With Carlyn there, the trial was easier, less nerve racking. Each day that passed took them closer and closer to their testimonies, but Julia was ready for it now, she had faith that things would work out and it was all because of Carlyn. What Julia didn’t know was she did the same for Carlyn. Before that day in Julia’s living room Carlyn’s life had been a living hell. It wasn’t all because of Justin, it had been that way for a long time, for as long as Carlyn can remember, her mother had practically disowned her, and when Carlyn told her mother that she had HIV her mother's abandonment turned into hatred.
When Carlyn was 6-years-old her parents got divorced, her father had wanted to take her, but her mother was awarded custody. The courts didn’t care that her mom was an abusive alcoholic who could barely dress herself let alone take care of a kid, it was “improper” to place a daughter with her father because “things might happen”. Placing Carlyn with her mother didn’t prevent those things from happening, if anything, they guaranteed that they would.
After the divorce her mom started bringing men home, always drunk, high or both, they would go to her mother’s room for “private time” and they would stay there for hours, sometimes days… if she was lucky. On the days that Carlyn wasn’t lucky they would sit at the dining room table snorting cocaine, drinking whiskey or both and the men would stare at Carlyn like she was a piece of meat on sale at the local grocery story. One night it wasn’t just looking, it was more. Way more.
Carlyn remembers that night very clearly; it was hot, it always was in the summer in Arizona, it was too hot to sleep, even though she had kicked the covers to the end of the bed. Carlyn had heard footsteps but thought nothing of it, she thought it was just that night's guy going to get another drink or sneaking out while her mom slept. But this time was different, the footsteps were going in the opposite direction of the kitchen or the door, they were coming towards her room. Carlyn didn’t know what to do, the man already knew she was there so there was no use in trying to hide, there was no lock on her door, her mom was probably too drunk or high to hear her scream...or to care if she did. So Carlyn just lay there, hoping he wouldn’t come in.
But he did come in, and Carlyn didn’t know what to do; she was a little girl, so there was no way she was going to be able to fight off a grown man. She tried to steady her breath, she closed her eyes tight, pretending to be asleep, wishing that her being asleep would stop him. Somewhere deep inside Carlyn knew nothing would stop him. She knew what people could do when they were so drunk. And when guys like that wanted something, nothing would stop them. Carlyn remembers that it hurt. She remembers that he smelled horrible. Like sweat, beer, and smoke. She blocks out the other details. When Carlyn was just six-years-old, something that she can never get back was brutally taken from her.
When Carlyn had told her mom, her mother told her she was lying. And when that wasn't her mother's excuse, she said that it was Carlyn’s fault, that if she wasn’t such a slut it never would have happened. A slut at six. That was the day Carlyn realized that her mother hated her, the day she realized that her mother didn’t care. So Carlyn had never known a mother’s love, until that day in Julia’s living room, where she had met Chani. Not only did she find a mother’s love there, but she found the love of an entire family. So, even though he raped her, Carlyn thanked Justin. Because she knew that if he hadn’t, she never would have found her true family, a family that loved and accepted her. A family that cared.