long post

Fallout 4 Tours: Abernathy Farm

So! Accepting that the past month has been… A BIT OF A ROUGH ONE for Fallout fans, I’m still gonna show off my Fallout 4 settlements! You can’t get me down just yet, Bethesda.

Right! Literally a few seconds away from Red Rocket is Abernathy Farm. I consider Sanctuary-RR-Abernathy to essentially form one big settlement in-game, and Abernathy is kinda on the outskirts, the last checkpoint before the wasteland gets a little tougher.

The before and after pics.

Here’s what Abernathy looks like as you approach it from Red Rocket…

And here’s Red Rocket as seen from Abernathy.

Let’s have a look around!


Fallout 4 Tours: Red Rocket

If you walk down the road from Sanctuary Hills, you come to Red Rocket! As with all my Fallout settlements, it looks very different to how it looked at the start of the game:

So these folks at Red Rocket have it pretty good, although not quite as good as the people across the bridge at Sanctuary Hills. RR is a little more run-down and dilapidated-looking. But for people who’ve just wandered through the ruins of Concord and reached it, it’s the most beautiful-looking place in the world…


Fallout 4 Tours: Sanctuary Hills

For the last three years or so I’ve been rebuilding settlements in Fallout 4!

…Yes, really. Honest to god, it is a major stress reliever for me. I fricking love transforming piles of rundown shacks into cool-looking settlements and replacing dead trees with living ones. Suppose if you can’t do it in the real world you’ve gotta do it digitally right?

So here’s what Sanctuary looks like at the beginning of the game (taken from the Fallout wiki:)

And here’s what mine looks like now!


I suppose my Fallout lands have their own lore. I’m thinking, the Sole Survivor returned home to Sanctuary Hills with Shaun and she overhauled the place, made it better, made it greener. And outside of Sanctuary, little patches of trees and plants slowly started springing up here and there as the world repaired itself a little, and those are Settlements now, places where people can go and live their lives and build ridiculous buildings.

And oh man, I used a lot of mods! You can find a whole list of them at the end of this post.








This James Gunn tweet (from here) has me thinking. Is the sort of abusive behaviour we see from Yondu’s Ravagers common across the whole culture or just from that particular exiled faction?

(ALSO: All other discussion. Have at it.)

This was typed up in response to a post that has since been deleted, which I fully respect, as there was much personal stuff in there. But since I already typed all this up, and kind of like how it sounds…ehh, may as well still send it out into the void. :P


Firstly, immense sympathy for what you’ve been through. That was tough to read, and makes me want to cry. I have no words. I’m very sorry. :(

In lighter, fictional-related discussion, I totally get what you’re saying. Sometimes fans (myself included, at times) over-deify Yondu. It’s common when a character we’re meant to like dies (hell, it’s common in real life when someone dies, even if they weren’t a saint). And Yondu was no saint. Not at all. He made a lot of fucking mistakes (it’s called redemption arc for a reason, after all).

But I’d disagree on a few points, the first being that he isn’t a “hero.” Maybe this is just semantics over the word. You’re right that he’s not a hero in the traditional sense, in the same way the Guardians are. Hell, in Volume 1 he’s a downright antagonist. But I would say he is a “hero” in by definition he’s done a lot of heroic things he didn’t have to, for someone innocent that he loved. We know in canon that he’s saved Peter at least twice (once in not delivering him to Ego, and last saving him from Ego’s planet explosion resulting in him freezing to death). And it’s implied that he protected/saved him numerous times throughout his upbringing. No matter how tough Peter was, he probably would’ve been killed 100 times over without Yondu keeping an eye on him.

Yondu was wrong to put a kid in so many dangerous situations at all. He was wrong to teach him to steal and be a criminal. He was wrong to threaten to eat him to keep him in line (even as an unclear joke). He was wrong to force him to work for the Ravagers into adulthood. He was wrong to beat him up as a teaching method, and wrong to ever let any other Ravagers physically hurt him. And he was definitely fucking wrong to sick the arrow on him in Volume 1, even if we know he never would have gone through with killing him.

However, and maybe this is my soft, fluffy brain wanting to headcanon him as better than what other fans, or even the movies, are trying to communicate, but I can’t see him as…regularly, extremely abusive. Yes, he beat the shit out of Peter when teaching him how to defend himself, not the best method. And I’m SURE he hit, spanked, smacked him around whenever he got annoying/disobedient. But I don’t imagine it was anywhere on the same level as severe child abusers, or even what the other Ravagers put him through when Yondu wasn’t around, or wrongfully didn’t intervene. Yes, Ravagers are extremely violent and abusive, but even James Gunn here said “Ravagers” and not “Yondu.” Yes, Yondu IS a Ravager, but he’s not a normal Ravager. He is different. He is weird. He’s smarter (i.e. the comedic bit about the crew being unable to figure out math). He collects cute trinkets. He’s a leader, and therefore can make his own rules. He was extremely patient and soft with Groot despite the child being dumb and taking forever to get what they needed. He risked being exiled by his comfortable Ravager family to take on a job delivering children, and did take on the responsibility of raising one of them when he learned he wouldn’t be safe anywhere else. He is in some ways a hero, and is in some ways not your “typical Ravager.”

So yes, he probably WAS more violent than is in any way acceptable, and maybe enough to be classified as “abusive.” But in my opinion, outside of “training sessions,” and times when Peter was being EXCEPTIONALLY bratty, before he was a pre-teen, I cannot picture Yondu giving him weekly beatings just for looking at him funny. I don’t see him as THAT level of sick and cruel. I know he changed a lot over the films, but even back then, he kept Peter because he loved him, and probably showed a lot of restraint against his natural temper in order to spare the boy. I don’t think Peter could have loved and missed Yondu as much as he does if it was the opposite (it’s not like he never knew any different, being previously raised by his mother and grandfather).

I’ll also slightly disagree with the comment that Peter had NO idea Yondu cared until he died. No, I think he had some idea, some suspicion. He had NO idea Yondu thought of him as a son, NO idea the reason he kept him was to protect him from Ego, and NO certainty that he cared. But I think he always suspected “he might care about me a little” when thinking back on happier memories and subtle things Yondu was trying to hide. Peter just didn’t let himself think about it for too long because, “Nah, I’m probably wrong. Of course he hates me. What am I thinking?” But that teeny bit of doubt, that MAYBE he cared a little was probably always there. It just sadly wasn’t confirmed until he died. It’s all so tragic and complicated.

Wow, this got long. Anyway, I agree with your overall points that 1) Peter was abused by the Ravagers, and Yondu should have done more to stop that, 2) Yondu made a shit ton of other really awful parenting decisions that are often forgotten/overlooked by fans, 3) Peter didn’t realize the extent of Yondu’s love until later, and that is largely because of the crappy way Yondu showed it.

But I think Yondu is different from most Ravagers, that there were a LOT of good times, and that he probably was not as physically abusive as…well, the personal stories you shared above. (And he definitely wasn’t fucking Thanos, but no one’s saying that.)


Okay, so for anyone in the great void of Tumblr who might be interested, it was my post. I kind of went off on a tangent and shared a lot of stuff about my childhood abuse and then promptly had a panic attack or three and deleted it. I kinda wish I hadn’t, because there was good stuff in there that maybe I could have used in a better way, but whatever. I had a shit childhood in so very many ways and thus have a complicated abused-kid-kinship with Peter and thus a similarly complicated relationship with Yondu. I tend to come at this from the child perspective and there’s probably a lot of projection going on. I mostly remember the Feels of when I was a kid, and a lot of those Feels were sad and lonely and confused.

So. Long story short, I am in agreement with pretty much everything you’ve said, including that Peter probably did suspect he cared about him a bit, but not that he loved him as a son. My rambling focused a lot on physical and emotional abuse and not a lot on the complicated feelings that come from smacks and slaps being interspersed with special shopping trips and treats and movie nights and laughing our asses off while playing cards at the kitchen table.

I think that’s pretty much the word to sum up Yondu: complicated. He had an incredibly shitty childhood, and tried to give Peter a slightly less shitty childhood but slightly less is still shitty in a lot of ways. He had good intentions but bad execution due to lack of experience, the life he led, the society he had to exist in. Peter’s relationship with Yondu is equally complicated by all those things compounded with the fact that he was a sensitive kid with a perfectly good family waiting to take care of him on Earth and instead was kidnapped by weird ass aliens who threatened to eat him and pounded on him until he could fight back. Instead of love and affection and nurturing, he got indifference and abuse. And probably a bit of affection in there given in its own weird way, and plenty of happy times between the bad.

But my issue is that fandom seems to like to ignore the beatings (and lack of stopping beatings), and the lonely, sad, scared little kid who needed a hug and comfort and never got it, because Yondu was a hero at the end.

I think that’s pretty much the word to sum up Yondu: complicated. He had an incredibly shitty childhood, and tried to give Peter a slightly less shitty childhood but slightly less is still shitty in a lot of ways. He had good intentions but bad execution due to lack of experience, the life he led, the society he had to exist in. Peter’s relationship with Yondu is equally complicated by all those things compounded with the fact that he was a sensitive kid with a perfectly good family waiting to take care of him on Earth and instead was kidnapped by weird ass aliens who threatened to eat him and pounded on him until he could fight back. Instead of love and affection and nurturing, he got indifference and abuse. And probably a bit of affection in there given in its own weird way, and plenty of happy times between the bad.

1,000% spot on. In full agreement with you here. I think a lot of my response was was “ehhh, doesn’t entirely sit right with me” in some of your phrasing, but that’s not at all important. I got the fact that we were generally on the same page, and even if we weren’t, differences of opinions are kewl!

But my issue is that fandom seems to like to ignore the beatings (and lack of stopping beatings), and the lonely, sad, scared little kid who needed a hug and comfort and never got it, because Yondu was a hero at the end.

That’s totally fair. It’s fun to just think about the…well, fun stuff in these silly comedy movies, but when it comes to serious analysis, we should acknowledge there were a lot of mistakes and horrible times in our main character’s childhood. Peter had to grow up fast, and even if that was mostly because of the harsher Ravagers, Yondu didn’t always help things. His being a hero at the end is extremely touching and I think redeems him beautifully, but doesn’t change the past or how fucking complicated this all is.

I do like to headcanon that, because he is so grateful for the sacrifice and so furious with Ego, Peter does probably view a lot of his memories with Yondu as rose-colored, in a similar way as he would view a lot of them too negatively before. It may be impossible for him to ever get that unbiased, balanced perspective we the fans can interpret.

You know… I don’t necessarily see Yondu as a hero hero, because of all the above and more. (I think he would probably refute the label too, had he lived to hear it.) But –

– ah sod it, I’ll drop my favourite Marvel quote of all time in here. From Ms Marvel, “Good is not a thing you are, it’s a thing you do.” S’such a good line to illustrate an redemption arc.

happy international women’s day! here are some of my favourite fictional women (it turned out to be a long list)

My Mom Took Me Overseas and Forced Me Into Being a Teen Bride






I was 6 years old when my two older sisters went to Palestine to “visit family.” At least that’s what my mom told me.

I was born in Chicago, like my sisters, but our parents are Palestinian, born in Jerusalem. I was four-months-old when our father died — he worked at a gas station and was shot during a robbery. After that, the four of us moved into the basement apartment of my mom’s mother’s house, where my sisters and I shared a room.

I worshipped my oldest sister growing up. She was rebellious and loved pop music and makeup, which my grandmother and mother couldn’t stand. We were raised Muslim, and while my mom didn’t make us wear hijabs — headscarves — to school, we did when we went to mosque on the high holidays. Every other day, we wore long-sleeve shirts and pants or knee-length skirts.

I don’t have too many memories of my sisters, but I do remember how much my oldest sister loved Usher. She was 13 and she’d sing along to his music on the radio in our room. She bought a poster of him, shirtless, and pinned it to the wall next to our bed.

He didn’t last long. My grandmother saw the poster one day and ripped it off the wall. She was screaming at my sister, and my sister yelled right back — she was feisty! But it didn’t matter; Usher was gone. And a year later, so were my sisters.

My mom said they were “going on a trip” to Palestine, but even as a 6-year-old, I’d heard rumors about a diary entry. Something about my sister kissing a boy behind a tree, or writing that she wanted to. I remember large suitcases and both of my sisters weeping as we said goodbye. I cried too, but I was more mad at them for leaving me. Who would I listen to the radio with late at night?

Still, I assumed they were coming back. So when my mother told me that they wanted to stay in Palestine, I got really upset. I missed them so much.

The only time I got to see my friends was at school.

In 8th grade, our class took a field trip to tour the high school. No one wore uniforms, like we did in middle school! I could even wear my skinny jeans there. Yep, as strict as my mom was, she did buy me skinny jeans that were super popular then. I remember being in the store and pointing them out and being stunned when she nodded yes, then paid for three pairs at the register. They were the only things I owned that made me feel like a normal kid.

But right before middle school graduation, I came home from school one afternoon to find my mother and grandmother rummaging through my closet.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

My mother was holding a garbage bag and my grandmother had scissors. They were cutting my skinny jeans into pieces and throwing them away.

I was so confused — she’d bought them for me! When I asked my mom why, she said, “They’re inappropriate and revealing. You’re too old to dress like this now!”

I was furious. All I had left were one pair of baggy jeans, which I hated. For the first time in middle school, I was relieved to have a uniform.

As soon as I graduated 8th grade, I started pestering my mom about enrolling me in high school. Every time I asked if she’d done it, she’d say, “Not yet.” In July, she said, “I’m signing you up for an all girls’ school.” But there was a wait list, so then it was going to be online school. I even did my own research and had pamphlets sent to the house, but nothing happened.

By September, all of my friends had started school but me. I woke up every day at 10am and watched TV, cleaned the house, and helped make dinner. I was beyond bored. Meanwhile my mom loved having me around. She didn’t work, and always said that it was important for me to learn how to be a good housewife. I cringed every time she said that — that was the last thing I wanted to be.

In fact, I really wanted a job, even if it was just working at my step-dad’s gas station. Anything to get out of the house. I even asked my step-dad if I could get a workers’ permit, which you can get at 15 in Chicago, and he said, “Sure!” But just like with high school, nothing ever happened. It was another empty promise.

My laptop was my refuge.

Facebook was the only way for me to stay in touch with my friends. I made up a random name that my parents could never guess and chatted with friends throughout the day. If my mom walked into the room, I’d switch the screen to a video game. She had no idea. Earlier that year, when I told friends why I wasn’t in school, more than one told me, “That’s illegal!” I kind of knew I had the legal right to be in school, but wasn’t sure who to tell. My parents didn’t care — it’s what they wanted!

A year passed, and the following summer, I was chatting on Facebook with a guy I knew from middle school.

When he wrote, “Want to go to Chipotle this Friday?” my heart skipped a beat.

I was super excited and typed back, “Sure.”

I told my parents that I was going to see my 24-year-old cousin. She was the only person I was ever allowed to visit. She’s also incredibly cool and promised to cover for me. I met her at her house, and then she dropped me off at the mall and told me to have a great time.

I did! He was cute, and super nice. I told him that my parents were strict and didn’t even know where I was. He was like, “No worries!”

It was the most fun I’d had in over a year. At the end of our date, I told him that I’d be in touch over Facebook, and floated home.

The next night, I was in the living room watching TV when the doorbell rang. My mom answered, and I heard his voice ask, “Is Yasmine home?”

I froze.

My mother started screaming, “Who are you and why are you at this house?”

He said, “I’m Yasmine’s boyfriend.”

I could see him standing in front of my mom, her back to me, and was trying to wave to him, like, “Go away! This is a terrible idea!”

She threatened to call the police, slammed the door, and then screamed at me: “Go to your room. You’re grounded!”

The next day, my mom went grocery shopping without me and locked the glass storm door from the outside, which meant I was trapped. For the next two weeks, I was literally kept under lock and key when she left.

And then one day, my mother said, “Pack your bags. We’re going to Palestine to visit your sisters.”

I’d only been there once when I was 10; I don’t even remember seeing my sisters then — all I remember is that it was dusty and dry. No green at all. I hated it. Plus, I speak only very basic Arabic, which is what they speak there.

I was dreading the trip. Saying goodbye to my little sister was painful — she was 8 by then. She was the only other person who knew, besides my cousin, about my date. I fought back tears and promised I’d be back soon.

My mom said we’d be gone for a month, but I didn’t trust her. On the way to the airport, I asked to see my return ticket. I wanted proof that it existed. She was indignant as she showed me the ticket, but it made me feel better.

My mother and grandmother and I landed in Tel Aviv, which was as hot and dusty as I remembered. I felt claustrophobic in the cab, which we took to Ramallah, the Palestinian capital. My grandmother has a house there, and both of my sisters lived nearby.

I was so angry about being there that I wasn’t even excited to see my sisters. I couldn’t believe that they’d left me all those years before. Now, they were both married with kids. But by the end of that first evening, I relaxed with them. I even told them what happened with my Chipotle date, and they started teasing me, like, “You’re such an idiot! With a white guy? Really?”

They thought that if he’d been Muslim, I wouldn’t have gotten into so much trouble. I wasn’t so sure, but it still felt good to laugh with them about it.

About two weeks into our stay, my sisters sat me down and started doing my hair and makeup. I was never allowed to wear makeup at home, so I thought it was cool. When I asked why, they said they wanted me to meet a friend of theirs.

Their friend was in his twenties but still lived with his mom, which my sister called “a problem.” I didn’t understand what she meant by that.

He arrived with his mom and uncle and started speaking to me in Arabic. I barely understood anything except for his asking me how old I was.

I said, “I’m 15. I just finished 8th grade.”

He looked perplexed. So was I.

After he left, I asked my sisters what the meeting was about. They explained that the way to meet suitors is through families. When a family thinks a girl is ready to be married — usually she’s part of that decision — they pass word along to other families that they’re looking for a husband. The couple then meets through the parents, and if it is a good match, an arrangement is made.

A week passed, and once again my sisters sat me down and started putting makeup on me. They said that another guy was coming to meet me. When I asked, “Who?”

They said, “Don’t worry about it. Just have fun.”

The doorbell rang and in walked a guy with his parents. I’m 5’8" and he was 5’4", nine years older, and missing half of his front left tooth. Everyone seemed very eager. I was repulsed.

I sat stone-faced the entire time they were there. As soon as he and his family left, my mom and grandmother said that they thought I should marry him. They said, “He has a job and a house.” That’s all it took.

I was furious. By then, I realized that they’d brought me to Palestine to get married and planned to leave me there. Instead of berating them, I immediately started thinking of ways to return home on my own. I had watched SVU. I knew this was totally illegal. I just needed to figure out a way to reach a detective in Illinois who could help me escape.

I also knew then that I couldn’t trust my sisters — anytime I complained to them, they’d just say, “It’s not so bad! You’ll learn to love him!”

He and I met two more times that week and each time, I hoped he’d figure out that I was being coerced. But then, during that third visit, all the men went into one room while the women stayed in another.

My sister, mother, and grandmother were chatting with his mother and sisters when I heard the men read the engagement passage from the Koran, which announces a marriage.

Startled, I said to my sisters, “What are they doing?”

My oldest sister said, “They’re reading the passage.”

I shouted, “No!” and fought back tears.

My worst nightmare was becoming a terrifying reality. I ran into the bathroom, curled into a ball, and dissolved into tears. How could my family do this to me? I thought about running away, but how? My mother had my passport. I had no money. I was stuck. I started thinking about different ways to die. Anything was better than this.

After his family left, I could no longer contain my rage at my mother. “How could you do this to me? I am your daughter!” I shouted. Tears were streaming down my face. I could see my mom was upset, too — she was crying, shaking her head. I think she felt bad about it, but she also felt like it was the best option. I felt so betrayed.

And just then, my grandmother marched into the room and slapped me. “Don’t disrespect your mother!” she said, before turning to my mother and saying, “See? She needs this. How else will she learn to be respectful?’

That’s when I learned that my grandmother had set the whole thing up. She’d met this man’s family at a mall the same week I met him! His parents owned a restaurant and spotted us shopping. They approached her to see if I was an eligible bride for their son. She told them yes, but that I had to be married before she flew back to the States. He had no other prospects, so they were excited I was one.

I never liked my grandmother, but I didn’t hate her until that moment.

The wedding was planned for September 30th, a week and a half away. I was still desperately trying to figure a way out of it. I told my mom, “I’ll find a way to leave.” She replied, “Either you marry him or someone way older who won’t be as nice.”

My sisters said the same. “You’re lucky.” As much as I dreaded what was happening, they made the alternative sound even worse.

A few days before the wedding, my oldest sister finally revealed that she was also married against her will. “I was kicking and screaming the whole way,” she told me. “But I learned to love him. You will too.”

I don’t remember the ceremony — everything is such a blur — but I do remember pulling away when he tried to kiss my cheek and my mother hissing, “Kiss his cheek!” I refused.

At the end of the wedding party, both of my sisters were so excited about my first night with him. They even said, “Text us afterwards!”

I hated them.

The first night was awful. The only thing I’m thankful for is that my husband was not a violent or aggressive man. It could have been so much worse. I get terrible migraine headaches brought on by stress, and I used them to my advantage in the weeks that followed.

He took that first week off of work and we spent most of it with his family. I did the best I could to tolerate being around him and his family while I tried to figure a way out of this mess. To do that, I needed to get on the internet.

When he went back to his job as a mechanic, he’d be gone by 9am. I’d get up, have breakfast and go to his mom’s house to help her clean and make dinner. She had a computer, so one day, I asked if I could use it to talk to my mother and she agreed. Instead, I logged onto Facebook and messaged a friend from 3rd grade and told her where I was and what had happened.

She wrote back immediately, “That’s illegal!”

Once again, I knew that, but I didn’t know what to do.

I had another friend I met through Facebook who lived in Texas. He was Muslim. I told him what happened, and he wrote, ‘You need to call the embassy!’ He even sent the number.

My heart was pounding as I wrote it in a piece of paper and shoved it into my pocket.

On October 14th, I was in our apartment in the afternoon when I finally worked up the nerve to call. I used the Nokia flip phone my husband gave me to talk to him and my sisters.

An American-sounding man answered the phone and I blurted, “I’m a U.S. citizen. My parents brought me here against my will to marry a man. I want to go home.”

After a moment of silence, he said, “Wow, this is a first. Hold for a moment.” He connected me to a man named Mohammed, who asked me for my parents’ names and address in the states.

I gave him all the proof I could think of that I was a US citizen. I didn’t know my social security number and didn’t have my passport. He said that was okay, but he needed proof that I was actually married. He asked for the marriage certificate. I had no idea where it was. Then he asked me for my husband’s last name, and I realized, I had no idea what that was either.

Mohammed told me he’d be in touch once he verified all my information. He called me several times over the next two months. During that time, I learned my husband’s last name, which was legally mine as well.

As I waited for news, I got lots of migraines.

On December 3rd, Mohammed called with the number for a taxi service and the address of a hotel. He told me to be there the next morning at 11am.

The next morning, I waited for my husband to leave and shoved all of my belongings — including the traditional wedding gold my husband’s family gave me — into my suitcase and called the number. That’s when I realized that I didn’t even know my address. I told the driver the name of the closest big store and then stayed on the phone with him, telling him when to turn right or left. He still couldn’t find me, so I ran down to the main street to flag him down praying no one would see me.

I held my breath for the entire 30-minute ride to the hotel. There, in the parking lot, I spotted a blond woman sitting with a guy in a black van.

“Are you with the US embassy?” I asked.

They said yes, and then she patted me down, explaining it was for security purposes, to make sure I was not strapped with any bombs.

I said, “Do whatever you need to do!” I didn’t care — I was so close to freedom.

When they put me in the back seat, I pulled off my headscarf and fought back happy tears: There, with these two strangers, I felt safe for the first time in forever.

We went to the US Embassy in Jerusalem where I spent the day filling out paperwork in order to enter into the foster care system back in the States. I had no idea what that meant other than from this one cartoon show called Foster Home for Imaginary Friends, but agreeing to enter foster care wasn’t hard — at least it was a new start.

That night, a diplomat accompanied me to the airport with two bodyguards, and I was placed on a plane to Philadelphia.

On my next flight, I flew from Philadelphia to Chicago O’Hare and sat next to a 20-something guy on his way to his friend’s bachelor party who asked me how old I was.

I said, “15.”

He said, “You’re too young to be on a plane by yourself!”

If he only knew.

At O’Hare, I had twenty minutes to kill before I was supposed to meet two state officials in the food court, so I went to a computer terminal and logged onto Facebook. I had two accounts at the time: one for friends and one for family. I wanted to see what my family was saying.

A three-page letter from my second oldest sister was the first thing I read. She said she never wanted to see me again, that she hated me, and that if anyone asked her how many sisters she had, she’d say two instead of three. I was devastated.

Then I read a group chat between my two sisters, my mom, and my mom’s sister.

It started, “Yasmine ran away.” “What? Where?” And then someone wrote, “She’s ruining our reputation!” Not one of them wondered if I was okay.

My aunt asked if I had taken my gold. When my sister said yes, my aunt replied, “She could have gotten kidnapped or robbed!”

That was the only mention of concern for my wellbeing.

As painful as it was to read those words, it made me realize that I had made the right choice.

The people I then met in the airport food court introduced me to a woman from Illinois’ Child Protective Services, who took me under her wing. It was 11am, 24 hours after I ran for my life into the streets of Ramallah to escape my forced marriage.

I first moved in with a woman who fostered several kids, and stayed there for six months. It wasn’t ideal — she was very religious and made us go to her Baptist church with her on Saturday and Sunday. But it was still better than what I’d left. This was confirmed when I had to face my mother in court to establish that I should remain a ward of the state, which is what they call kids whose parents aren’t fit to take care of them.

The first court date was two weeks after I arrived. When I saw my mom, I froze. She was sitting in the waiting room and refused to acknowledge me. She didn’t make eye contact; it was as if I didn’t exist. I felt an awful mix of hurt and rage.

A few months later, I had to testify in a courtroom. My mom was there with her lawyer. He showed photos from my wedding and said, “You look happy! And your mom said that you wanted to be married.”

I had to explain to a room full of strangers that I was faking that smile to survive and that my mom knew the entire time that I didn’t want to marry that man. On the stand, I said, “My mom is lying.” That was so painful to have to say — I wept in front of everyone. All the feelings I’d kept inside just poured out.

After that hearing, I officially became a ward of the state of Illinois.

By then, I’d already started ninth grade. I didn’t like my foster mom much. I stopped going to church on the weekends, but she wouldn’t let me or my foster brother stay in the house alone so we were locked out until she got home every weekend and weekdays too. It was hard in the Chicago winter, but the agency didn’t think I was in immediate danger, so I stayed put. Teens are hard to place.

By January 2014, at 16-years-old, I’d been in and out of three foster homes. My strategy was just to survive foster care until I was 18, when I would finally be on my own. So when a couple called Carrie and Marvin came to meet me one weekend, I didn’t hold out any hope.

Carrie and Marvin had two biological teenagers, both with developmental delays. They understood kids and were super warm, but it still took me a while to open up. I really wanted to make it to 18 living with them, but I never dreamed what actually happened next.

When I hit my one-year anniversary with them, they asked me if I wanted to be adopted. I was shocked! I figured I’d leave at 18 and just be on my own — I never thought there was an alternative. But they told me that they wanted me around forever. I cannot tell you how good that felt — to be wanted, by an actual family. I said yes.

No more waking up at 6am to someone saying, “Pack your bags — you’re out!” For the first time in my life, I could put things up in my room and it was okay. It was the first time since being in that van with the people from the embassy that I felt safe.

I saw my mother one last time in court, at the final termination of parental rights. Carrie had asked her for childhood photos of me, and amazingly, my mom handed them to me there.

It was a cold exchange. She was expressionless. At first, I was insulted. It all seemed so easy, her giving me up. But it was really nice to get the photos. She didn’t have to do that.

Now Carrie has them around the house. It makes me feel like I’m really part of her family, like I’m her kid.

I finally reconnected on Facebook with my sister a few months ago, the one who’d said she hated me. She admitted that she wished she’d had the nerve to do what I had done. Now I understand why she was so upset: I got away. She didn’t.

I just graduated from high school — the first in my biological family to do so! In September, I’m going to Illinois State University and just learned that I won a full scholarship, which means my tuition will be waived for the next five years. I plan to study mass communications, and may want to do something with computers, considering they are literally what saved me.

Regardless of what I end up doing for a living, the thing that makes me the most excited is that I get to choose — what I want to wear, who I want to date, or even marry, and ultimately, who I want to be.



This is such an incredible story and hits home for so many reasons. I can’t stop crying..

Since this is starting to get quite a few notes, I’m going to signal boost some information on the subject and some organizations that do a lot of good work in this area. 

Forced and child marriages are not limited to any single race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, or place of residence. The US is no exception: while forced marriages aren’t something you think of as happening in the States, there were at least 3,000 forced and underage marriages that took place in the United States between 2009 and 2011. A national survey found that forced marriage occurs among families of a variety of religious backgrounds, including individuals from Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jewish, and other faith traditions, so again, there is no singular group of people being affected by this practice. While the majority of forced marriages involve girls who are minors and older teenagers, there are a lot of women in their early and mid-20s that become victims as well; men are also victims, though in smaller numbers. One of the (many) complicating factors in the US is the presence of ‘parental consent’ marriage laws, which allow 15, 16, and 17-year-olds to get married with a parent’s consent; the problem being, of course, that the parents consent to the marriage but the child does not.

If you are facing the prospect of a forced marriage, suspect your family is trying to take you overseas to get married against your will, are in the process of being forcibly married off, are currently in a forced marriage, or have a friend who is in any of the aforementioned situations, here are some resources you can utilize:

  • Tahirih Justice Center’s Forced Marriage Initiative: Email fmi@tahirih.org with your story or call 571-282-6161 and ask for Casey or Dina; they run the Forced Marriage Initiative at Tahirih and are both professional caseworkers whose job completely revolves around helping people leave forced/underage marriages and preventing them from happening in the first place. 
    • The mission of the Forced Marriage Initiative is to end forced marriage in the United States, and this is taking place in several forms: Casey and Dina’s main objective, of course, is to directly assist victims and potential victims. However, they also run a very active education, advocacy, and legal campaign. Jeanne, who also works closely with them, does a lot of public policy work on the subject and is currently working on getting the minimum age of marriage raised to 18 in every state, while Archana does a lot on the policy and legal side of things to try and minimize the numbers of forced marriages happening in the United States.
  • Unchained At Last: a New Jersey-based non-profit that fights against forced and child marriage in the US. Founder and CEO Fraidy Reiss is a forced marriage survivor, and has dedicated her life to helping other people (mostly women and girls) escape forced and child marriage situations. You can fill out their form or call 908-481-HOPE.
  • The AHA Foundation: The Foundation deals with issues relating to female genital mutilation, honor violence, and forced marriages, though they focus on advocacy and victims in Muslim communities. Here is their Get Help page and their amazing resource directory, organized by type of service and state.
  • Manavi: an organization founded specifically to help South Asian women escape domestic violence, sexual violence, and forced marriages. Here’s their Get Help page and the number of their 24-hour hotline:1-732-435-1414.
  • Girls Not Brides: A global partnership of over 900 civil organizations from 95 countries committed to ending child marriage. While the partnership itself is only a policy organization, they have a lot of good resources for finding assistance if you are a victim or prospective victim of forced/underage marriage.
  • The US Department of State has an entire page about the topic
  • If you are a US citizen or resident abroad, contact your local US embassy for assistance and they will help as much as they are able

Some articles discussing the problem in greater depth:

If you want to get involved in tackling this problem, each one of the organizations I listed above have amazing ‘Get Involved’ pages that detail several ways to help end child and forced marriage. You can also get involved by contacting local organizations focused on helping human trafficking victims (whose clients sometimes overlap with forced marriage victims), contacting your state representatives to help get marriage laws changed, and raising awareness and educating people about the issue. You might have heard about the recent drama in Kentucky where conservatives were trying to keep a law that would bar marriage for anyone under 17 and require judicial approval for 17-year-olds to get married from going through because “parental rights.” Speak up: call representatives and get involved! You can also get involved by volunteering or interning for one of the organizations: Tahirih in particular has a great internship program that I highly recommend for anyone interested.

My Mom Took Me Overseas and Forced Me Into Being a Teen Bride