Patricia, 69

(2/3) “My mom put me out of the house when I was 15 years old. She kicked me out. She was a strict West Indian woman. She raised four daughters. My mother and father separated when I was three. I was living in Harlem, in the Lincoln Projects, 135 St. on Madison Ave. We went to parochial school—All Saints School down the street. When I turned 15 my mother said, ‘I’ve had it, you have to get out of the house right now.’ She said I was wayward child. I wanted my father. I wasn’t raised with my father. So, I walked the streets of Harlem getting beat up and raped. And men took advantage of me. I got pregnant at 18 and I had an abortion. This was before abortions were legal. My mother took me to get an abortion. I didn’t want a baby. I didn’t think I would get pregnant. I wanted a place to stay? Where was I going to get my next meal? So I was at the mercy of others. And this older man introduced me to marijuana. I was 15. This was a grown man in his 30s. He and some of his married buddies, he took me to this place he called a bachelor pad. And then he would have his way with me. It was so cold and I hate the cold to this day. I didn’t have a winter coat, scarf, or gloves. I was freezing cold, in the winter, so I said, ‘Can I please stay here?’ I didn’t know any better. I was a 15. There was a Lenox Lanes bowling alley on 146th and I would be sitting on the bench where you would put on your bowling shoes. I would get up and walk around, go to the bathroom, go to the cafeteria. They would ask me what I wanted to eat. I didn’t want to show that I was hungry, so instead of saying a whole meal like a club sandwich I would say a corn muffin with jelly and a Coke. I was so embarrassed. I didn’t know how to survive. I was just going from minute to minute. It was scary out there. I was just walking to kill time. I got pregnant again at 19, by a guy I met at a club. His name was Thomas. He eventually became my husband. I got married in 1969 and I had my son in 1970. I put [my husband] out in 1970 because he was straight out of Vietnam and he was violent. I couldn’t live like that. I’d rather raise my baby. At 19, I was a single mom, I was still estranged from my family.”

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