Nikki Jones (Previously Dawn Staples)

My Shepherd
May 2009

As the days have passed by, and the shock and disbelief have worn off, I’ve grown calmer. For my birthday I was sent a book about the promise of the 23rd Psalm in the Bible. When I remember that “The Lord is my shepherd” and that he is a Good Shepherd that would never lead me astray, my spirit has peace. I’m not saying that things are perfect now, far from it, but what I am saying is that when the Lord is my objective, it puts things in perspective.

With just a few days to go now until my release from prison, I’m still struggling with anger toward my daughter’s foster parents. They’ve lied to me twice, and they’ve taught my daughter that they are her parents. So, I’m angry. But, I have to remember that God says, “Anger and sin not.” It’s o.k. to be angry. It’s just not o.k. to make rash decisions or speak harsh, hurtful words as a result of that anger. I am forgiven, and I need to forgive.

I have to look to God to soften my heart toward them and help me let go of the resentment. I have thanked God many times for giving Hannah, my daughter, such wonderful people to take care of her in my absence. I know that they don’t want to give her back to me and that is very troubling to me. I want this to be resolved without any fighting or anyone being hurt. But, I’m also resolved to have custody of Hannah returned to me. I could never let someone else raise her, knowing that I’m fully capable of doing it myself.

As strange as this is, I’ve had my re-entry all planned out for years, and now I have days when I can’t see past the gate. I know the enemy is just trying to draw me back in and make me worry and doubt myself. But, I stand on the promises of God. He is my strength and my shield, my Good Shepherd. I know that as long as I keep my eyes on Him, He will do the rest.

 

How It Feels
September 2008

My Story? Sure. I can tell you that. I can tell you all about it. I can tell you about all the abuse I’ve been through and all the abuse I’ve put others through.

I can tell you that my only grandpa tried to molest met on a trip to Tennessee at 11-years old and only spent 28 days in jail for it.

I can tell you that my brother used to beat me because I annoyed him, and that my daddy used to call me a whore when I was still a virgin. I can tell you how I became one and, at the age of 21, I don’t know how many people I’ve been with.

I can tell you how, at this young age, I’ve spent over half my life on drugs and lost my first child because of them, and how I just gave birth to my first living baby here in prison, and today makes 12 weeks since I’ve seen her.

I can tell you that I have Hepatitis-C and don’t know how I got it, and that my daughter has to be tested for it again this month.

I can tell you all that without flinching. I can tell you anything you want to know about me; that is easy. The hard part is to tell you how all of that feels. You see, for me to tell you how it feels I have to feel it. And 90 percent of the time, I don’t. I haven’t in a long, long time.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m a monster because I can look at the pictures on my desk of my wedding day and my daughter and not feel anything. I love them, of course, but I just don’t feel the pain. I have the feelings; I just don’t allow myself to feel them. (If that makes any sense. It doest to me.) My mind knows how I feel; it just doesn’t make it to my heart. It doesn’t register.

I know that my brother beating me made me feel unloved and that my dad calling me a whore made me feel worthless. I know that being a whore made me feel dirty and that killing my baby, even though it wasn’t on purpose, made me feel it.

Numbness is automatic for me. I know that just thinking about these things I should be crying, but the walls are up. There’s a big difference between knowing and feeling, and it’s made of brick!

 

Grandpa
September 2008

When I was 11-years old, my mom got a call from my Grandpa. I don’t recall ever meeting him before then; maybe I did once or twice, but I’m not sure. Well, he wanted to take me to Tennessee. My dad did not want me to go, but the decision was left up to me. (I was a homesick kid, bad!) My mom figured Grandpa wanted to make up for all the time he had missed with his grandchildren. She told me that if I decided to go, I could pull the “homesick” thing and decide I wanted to come home for no reason. I wanted to go. It was Tennessee! Country, horses, cowboys…all the things I loved. And he said we would go to Dollywood. I was all for it. I told my mom and dad I would be a good girl. I promised not to get homesick and make Grandpa bring me home. And I promised I would be good.

Grandpa came to pick me up in a big-body blue car. I don’t remember the exact kind, but it was nice. The inside was all plush and the outside nice and clean. It was only obvious, in more ways than one, that he had money: on all of his fingers he had those really nice horseshoe rings, most of them with diamonds and rubies or emeralds, and gold nugget rings. At one point, he told me they would all be mine one day. He caught me staring at them. After many hugs and kisses to mommy and daddy, we were on our way. We stopped before we were out of town. We listened to county music, I enjoyed the scenery, and it was nice.

I’m sure I asked a million questions. I always have been a curious person. Even when I was a little person. One memory that sticks out is when we stopped at the store. Grandpa wanted some roast beef and something else, I can’t recall exactly what. He sent me in the store with a 50-dollar bill. I don’t think I had ever handled that much money before in my life. I don’t think I’ve ever really been responsible with money, and while I was supposed to be buying his stuff, I bought myself a Beanie Baby and a Mountain Dew. He said that was okay. And we were back on the road. I was staring out the window watching the scenery and I didn’t really notice when the car stopped. It took me a minute. When I realized the car had stopped I looked over to see why. My Grandpa was peeing in his cup-thing that he was supposed to use. He had been shot close to his spine, and he didn’t walk all that well. But, he hadn’t warned me not to look. When he saw that I saw him, he just laughed. I looked away and thought it was just an accident. We were soon back on the road again.

It wasn’t too much further before we crossed the Kentucky state line. I distinctly remember going under an overpass that said, “The Bluegrass State” in big blue letters. Not long after that, Grandpa stretched and said he was tired and that we should stop. It was still the middle of the day. We stopped at a fast food place and I got French fries. Then we went to a hotel – one of the ones with the big orange eight ball. We got inside and made ourselves comfortable. I still had most of my Mountain Dew left, and he started drinking his MD. He opened the grapefruit first and gave me a glass of “juice.” I didn’t like grapefruit so he opened the other kind – Banana Red. I didn’t like it so he mixed it with my Mountain Dew. I drank the whole pint! He gave me a “vitamin” because I was so small and it turned out to be speed.

Even though I was torn down and should have been dead, I remember what happened so clearly. He started telling me he was gonna stick his penis in me. He told me this over and over. He got a French tickler out of his little black bag and told me he was going to use it on me. At one point, I had gotten up and he grabbed me and put his hand down my pants. He asked me if it felt good and wouldn’t let me go. I told him “yes,” so he would let me go, and I went back to my chair and folded my legs up and wrapped my arms around them. He took his thing out and played for…I don’t even know how much time passed.

I was bewildered. I didn’t know what to do. I got up and started walking forward and I fell sideway on the bed and passed out. I woke up around 1:30 in the morning. We rented a two-bed room, but he was in bed with me. I had puked all over myself and we were both naked. I couldn’t find my clothes. I started calling home. I must have called 30 times between 1:30 and 5:00. The last message I left on the answering machine was, “Mommy, I think I’m dying. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. You have to come get me.” Between calls I got up to use the bathroom. I puked all over the bathroom floor and broke down crying. After I composed myself, I found some clothes in my duffle bag and put on my cowboy boots. I’d say that I looked silly in pajamas and cowboy boots, but that wasn’t on my mind at the time.

Once he woke up, I knew I couldn’t use the room phone anymore. I told him I wanted to go home. He kept trying to talk me out of it. I knew my mom got up at 6:30 for work, so I went to the receptionist and she let me call my mom. Mom said that she and Beth. were coming to get me. When I got back to the room, I was sitting outside the door and my Grandpa came to the door naked to get me. I was so embarrassed that he was standing at the door naked that I went in. He told me that if I loved my mom, I would have let her go on to work. I flipped out on him. I screamed and cussed at him, and when I was done we didn’t speak.

My mom got there and he left as soon as she did. I lay down in the backseat, and all I could do was stare at the floor. I didn’t know what to do. About 15 minutes into the ride home, my mom asked me what was wrong. She knew. I couldn’t say anything. I didn’t know how to say it, so she asked. I remember her saying, “Baby, did he do something to you?” I said, “Yes,” and she lost it. She kept saying, “I should have known, I should have known,” and kept talking to Beth and freaking out.

We stopped at a rest stop and she got me Graham crackers and milk, and I told her what happened. She took me to the hospital. There were no signs of rape. I don’t think he could ever get an erection. The doctor said that with my size and the amount of alcohol I consumed, I should have died.

I forgot about the pill until after we left the hospital. We had to go back. They messed up my urine sample, so I had to pee again. I still tested positive for fastin and I could finally go home. My mom threw my Beanie Baby out the window on the highway doing 70 miles per hour.

 

Backward, Forward
September 2008

Backslider? I was one of the worst.

I quit everything. I even quit Jesus.

That was when God sat me down and gave me a long time to think about the path I was going down: three years in prison. A very long time to straighten out myself.

When I made it to admission into the Ohio Reformatory for Women, in Marysville, I was five months pregnant. So, I was quickly moved to Franklin Pre-Release Center, in Columbus. I had attended church a few times in the three weeks I spent in ORW, and even went up and asked for prayer for my baby; but, when they brought me to Franklin, I “backslid” again. I couldn’t understand the chaplain, so I used that as my excuse not to attend.

Shortly after my daughter was born, I was moved so that I could take care of my grandmother, who was in prison with me at that time. Walking through the hall one day, I saw choir practice going on in the dayroom. They were not singing, though; they were doing sign language. I was mesmerized, and God compelled me to go inside. I sat and watched, and I learned half of a song in about 15 minutes.

They said I was a natural. I asked if I could join and I was told “yes.” Then I was told the rules: church on Sunday was mandatory, even if we were not performing. I wasn’t very pleased by that rule, but I really wanted to do this, so I said, “Okay.”

All of this was in August of 2007, and in December I was being promoted to director. I haven’t missed a Sunday service in over a year, and I thank God for that ability to attend. The name of my choir is Cherubim, and I am so happy directing the choir members that I wouldn’t trade this position for anything.

We have five members right now, and one is trying to decide if she wants to join. God used Cherubim to bring me back to him and to teach me to stop “backsliding.” I pray that I am able to continue this ministry when I leave these walls, and I praise God for bringing me into it.

 

I Am the Victor
June 2008

Pain?

No. That word could never describe what it felt like to walk out of The Ohio State University Hospital in shackles and leave my two-day old daughter waiting for Butler County Children’s Services to come pick her up. It was the worst feeling I have ever felt in my life, and there are no words to describe it.

My name is Dawn Jones, better known as Staples. I’ve been a resident at Franklin Pre-Release Center for 14 months. My daughter will be one-year old the 30th of this month [March, 2008], and I haven’t seen her since the day I left her at the hospital. Her dad was in rehab when she was born, and everyone else who has applied for custody of my daughter has been turned down.

My best friend of 16 years is trying to get custody now and my husband is also working his case plan. It’s been a battle that isn’t over yet. I have 15 months left on a three-year sentence, and I’ve been denied for judicial release three times already. I’m more than halfway there, but still so far away. I have to admit that of all the crazy things I’ve been through, this surpasses it all. I’ve never felt pain like this, and I never want to again. But, through all the chaos that is now my life, I made a decision: I refuse to walk out of those gates the same person I was when I walked through them. I learned that this prison has a lot to offer me. I just have to be willing to work for it. I have put my trust in God to see me through because I know I can’t do it on my own.

So, I have been busy. I’ve earned 16 certificates in the time I have been here, and I am now taking drafting classes. When I finish drafting, I will be a drafting tutor while I take business management through Wilmington College. I also direct the silent choir where we do sign language to Christian music. I do cross-stitching and I read my Bible. When I’m not doing all that, I write.

I was asked a very good question by a very dear friend of mine. She asked, “If your daughter got adopted, and you didn’t get to see her until she decided to come looking for you, what would she find?” That question motivates me when I get down. I have decided that I’m not going to be the victim. I am going to be the victor!

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