After pointing gun at son, Jenny begins to mend relationships
By Katherine Lymn
Forum News Service
Editors Note: This is the life of Jenny Gaines. Lured into sex trafficking at age 14, she spent 28 years in a life of prostitution. Throughout the past six months, Forum News Service has spent time getting to know Jenny. This is her story.
Jenny Gaines’ mother remembers a child who organized neighborhood activities, got involved in acrobatics and theater and did homework with “Little House on the Prairie” on TV in the background.
Things changed as “little Jenny” grew into her teens. She argued more, started making bad choices and her years quickly became filled with stays in various treatment programs.
Jenny longed for her father, who was the fun one, and she was angry at her mother, who made the rules. A “daddy’s girl,” she blamed her mom for her parents’ divorce, not knowing about her dad’s addiction issues.
“All of a sudden, there she was; it’s like a person I didn’t really know, like this hardcore, makeup, angry,” Diana Arrell, Jenny’s mother, said. “I mean, she was such a delightful child. I didn’t really understand who it was I was seeing.”
Jenny’s years-long transformation out of the dark life she had fallen into accelerated six years ago when she pointed a gun at her then-12-year-old son.
After doing something degrading a john had requested, something she normally wouldn’t do, so she could afford the cellphone her son wanted, Jenny found her son had programmed her number in the phone under a derogatory name.
“And the rage came over me like, ‘How could you call me a bitch? You have no idea what I just did for this money to get this [expletive] phone and you’re going to call me something that one of these dudes used to call me? You, my son, my ride-or-die baby, really?’ ”
She got a gun, pointed it at him and told him to leave.
“I was never going to shoot him,” she says now of that cold Friday night. “I only wanted to scare him, but it was wrong. He was so afraid, because he’s seen me do some pretty violent stuff and he didn’t know if I was going to do it or not.”
He packed his bags and left. She wouldn’t talk to her son for a year.
Jenny’s family told her over and over to let it go, to accept that her son was gone. She moved to an apartment in Minneapolis’ Uptown neighborhood, a place that reminded her of New York.
And she tried to let it go, the hurt and emptiness.
She did all the drugs she wanted and turned all the tricks she wanted. She found herself in violent relationship after violent relationship.
And then one day, she realized she wasn’t “there” anymore. She was all used up.
She was evicted from her apartment and fell into a deep depression. Getting dressed took three hours, she said.
With the next call that came, she made a friend who helped her without sexually exploiting her, and she began mending relationships with her children, including the son who left after she pointed a gun at him.
It was the start of what would come to be known in Jenny’s circle as “the second part.”
Arrell, her mother, says she heard a voice one day when she was doing laundry and walked by her daughter, then just a baby.
Her daughter was going to cause her a lot of pain, the voice said, but there would be a second part to the mother-daughter relationship. The pain would only last a little while, she recalls the voice telling her, and then Jenny would go on to help a lot of people.
Arrell, who lives in Minneapolis now, never lost faith in what she calls the prophecy.
After her Jenny started wearing heavy makeup, having angry fits and becoming violent, Arrell would dream about the daughter who was. “Dream Jenny,” with her stringy hair, her little goggles, her yellow nightgown, would visit from the Land of the Dead, Arrell said.
And through the rocky stays in treatment, the suicide attempts, the arrests -- Arrell would think about the promise of the second part of the prophecy, and she would become impatient.
“I thought it was just gonna be a short time. What’s with this years and years and years and years?”
In those difficult moments, Jenny would ask herself, “Is this really the end of this?” Was her personal struggle coming to an end?
“No,” she told herself. “My testimony isn’t strong enough yet. No, ’cause I’m gonna help people one day. It’s just not powerful enough.”
Jenny’s son was close to his grandmother, who had told him about the vision. He would turn to her and ask, “Well, do you think we’re in the second part of the prophecy?”
It was in those moments, Jenny and her mother say now, that the “second part” finally arrived.