I am going to respond in two parts. In this first part, I want to talk to you about the journey and the battle. Then, our destiny. This has not been an easy life for us, but we have purpose.
I’m beyond proud of you both for standing up, exposing yourselves in a raw real way that is seldom seen in life. Thank you.
Your letters have been incredibly painful, they keep me up at night and I am not fully equipped to give you the answers you most likely seek.
I thought it would be helpful for us to remember how much ground we’ve covered on this journey to freedom. I didn’t just wake up one day, see our misery, get a divorce and we were free. I had to fight for years against the dragon that had held us captive for almost 18 years.
That enemy wasn’t going to let us go without a fight.
And fight we did!
You both have shared some of our story. Let me continue it here.
We left your father in September of 1999. As a family we had gone to a female counselor at a Catholic clinic. After that visit, she told me that it would be good to seek a divorce, although she had compassion for your father. She did tell me that your dad had already begun a campaign to keep Brooke with him.
Her prediction was true – Brooke did stay with your father in our family home. Brit came with me to a small apartment.
That December Brit came to me and told me she was moving in with you and your dad. On December 8, 1999, I received a call from the Clackamas County Sheriff’s office. Your father was arrested for backhanding your sister and leaving a bruise and swelling on her face. I was asked to come to his home and pick you both up.
The divorce was final in January of 2000. The decree gave me and your father joint custody.
On January 28, 2000, I received the Clackamas County Sheriff’s office report. The report indicated that after Brit was struck on the face Brooke walked downstairs to see what the commotion was about and your father threw her into a wall and told her to stay out of it. It also disclosed that Brittany had told the police about the sexual abuse between her and her father.
A temporary restraining order was placed against your father. For a short time, I had you both back with me.
The Clackamas County Sheriff’s office sent you both to CARES (Child Abuse Response and Evaluation Services). You were put through a rigorous interview process, were given physicals, and were assigned to counseling sessions.
Brooke you returned to your father for a short time when he lived in Portland, but did go back and forth. I can be sure of that because I still have the letter of June 20, 2001, where your father’s attorney (Phil Gilbert) writes, “Mr. White reports that your client, Ms. Jodie White, has, on more than one recent occasion, failed to allow him to have scheduled parenting time.
My fight for you both continued.
In February 2002, I opened HarmonyStar, the restaurant you mention. This was an attempt to give you and your sister a place to hang with your friends. It was opened as a coffee shop, restaurant, and underage karaoke club on the weekends for teenagers.
We enlisted your friends, remodeled it for a couple of months and finally opened our dream. The night before we were ready to open, Brooke went MIA. I had the Milwaukie police department searching for you until we found you early the next morning.
In February 2003, HarmonyStar was closed. I did not drink this entire year.
During this time, you both stayed mostly with me. Brooke, you had your horse, the 4H girls, and the barn. We spent a great deal of time driving back and forth from the barn. Brit has met Tyler by now and the heroin battle begins for her. I do various remedial actions – like standing outside of Tyler’s door at 2 am but nothing much worked to keep them apart in those days.
I receive paperwork from your father’s attorney on October 16, 2003. The paperwork is asking “to grant primary legal and physical custody of the parties’ child, Brooke A. White.” He also asks that his child support for both of you be suspended.
Brooke you now move to Battle Ground, WA, to live full time with your dad. I call the Battleground school district and tell them you are enrolled, introduce myself and ask that I be called any time you miss school. I want to stay close to you so I buy you a box and tell you I will send you cards weekly at your dad’s. I want you to gather these cards and keep them saved in this special box under your bed.
Not too long after Brooke moves to Battleground, the school calls me and says she’s missed several days. I leave work and drive to your father’s house in the woods. You’re home alone and ask me how I knew you were not in school. We chat. You tell me your father raged the night before. I ask you if you’d like to pack your things and come home with me. You do.
Brooke you stay with me and sister for a short time but return to Battleground.
Brit is struggling with heroin, but I don’t know how deep that battle is, yet.
Your dad has lost the big house he had and is now in an apartment. Brooke you stay mostly with your best friend and her family. I learn that this family drives you and their daughter to meth houses and that you’re using meth. I prepare a restraining order against them, and a Circuit Court judge agrees and signs it. That wasn’t easy as we’d been family friends for 20 years, but I still have them served. I also bring you to meet with a Superior Court Judge that I knew, hoping he can talk some sense to you about the repercussions of heading down this road.
Brit turns 18 and we’re living on “S” Street. I still am not fully aware of her heroin problem. She stays in her room and doesn’t make waves.
You return home with us after the restraining order was served. One night you jump out the upstairs window because your father has bought you a ticket to go with your friend to Hawaii – without adult supervision. I call the airport security and tell them I did not give my permission. The airport security stops you but your father is with you and you are allowed to go.
The battle continues until I pick you up one day and you’re high on meth. You decide to come back with me and your sister. On June 30, 2005, I filed and served your father with custody modification papers giving me sole custody of you when you’re 17.
On June 23, 2006, Brooke you are now 18 and Brittany is 21. Your father is still harassing you but I tell you that you can seek your own restraining order against him and that’s exactly what you do. You served him, and we went to court. He began telling the court it was all your bat-shit crazy mom. The judge quiets him quickly, tells him he will go to jail if he continues to harass you and you won! Your dad will not be able to leave flowers on the porch any more.
Some time during 2004, Cathy, the attorney I worked with and who had also been our pro bono advocate for years, started dating my brother. They marry and now her advocacy turns to my family and your father, the very man she had helped us defend ourselves against. She gives confidential reports and information to all of them.
Your father brings all of this confidential information to you and your sister. Brit overdoses at the weight of this betrayal. Brittany enters her first rehab at this time.
In July 2006, I am forced to take a leave from my job. Cathy and I were still employed at the same firm. In my letter to my employer, I state one of the reasons for my leave is, “Over the last year and a half my work environment has been extremely difficult to deal with. Cathy’s actions by obtaining confidential police reports and her compilation of materials against me has damaged me and my children in tremendous ways. As you know, Cathy gave this police report and compilations to Troy, which he then delivered to my kids. Brittany was devastated and ended up in a situation that was life threatening.”
I hire an employment attorney and we eventually settle the case for a substantial amount. Cathy is fired from her job and receives a formal Oregon State Bar reprimand.
March 31, 2007, our precious Gram dies.
Brittany comes to me and shows me her track-marked arm and asks for help. We find an extensive in-patient three month rehab center in California and put her on a plane. Brooke you have been working with an ex-boyfriend of mine on your math because we were trying to get your GED completed. We decide to move to Colorado with him for two reasons: you wanted to move there and your sister could not return to Portland because of the heroin problem.
In Colorado, you eventually meet Wes, get married and have babies.
Your sister and I return to Portland.
Part II tomorrow.