LUBBOCK, TX - A life of neglect and abuse: a life no child should have to endure. Unfortunately, David Hamilton, now 19, had to navigate a difficult childhood exposed to parents involved in gangs, drugs and abuse.
"Growing up, I think I got used to getting beat, not eating. Just in and out of trouble at school and home," said Hamilton, an advocate for Sondra's Song, a local organization that helps kids transition out of foster care.
Hamilton said he and his siblings were hit daily, typically sneaking out to friend's houses to avoid being beaten.
"We would get hit with hangers, extension cords, sticks, belts, just anything and everything really," he said.
At just 7 years old, Hamilton entered Child Protective Services. He moved to new homes and cities, eventually separating from his siblings who he took care of growing up.
"They were a lot smaller than I was," Hamilton said. "It's just an instinct to take care of their problems no matter what I was going through."
A life of neglect caused Hamilton to get into trouble, he said, because he had no role model or resources to make ends meet.
"I kind of blew through a lot of placements behavior-wise," he said. "Just a lot of things I didn't agree with. I already had that mentality growing up that I'll do what I want, can't anyone tell me anything. It's kind of like being in a home. They had rules, and I'm not used to certain rules."
After recurring trips in juvenile detention and a "near-death experience" in the system, Hamilton chose to change his life at 13 years old.
"I ended up for a week straight in and out of comas, seeing a lot of things, and then you try to tell them and get help and they make fun of you like you are seeing things and stuff," he said. "I went through that, and that kind of opened my eyes."
Hamilton is now living in a transition home through Sondra's Song, studying to become a veterinarian. He admitted it wasn't an easy path.
"I say my motivation is — everything I didn't have, all the people that never really cared about me — I promised I would do better than them," said Hamilton.
Sandi Turner, director of Sondra's Song, hopes the community comes together to prevent child abuse and neglect, saying "they need foster parents and people to take in these babies whether it's a temporary time," and "child abuse awareness is a call to action."
"If child abuse can be stopped at an early age, our program wouldn't be necessary. It shouldn't have to be a program," she said.
During Child Abuse Awareness month, Go Blue Lubbock will host events around town bringing awareness to the issue of child abuse and neglect. Their aim is to "educate our community about how to prevent the problem," according to their website.
For information on these events, visit their website.