnson accepted to have Annie with him, but his mother with whom he lived, would have none of it. She would tell the court that her grand-daughter was ‘rude and would not listen’ and she did not want her at her home.
There were no other questions about any other family member, although her other grandmother was willing to have Annie live with her. Annie was sentenced to three years at the reform institution for girls. Neither her mother nor father had any idea of the trauma that was awaiting their child, they ‘had to accept’ what the court said and as it was a reform school, Annie could get help.
Reform? It was the inside fighting, girls ganging up against girls, workers having their favourites, workers and girls fighting and lesbianism where no such relationships are allowed. Too often Annie never saw the clothes and food stuff that her parents took for her and she was obviously not a favourite among the staff and so Annie had her fair share of beatings and she also gave a few beatings, but that was all in a day in the reform institution.
I heard of the day when Annie was literally dragged to a cell by a worker who was assisted by another inmate and she had her clothes cut off with a scissors by the same worker. Often in despair Annie would bang her head on the iron grill of the cell that she was often locked in, shouting out that she rather die than to be there, but rude, deviant Annie was just a terrible child and no one cared.
There was also the time when she was the victim of a harsh beating by a group of girls and so bad was this beating that someone leaked the information to her father. On his next visit to see Annie, Johnson asked her about the beating and when she began to talk, the worker who stood off from them, cautioned her not to talk about it or the visit would be stopped. The disgusting child shut up about the incident as she did not want her parents to leave.
Her father insisted that he had a right to know what happened to his daughter, but the worker said that the matter was being dealt with by the authorities, but when her mother called the next day to ask about the matter, she was told that they had no such information.
More recently, on a visit to Annie, her mother observed a bite mark on Annie’s hand and she questioned her about it, but once again, the worker who stood nearby listening to the conversation, did not allow Annie to talk to her mother about how she was bitten and her mother was asked to leave before the visiting time was up.
Annie’s parents also realised that Annie was being sent to a psychiatric hospital and she was shaking and trembling, but they were led to believe that Annie was ADHD and she needed that treatment. Confused, concerned and angered that she was put out of the institution when she tried to talk to her daughter, her mother went to the press and aired her concerns.
One month later, Annie and a number of girls would beat up another girl and the police was called in on this occasion. There is some confusion about what really happened as the fight occurred on 07 September and despite visiting Annie after the fight, her parents were never informed of any incidences. So when her dad got the call on 29 October, some six weeks later, that his daughter was being charged, he was in shock.
Immediately, he learnt that Annie was the only girl who went before the judge and he was also taken back by the fact that a worker who had little contact with Annie, but who did not like her mother’s visit to the media would be the one to give a lengthy report to the court and Annie who was apparently told by the court not to come back before them, was sentenced to 28 days at the adult prison, despite the fact that she was not yet 16 years old.
When Johnson broke down in tears in front of me, he repeatedly spoke about the many times that Annie’s case was put off and how ‘they’ promised that when ‘they’ were ready, Annie would get a summons. He thought that ‘they’ would help his daughter, that getting justice would help.
But what case was this all about and why would it matter, Annie was deviant, rude and bad?
It was the case of a ten-year-old girl who was raped in her neighbourhood and who for five years silently dealt with the internal trauma of being raped. Annie was not only raped at ten, but she never received the therapy necessary to allow rape victims (and their families) to heal.
Raped at ten, Annie needed the assurance that what happened was not her fault. She needed the therapy to really understand what happened to her, to help fight the shame, to feel safe and to be able to grieve in a healthy way, which usually takes time. She needed the people around her to be emphatic, but she got none of that and Annie would sometimes cut herself and strike out in the most aggressive way to get back at those who hurt her.
Shame prone children like Annie, with built up, unaddressed anger from being raped, cannot sit in a classroom or on a bus and accept taunts or a ‘little lash’ and be civil.
Was raped at ten, not enough telling signals for authorities to understand the internal conflicts that this child was dealing with? Did the social workers, the judicial system and the school fail Annie? Or was it her family, who also needed therapy and help to deal with being raped at ten and who did not have the finances or knowledge to deal appropriately with the matter?
The abuse that Annie has suffered in her young life is more than enough for a life time of several years. How would she survive this? Who is standing up for Annie?
Can we too fail Annie?
If you would like to help me help Annie, please inbox me as we need legal representation for Annie and the best available therapy to help this child.
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!