comments_image Comments

The Shocking and Inspiring Story of a Teen Who Survived Unimaginable Violence, Rape and Prison Cruelty

Teri Hancock illustrates her perseverance after years of assault both inside and outside of prison.

Photo Credit: sakhorn/

The following is an excerpt from  Inside this Place, Not of It edited by Ayelet Waldman and Robin Levi. Published by Voice of Witness Books. In their own words, the thirteen narrators in this book recount their lives leading up to incarceration and their experiences inside—ranging from forced sterilization and shackling during childbirth, to physical and sexual abuse by prison staff. Together, their testimonies illustrate the harrowing struggles for survival that women in prison must endure.
In the excerpt below, Teri Hancock recounts the horrific tragedy that landed her in prison and her struggle to survive there. 

*    *    *

I Always Remember Horses

I always remember horses. My mom had a thing with them; she was a fanatic. That’s what we used to do all the time together, horseback riding on our farm in Michigan. We had seventeen horses on our farm, and I’d go out to the field and jump up on this old Appaloosa with a sway in his back. I’d pull myself up and put my feet up on his neck. He was old, he would just walk around and eat, and I would lay up there for hours. At that point, life was kind of good. It got worse as I got older, though.

My mom divorced my father when she was pregnant with me, and when I was a few months old she married another man. I never called him Dad, but he was like a father to me and my older brother. I’d say my childhood was good, until I was about eight or nine years old. My mom divorced her second husband then, and started dating this other man, Steve. That’s when everything went bad.

Steve was a full-blooded Blackfoot Indian, born and raised on the reservation. He was also a drug dealer, and once my mom got with him, she got into drugs. Her thoughts of me and my brother changed. I think she was more interested in the fast life and the money, and drinking and doing drugs, than the two of us kids.

My mom and Steve were going on vacations all the time—Hawaii, California, Detroit—and just leaving me by myself with all the responsibilities of the farm and the house. I couldn’t go to school because I had to stay home and make sure the animals were taken care of. My mom would leave us by ourselves for weeks. I was eight or nine and she’d leave me and my brother up on the farm with the seventeen horses. I had responsibilities to take care of them, and I would miss weeks of school because there was no one to drive me.

When my brother was fifteen, my mom ended up giving him away because he stole some money from her bedroom drawer. He was just a kid, you know what I’m saying? He probably just thought, Oh wow, lots of money! Let me grab some! My mom was so mad she gave up her rights to him. My brother moved to my grandparents’ house, which was in Florida, and then my uncle Mark took him to Texas with him, and I guess that’s where he lives now.

I guess I got to a point where I was comfortably numb and I didn’t care what people thought, what they said to me, what they did. I closed myself off. My mom was gone so much, and I did what I wanted, so when she tried to put authority down and tell me do this, do this, do this, I would rebel and do what I wanted to do. I thought, I’m taking care of myself anyway. You’re not doing anything. Don’t get me wrong, I love my mother, but she decided to do the things that she was doing, and I did a lot of bad things myself.