In my first semester of college while living at home I received a federal grant check from student aid, and my mother stole it from me. My parents banged on my door repeatedly that night while I was sleeping, ordering me to come out and “bring the check!” In the living room, they wore me down verbally until I handed it over. My mother claimed she wanted to “spend it for my education,” but really it wound up in the black hole of her personal account. I overheard her exclaim to my older sister in a voice full of indignant, condescending hatred, “I’m not giving him two thousand dollars!” When no, refraining from illegally opening someone’s mail or stealing their checks is not a “gift” and my return, awarded to me for my studies and partly a forward on money I was borrowing to pay my tuition was not hers to take or give. Every time I asked her to sign the money over into my account, she would scream at me a series of insulting lies for why it “wasn’t allowed by the financial aid department.”
But despite her confiscation of these funds, my mother harassed me endlessly each time a new term started and I needed textbooks. She would write a blank check for me, demand to see the receipt and harangue me for how much they cost every time, yelling at me that “your sister always tried to get used books!” Of course I could never match up to the fantasies my mother had about my sister’s college experience. But I did try to get used books, they were not always available, and still wound up being quite expensive because that is how the college textbook market works. But she acted like it was her own money that was being spent, and treated me with disdain for spending even a penny of it. Having been shamed my whole life for needing anything, it was dismaying to be an adult and shamed yet again just for needing textbooks in order to attend classes.
Then one day out of the blue she exclaimed “Why didn’t you go to the college and sell back your books at the end of the term??” I was rendered speechless at the time, but it wasn’t a real question. I had signed out of college two months before on account of the fact that I couldn’t manage to get through even a single class anymore due to my eating disorder, anxiety and flashbacks. I had bigger things to deal with then those books (not all of which were worth selling back anyway–and some of the subjects I wasn’t even done studying,) but it’s very telling that she waited until after the buy-back day to bring this up, until it wouldn’t be a question, but a reproach. She liked it that way, to criticize when it was already too late rather then encourage me; to feign upset as if it was her money and everything in the world should come first before my recovery, no exceptions allowed. I realize today that it doesn’t really matter how much money she did or didn’t spend on me after the fact; that isn’t an apology and doesn’t make up for how she emotionally abused me about the stolen funds, from day one till the end.
Shortly before I moved out, when I had some money and bought a few supplements to support my fragile health, my mother said nothing to my face. But as she walked down the hall one night she loudly proclaimed to my father “Caden’s n*gger-rich!” when she knew I would hear her. Thus not only insulting me with her baseless, intrusive and hideously ignorant judgment, but an entire race of people. But that was her m.o. The fact is, that student aid money in my freshman year could have afforded me a level of independence–something that my mother most definitely did not want at that point, when I was very stable and pulling away from her. She not only didn’t trust or respect me, she wanted to stay in control of my life, and partly for sexual reasons. I remember how she continuously shouted at me about the colleges I wanted to transfer to being too far away, saying repeatedly “I want you to be near me or your sister!” Why? Neither of them ever emotionally supported me, but viewed me as a possession; and I know that I certainly didn’t need or want a verbally abusive woman around me at all times. Of course my mother emotionally abused me about the college application fees too, and withheld when it really mattered, leaving me stuck. I realize that my mother didn’t want me to be independent; but she wanted to have me around to shame me for not being independent, to be her scapegoat, her “failure.”
Sadly though I did wind up living near my sister a few years later. My sister had money stolen from her by our mother as well, yet she chose to direct her anger at me and join in with my mother’s instinctual economic hatred. Throughout my teen years I would visit her with money, and she would confiscate it immediately and shout, shame, and control me over every cent. She insisted, by her words and actions that I was “greedy,” “wasteful,” “spoiled” “immature” “irresponsible” and fundamentally unworthy of any money I might have in my possession, regardless of the source. She viewed me as such a non-person in fact that any money I had really still belonged to someone else, which is insane. Today I wonder, what could I have done to cause this when my mother and sister began painting this picture of me ever since I was just a young child? I never failed any great economic test when I was given money, but that didn’t matter because I was given this label far before I even knew what money was and their view never really changed. It was a hatred of young people, and I would always be the youngest in their “family.”
The last time I saw my sister, I was already planning on ending our relationship and I wasn’t going very deep in our conversation. But I mentioned that I had to take my ipod in to get fixed recently. And I could see from the look on her face what wheels of criticism and disdain were churning in the background of her mind. She held it in at that moment, but when I mentioned in an aside that I had been thinking about moving, her face lit up; she had found a pretext and burst out “If you’re going to be moving in a few months then you shouldn’t be buying ipods!” I was dumbfounded that even now, when I was 100% independent from our parents, employed with my own source of income and finances, she still felt entitled to shame me and play these hypercritical mind-games about my money and how I spent it. When she had jealously lashed out at me about “wasting [i.e. spending at all, on necessities like food or clothes] mom’s money!” and “taking so much from people who have so little!” for daring to have needs, wants, and getting even a small amount of them from our parents, I had imagined that one day I would earn her respect. But that wasn’t true, abuse is abuse, and it was never justified, regardless of whether I was a child dependent on my parents or an independent adult, she had no right to say or do those things to me.
I knew how to budget my finances in order to afford a move (which I wasn’t actually planning at that point,) and the ipod was something I was suggested to get for work actually, to filter out noise; and I bought it months before this. But I don’t have to justify or explain myself, I bought something with my discretionary income that I wanted, end of story. Except in fact that was a very long story, where I was taught as a child to feel guilty about every little thing I wanted or had, for all of my needs. So it was difficult to get things for myself that were quite easily within reach, like buying an mp3 player when I was twenty one years old or getting myself a complete wardrobe. I’ve had to unlearn those messages today, and see that I did back then and do today deserve self-care. I am worthy of spending money on myself, of having my necessities met and some really nice things as well. I’ve done nothing for which to be condemned to a deprived life. I ended my relationship with my sister a few days after this incident; because I did not deserve that sort of verbal abuse and was not going to put up with it from her any longer.
I know that many other young adults, children, teenagers who live with abusive parents have had their student aid or paychecks stolen as well, and this most definitely is financial abuse even though it is not the type of financial abuse that is often publicized and written about. Living with our parents doesn’t entitle them to violate our rights any more then living with an abusive partner entitles them to abuse us. And of course abusive romantic relationships begin when future adults are abused as children at home, by their parents. In my next entry I plan to approach this subject from a different angle, because as a trafficked child, there is another way my parents financially abused me.