Family

I Shook His Hand As I Paid The Sex Offender Who Gave My Daughter A Roof Over Her Head

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woman in dark clothes

“Mom!”

“They kicked me out. I didn’t do anything. Those b***** set me up. They all hate me. I followed all the rules, and they kicked me out anyway. They didn’t believe me!”

“Mom! Help me.”

I knew better than to believe my daughter's story. She had years of perfecting her earnest pleas of innocence.

Good posture and a masterful command of vocabulary were her forever costume.

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Until you learned her language, you too would find her convincing and trustworthy.

My choices were limited.

She was a legal adult and had the right to stop all of her psychiatric care. Her diagnosis of Cluster B Personality Disorder didn’t fare well with her PDD, a version of Asperger’s Syndrome.

When her mental health care routine is disrupted, so is her progress.

We had worked hard to get her into Covenant House in Orlando, Florida.

For those motivated to end their homelessness, the programs they offer can be life-changing.

For the unmotivated, or the emotionally ill-equipped, the structure and basic concepts are constricting and suffocating.

Rules and boundaries were a challenge for my daughter.

This phone call was no different, really.

It was always the same presentation. Tears, angry outbursts, and threats of self-harm, all revealed her vulnerabilities.

No matter that she was 5’9” and stronger than me, her anguish would bring me back to the days of her little girl’s innocence.

We will figure something out. Let me make some calls. There has to be another option available with independent transitional living programs.

I sounded confident.

I was not.

We had ‘done the circuit,’ and openings were rare. She was never autistic enough, or she was too mentally ill and non-compliant, to qualify for the programs.

I felt sick.

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Once again, my daughter was on the streets.

She called me back within the hour.

“My friend’s dad said I can rent a room there at their house. His parents are divorcing, so his mom left. It was cheap, only $200 a month. I’ll send you the address. It’s going to be fine.”

I knew the friend. He was in the process of transitioning from he to her, and they frequently went to Pulse Nightclub in Orlando.

My daughter would help him/her with his hair and make-up. He/she loved the drag circuit, and so did my daughter. They were fun together.

I didn’t think her new plan was awful.

Quite the opposite, when I thought about it. They were really close friends, and he/she and I hit it off. I had picked him up for many a lunch or dinner when I visited her, wherever she was, the “Queen of couch surfing.”

Rent?

No more couch surfing?

Friends who she knows and trusts would equate to less explosive outbursts.

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Okay, we can do this.

A glimmer of stability goes a long way after years of turmoil. I will know where she is and there was an adult to keep the house under control.

For two months in a row, I had mailed the rent to the father. By month three, she was ready for a lunch date, and, of course, I would welcome her friend, too.

I had the address but was not familiar with that part of Orlando.

It was a two-hour drive and I was excited about the normalcy she was gravitating toward now.

This will be nice.

I pulled slowly down the road as I looked for house numbers. There weren’t many. It was eerie in its emptiness. Broken-down cars, houses with busted windows, and discarded toys added to a ghost-town feel.

It appeared that the homes were in such a state of disrepair that any addition of house numbers would crumble the exterior wall.

She was standing under a carport waving wildly with a huge smile.

Her friend couldn’t come with us after all. She gave me a quick peek into the home. I didn’t want to touch anything.

Most of the trash there had made it into bags. Most.

Too many dogs, too many cats, too many holes in the wall, and no lighting, made for a dark hallway from hell.

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When I returned her from some food shopping and a decent lunch, the father was out front. My daughter introduced us, and he was withdrawn but nice enough.

I come from a ‘handshaking, hugging’ kind of family. This time, though, I opted to simply shake his hand.

I gave him her rent for the month and thanked him for giving her a room to stay in.

Yeah, I thanked him.

My insides swirled on the drive home. Everything was depressing except for her mood.

I wondered why her friend wasn’t there.

Truth and answers were never available. She was quite adept at coloring a world with her hand-made crayons.

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I could ask her more, but why?

The following month, number 4, she called me. Her words were rapid-fire and spastic.

“I’m out! I could have been killed and needed to leave.”

I have learned to patiently peel back the layers of her story. We may never get to the black and white facts, but we will nose in a little closer with time.

“The police came, cuffed him, and took him away!”

“It was crazy ~ I was so scared. He’s a sex offender and violating his parole.”

Wait, what? Your friend’s father, the one I met?

“Yes. He’s not really my friend’s father. He was just a sugar daddy for my friend.”

“He became abusive, cheated on him, and kicked him to the curb.”

“He’s a pedophile, you know.”

“It’s not even his home.”

“The police said I was a squatter and had to leave immediately.”

Most of the houses on the street were abandoned, and the homeless would lay low in them until they were discovered.

She was discovered.

The snaked extension cords to steal electricity were removed.

The vice grip on my head was immediate.

Vile images swam in my brain of all the things that could have happened.

“But, guess what? My other friend has a room that I can rent but not until this weekend. I’ll be okay and I’ll get you the address. She’s really nice, Mom.”

Really?

Yes, I have considered the fact that I was a horrible mom. However, she was an adult. She wanted the freedom of the streets.

The boundaries I had set up for her to live in my home were easy for most that did not have a mental illness.

Work or volunteer for a minimum of 20 hours a week, take birth control, and maintain psychiatric meds and appointments, and my door is open.

She refused.

“I have rights, Mom.”

I went back to ‘help’ her settle into her new place.

The walls were solid.

I should have bought stock in comforters and bedding. I lost count of how many I’ve had to replace as she bolted from place to place.

The new place included women who smiled and seemed friendly. There was a language barrier so I never really had a conversation with them.

I wondered how my daughter communicated with the women.

But, they were clean and the kitchen had mouth-watering aromas wafting toward the front door.

Maybe, just maybe, this time would be better.

Different?

She lasted there for a few months.

They were all evicted.

And so, the hamster wheel of hell in the world of the mentally ill would continue to spin.

Lisa Gerard Braun is a writer focusing on mental health, physical wellness, inspirational personal growth, and equality stories.  

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This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.