Every Student Succeeding: Jatia Raymond
When Jatia was just 6 years old, her father died of a brain tumor. She moved in with her aunt to what she thought was a safer environment but she became a victim of human trafficking. After years of abuse, Jatia struggled to trust men. But that all changed when she met Covina Valley USD Fairvalley High principal Dana Craig. It was Craig’s open-door policy and gentle demeanor that allowed Jatia to open up about her tumultuous childhood. As she began to heal, Jatia turned to writing and poetry to sift through her experiences. Her resilience, bright smile and deep empathy are only some of the strengths she shows when reading her poems. Her future is bright but no matter what comes, Jatia is a survivor.
Oct. 10, 2017
Human trafficking survivor turns to principal, poetry for strength
“I’m trying to tell you what I see in myself when I look in the mirror. But all I see is a silhouette because the figure’s not clear. But I’m confused. I don’t know what to say. I don’t know who to be. I don’t know what to do. All I know is what it feels like to be half-dead and abused.”
The words she writes are filled with sorrow, sting, and survival. The poem is titled “An Image of Me”. It’s something Jatia Raymond while sitting in juvenile hall. She says the poetry is her way of working through years of pain and abuse. It is her form of therapy.
“I enjoy writing poetry,” Jatia said. “And my poetry, when I write how I feel, you know how I feel. That’s how I cope with it.”
Her mother was a drug addict. Her father was a man who not afraid to use physical violence.
“My dad, he was an abusive type of man to everybody,” Jatia said. “To all his girlfriends. He popped my left eye out because one day I was sleeping in the bed with him. And I used to wet the bed. And I wet the bed when I was in bed with him. And I woke up. He was beating me with a belt buckle in my eye. And it was nasty. It was green and black and bleeding in my eye. I couldn’t see.”
When Jatia was just 6 years old, her father died of a brain tumor. She moved in with her aunt to what she thought was a safer environment. But Jatia quickly learned otherwise as she became a victim of human trafficking.
“My auntie let people sexually abuse me,” Jatia said. “She told me that if I had sex with a man, well, men, that she could bring my dad back from the dead. And I believed it. So I started doing it but when it happened and it hurt. And I was crying for her name and stuff all the time. She would just be standing in the doorway fixing her pants or something. And she don’t care. She’s so heartless.”
After years of abuse, Jatia struggled to trust men, though that should come as no surprise. But that all changed when she met Fairvalley High principal Dana Craig.
“I just see Mr. Craig as a father figure to be honest,” Jatia said. “Father Falcon. I used to call him that. Mr. Craig gave me a reason to want to come to school. And sit down at that desk. And make sure I learn everything I need to know.”
It was Craig’s open-door policy and gentle demeanor that allowed Jatia to open up about her tumultuous childhood.
“It kind of seems like more credit than credit is due,” Craig said. “I couldn’t be any more proud of her in what she’s been able to overcome. That’s a very humbling compliment to get. It’s as good as it can get between a principal and a student. That’s for sure.”
When asked where she would be without Dana Craig in her life, Jatia gave a pessimistic and blunt answer.
“I’d probably be still in jail,” Jatia said. “Still in group homes. Placement. Doing whatever I want. And not going to school. Crying somewhere. Blaming somebody else for what I’m doing. But he’s here now so none of that is happening.”
She’s seen too much for a girl her age. But Jatia Raymond is determined to not give up. She’s come too far in her journey to stop now as evidenced by the closing lines in her poem.
“I might have been through this struggle.
But I’m a survivor as well.
So when you ask me who I see in the mirror looking back at me,
I’m gonna say a girl who survived hell.”