CHARLESTON - A Charleston woman who says she was institutionalized from ages 6 to 18 is suing the Department of Health and Human Resources of the State of West Virginia for not providing her a normal upbringing.

Shanika Christian of Charleston writes in a lawsuit she filed herself March 23 in Kanawha Circuit Court that she feels like she is "a fish that once sat on top of someone's countertop that was looked at and admired by its owners but has been dumped into the saltwater sea to fend for itself."

Christian said she was forced to take medication from doctors who cared for her during her institutional raising, even though she didn't want to.

"The more I try to talk about it and actually say how I feel, the amount of drugs given to me would increase," she says. "I feel that doctors have a big problem when they are not getting their way. I wasn't ever able to say anything the entire time I was growing up because that was always considered aggressive behavior."

Christian adds that she has been in and out of school for her GED for four years and is struggling to pay rent despite the $600 per month she receives in supplemental security income.

"I feel that I have been abandoned by the State of West Virginia because I am capable of knowing how the system works and that the family I once had has since turned me away due to my age," she says.

"Taking a child from poverty to raise them in an environment with great expectations and keeping them secluded from all aspects of society for 11 straight years then dump them right back into poverty… this is suicidal danger."

Christians is suing for 12 years of pain and suffering as well as help for future schooling, bills and living expenses. She would like her supplemental security income increased by $500 per month.

Judge Jennifer Bailey Walker has been assigned the case. Christian is representing herself.

"Manipulating the mind," she says, "to get what you want out of a situation is, in my opinion, not just reverse psychology, but just a sick way to treat children."

Kanawha Circuit Court case number 06-C-543

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