Read our victims’ stories.*
Child sexual abuse is horrific, but the outcome is not hopeless.
Breaking the silence—unlocking the secret . . .
Erin was 12 years old when a close family friend molested her.
She knew that what he did was wrong, but she was afraid to tell for many reasons: Why would someone believe a child over an adult? How could she find the words to describe the embarrassing and shameful things he did to her? What would happen to him? Her mom liked him, so he must be okay . . . right?
The sexual predator and her mother shortly ended their relationship, and Erin was relieved that she didn’t have to be around her molester any more. Like many child victims, she believed that she could put this horror behind her and keep the secret. Despite her decision to maintain silence, telltale signs surfaced. She struggled with depression, had difficulty trusting men, and fought with her mother constantly. When Erin was 15, a school counselor noticed that Erin had been cutting herself. Knowing that self-injury is frequently a means of expressing emotional pain that can’t be put into words, the counselor talked with Erin about her cutting symptom. Erin decided she was ready to tell and revealed her molestation to the school counselor who—as a mandated reporter—immediately contacted law enforcement.
The officer assigned to Erin’s case referred her to the Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC), where Erin was able to tell her story to a trained, neutral interviewer in a child-friendly environment. Erin was aware that a prosecutor and the officer were watching her interview, but she knew this meant she wouldn’t have to retell her painful story yet again to them. After the interview, Erin and her mother were able to meet with the prosecutor to talk about what they would like to see happen. The CAC Family Advocate also talked with them about counseling at the CAC and directed them to other community resources as well.
Although the process wasn’t over for Erin or her mother, they left the CAC feeling like they had support as they moved through the criminal justice system and began the process of healing. Erin met with her counselor at the CAC for a year, often talking about her feelings regarding her abuse and her concerns about testifying against her molester in court. Other times, they simply talked—about school, boyfriends, and her difficult relationship with her mother. Through counseling, Erin learned that while she could never forget what had been done to her, she could heal and move on with her life.
When trust is broken . . .
Samuel, a six-year-old first grader, came to the Children’s Advocacy Center after his brother reported that a neighbor who lived in their apartment complex had been sexually abusing both brothers for years.
Often, Samuel’s mother would lock Samuel and his brother in their bedroom while she went to work. Other times, she would ask an elderly neighbor, Mike (a registered sex offender), to babysit. At first, Samuel did not report any history of sexual abuse; he was referred to counseling because of his brother’s disclosure that both boys had been abused.
Samuel met with a therapist who began building rapport by engaging the young boy in age appropriate play therapy techniques. During their fourth session, the therapist read Samuel a “Trauma Narrative,” a child sexual abuse story written by an anonymous victim. Immediately after hearing the story, Samuel revealed that Mike had sexually abused both he and his brother. Confused by the abuse, he stated, “But Mike was my best friend.” Through counseling, Samuel was able to process the abuse and establish healthy coping skills.
Eventually, Samuel was placed in foster care and later in an adoptive home. Through counseling, a consistent home environment with loving adoptive parents, and months of healing, Samuel was able to recognize that his abuse was something that happened to him, not something that defines him.
Children rarely lie about sexual abuse . . .
Ten-year-old Sara was forensically interviewed at the Children’s Advocacy Center, disclosing an act of sexual abuse perpetrated by her stepfather.
Due to her mother’s disbelief and inability to remove the perpetrator from her life, Sara was placed in foster care.
Sara was referred to therapy to help cope with her sexual abuse history as well as her transition to foster care. Through her time in therapy, Sara would ask hard questions. “Why doesn’t my mom believe me?” was an recurring concern. She would also make statements showing her confusion, “If I wouldn’t have told, I could still be home with my mom and baby brother.” Sara’s therapist helped her explore her fears and confusion. Through months of Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (focusing on thought replacement, coping skills and understanding triggers), Sara was able to say and believe the statement, “What happened was not my fault.”
While Sara attended therapy at the CAC, Sara’s mother participated in her own personal healing journey by attending counseling, parenting classes and submitting to frequent drug screens. Eventually, Sara’s mother was able to grasp the reality that her daughter was telling the truth, and she removed her husband from her home.
Sara’s mother was able to prove to the court system that she was ready for her daughter to return home. After her return, Sara and her mother attended multiple family meetings at the CAC. During these sessions, Sara focused on personal healing as well as her reunification with her family. Sara and her mother created a safety plan for home and were compliant to follow the rules.
Sara and her mother attended a therapy graduation party for Sara. Sara stated, “I am thankful for foster care and counseling. I feel safe at home again.”
Justice is served . . .
Kiera, a five-year-old girl, was interviewed at the CAC and disclosed that she was sexually abused by her nineteen-year-old male uncle who had been the family’s babysitter for years.
Kiera had tried telling her mother about the abuse, but she was unable to disclose the abuse until she broke down crying when her uncle was scheduled to babysit again. Kiera’s mother took her to a doctor who—as a mandated reporter—reported to the police.
After her forensic interview, Kiera and her family received therapy at the CAC to help each member process the abuse. They worked with a therapist who specializes in sexual abuse treatment and who helped facilitate an on-going working relationship with partnered agencies. The family eventually testified at the criminal trial. Because of Kiera’s bravery her abuser will be in prison for a minimum of nineteen years.
When a child’s behavior changes, ask why . . .
Seven-year-old Ashley was having accidents at home and at school almost daily.
When confronted, she would throw tantrums. Her mother reported that she and Ashley would fight like Ashley was a teenager; where was her little girl? At her interview at the CAC, Ashley revealed that she had been keeping her abuse a secret for months because she had broken a rule when the incident occurred: she had gone upstairs at her grandparent’s house without permission. When Ashley finally told her mother what had happened, her mother reported to the police.
After Ashley’s interview, she attended therapy at the CAC. As a result, she was able to process what happened, build self-confidence, and learn skills to help her cope with fear and anxiety. When Ashley graduated from therapy, her mother conveyed that Ashley was no longer having accidents or tantrums; she got her little girl back.
* All names have been changed to protect confidentiality.