A Risky Expedition
Screeching out of my apartment parking space, I blast the gas pedal hitting 115 miles per hour.
I pull up into a dimly lit K-Mart parking lot where someone parks next to me minutes later. I abandon the security of my car and slide into the passenger seat of the neighboring vehicle.
In the driver’s seat is a former marine officer and cage fighter with little to no body fat. We pull out of the lot and begin a 58-mile trek through the mountains.
The powerful winds blast against the car as we sweep through the hazardous winding roads. At many of the turns we are sheer inches from lethal cliffs, but that does not keep us from speeding.
We have a game plan for every scenario, every mishap, every problem we might encounter.
I remember thinking to myself that no matter what happens I want my actions to be consistent the man of God I strive to be.
Toxic From the Inside Out
“Tell her to pack up all her stuff cause she’s not living there anymore. We are moving her out tonight,” my father instructs me.
We finally reach our destination ¾the house of a crooked and broken family.
Outside, there is a one car driveway occupied by a broken-down car so we park in the street.
I walk into the house and immediately it hits me like a wall of bricks¾the smell of weed so powerful it could knock a person out. Blankets and shower curtains hang from the door frames to act as doors. The floors have no finish on them.
There is no heater and it is 10 degrees outside. Stacks of dirty dishes with rotting leftovers nested inside tower all around the house. A stench much like that of rotten eggs hangs in the air.
Shards of glass lay all around on the floor. I begin to imagine a father throwing his beer bottle against the wall. You can almost feel the ghost of the turmoil lingering in the air.
Meet Jerry and Katarina
Jerry Casteel was 20 years old when he met Katarina Weber, a soft-spoken young woman, at a Young Life event in Rapid City, South Dakota.
They developed a friendship over the course of a few months texting back and forth. Eventually, they began to date. Jerry quickly began to realize that Katarina’s home life was not a healthy one.
Between being raped by her older brother and emotionally abusive parents, her family had always been toxic. After her parents threatened to put her in a mental hospital due to her struggles with depression, she realized she was done being ostracized.
Katarina’s parents did not respond well and stranded her at her counselor’s office. With nowhere else to go, she had decided to move in with her friend Brittany’s family. She unknowingly left an emotionally abusive home to enter into a physically abusive one.
Katarina’s Dangerous Plight
I had lived in this house for an entire month. Brittany’s mom Cindy and step dad Mike were both heavily into drugs and alcohol.
That night, Cindy had been arrested for an outstanding warrant and Brittany’s younger sister, Brianna was also arrested for drug possession.
Everyone in the house was high. Mike was high and also very drunk. He was very upset about the circumstance and had been screaming at us.
I was very frightened, because Mike had a history of abusing me and the other girls in the house.
I remember one particular night was the scariest moment I experienced there. It was in eighth grade before I officially moved in with the family. I was spending the night at their house.
It was late evening and Mike got mad over something. Cindy came and tried to calm him down and he hit her. Her body hit the floor hard.
He then decided to go and pick up the TV and throw it across the room. Brittany was trying to tell him to stop and he pushed her against the wall. His hands wrapped around her throat.
I pried one of his hands off of her and then he tried to come after me. I was mentally preparing to take a punch. Right before he got to me, Cindy got in the way taking another hit in my place.
Brittany and I somehow broke free from the fight and scampered up the stairs to call the police.
Brittany said I could go home if I wanted. But I chose to stay because I knew she needed me. We were like sisters at that age. I could not imagine abandoning my best friend.
So, I stayed and never told my parents about that night. Because I knew they would not let me go over there again.
The Negative Effects of Abuse
According to the United States Drug Testing Laboratories, children living in an environment of substance abuse were approximately 2.7 and 4.2 more likely to experience abuse and neglect.
Not only does the presence of drug abuse increase the chance of child abuse, but it also goes the other way around.
A study done by the U.S. National Center for Biotechnology Information found that 84% of patients treated for drug or alcohol addiction reported a history of child abuse or neglect.
Children that are neglected in their own homes grow up to face battles with addictions of their own, continuing a vicious cycle of suffering.
The Past That Lingers
As for Katarina, she finds herself continuing the battle of recovery.
When Jerry and Katarina got married, the first year of their marriage especially was clouded with adversity.
Katarina suffered from crippling, panic attacks, where her muscles would begin to contract and Jerry would have to carry her down the stairs to the car and take her to the hospital.
Many of their newly wed nights were spent in the Emergency Room. At one point Katarina was in and out of the hospital 12 times over the course of 16 days.
Jerry suffered as well as he worked two jobs and spent his nights caring for Katarina.
With the pressure of living so nearby their toxic families, they eventually moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma where they started their new lives.
They left everything behind them- along with the dwelling of a hellish past they never wanted to revisit.
They currently attend Foundations Church where they have found healing and many new supportive friendships.
“For what we’ve been through, I don’t think there’s about anything could take us down… Nobody believed in us. Everybody told us that we were going to get divorced and that we were worthless, that we would never make it… But God had a plan and we just trusted in him,” Jerry remarks.