November 18, 2011

Fact Finder: Life after Child Sex Abuse

11-18-2011 Alabama:

Columbiana, AL (WVTM) --- Every week, a new detail, a new accusation, a new revelation about former Assistant Penn State Coach Jerry Sandusky, who’s accused of molesting young boys.

It's a story that continues to captivate the nation, if it happened, why? And what happens or will happen to the boys involved.

Fact: 15% of sexual assault and rape victims in the US are under age 12, 29% are age 12 to 17.

Abuse Survivor, Lisa Dickey said, "I went to eat lunch somewhere and it was on the TV there and everything, so I really couldn't get away from it."

It's stories like what's happening in what's known as Happy Valley at Penn State, that enrage Lisa Dickey. Between the ages of 8 and 11, the Springville mother of three was sexually molested. The abuser, she said, was a police officer and family friend in her hometown back in Texas.

Dickey said, "His wife babysat us and his threats were that if I told anybody that he would have my mom and dad put in prison, have somebody there kill him. So I went through it for years and years."

Dickey never told anyone as a child and only told her husband before they got married. Ten years ago she broke down and told her parents and then she came face to face with her alleged abuser two years ago.

Dickey said, "I decided to go to a new church, here locally, that my son wanted to go visit and I went, and there he sat, he was the first person to come up to me, introduce himself, shake my hand, I just ran outside and started throwing up."

That accidental confrontation forced Dickey to deal with the abuse and get the help she desperately needed.

Dickey said, "So I knew I had to get help, because I was being ugly to my family. I was, trying to go with it. They didn't know what was going on the kids didn't know what was going on, it was very, very difficult."

Fact: Sexually abused children may develop the following: Sleep problems or nightmares, delinquency or conduct problems, secretiveness and/or suicidal behavior.

Due to the statue of limitations in Texas, Dickey couldn't prosecute her alleged abuser. But a Shelby County, Alabama family did.

Parent of survivors, “Amanda” said, "It was a family friend, someone that was there when both of them were born, basically was more like a family member than a family friend."

Amanda’s two sons were abused by the same person. We’re shading her face to protect her family’s identity.

The family came here to this Child Advocacy Center, called Owen's House in Columbiana, to answer law enforcement questions.

Fact: There are 29 child advocacy centers in Alabama, 900 in the US.

When it's time to interview a child about suspected abuse, they're brought to a room like this here at Owen's House. In this room specifically is video equipment for recording. That way, by recording the interview, the child only has to tell his or her story one time.

Shelby O'Connor is a Shelby County Sheriff's Investigator. She's also a forensic interviewer, a person certified to interview children of sex crimes. Playrooms, toys and anatomically correct dolls are used to help children tell what happened to them.

Sheriff Investigator, Shelby O’Connor said, "There's a lot of weight behind a four year old who can do things a four year old shouldn't know anything about and it's on video."

O'Connor considers it a victory when there's a successful prosecution of an abuser.

For Amanda and her family, when the abuser was sentenced to 25 years to life, it was the end of a long and traumatic journey.

“Amanda” said, "We will forever have to deal with what happened. It will never go away. It will always be there, but you heal from it. It's a gradual process."

And even the events in Pennsylvania have allowed Amanda's boys, now teens, who were 9 and 10 when they were molested, to reflect on their own trauma.

“Amanda” said, "We watched the news and my youngest one did mention a few days ago, ‘I know exactly what that's like, I know exactly what that feels like’."

“Amanda's” children used Owen's House not only to tell law enforcement their stories, but for therapy as well.

Executive Director Cindy Greer, said therapy is vital in the healing process.

Owen’s House Executive Director, Cindy Greer said, "Some centers like ours also offer support groups for children, and it just helps them to understand they're not the only one, they're not to blame, look here's four other kids that this happened to."

Fact: In the last year, Shelby County investigated 932 reports regarding child abuse or neglect involving more than 2000 children.

Children's Advocacy Centers in Alabama conducted a total of 64-hundred forensic interviews of children who were either abused or witnessed violent crimes.

When children come forward and tell on their alledged abuser, they're considered heroes here at CAC’s.

Fact: Some possible signs that a child is being sexually abused include: "not wanting to visit someone", "not wanting to hug a person", "depression" like not eating, and "not taking care of themselves," trying to make themselves look less attractive.

Greer said, "But that again, there's no tell tale if you see this with a child, it's been abused and that's why it's important to have those conversations with children. Let's have a plan, in case you ever feel uncomfortable, like we did 20 years ago with stranger danger."

A plan for stranger danger, and a plan that encourages children to tell on alleged sex abusers, that's why Lisa Dickey is telling her story today. And even though she didn't tell as a child, she did eventually tell, get help, and today she can say there is life after sex abuse.

Dickey said, "I want everybody who can see it and hear it to see it and hear it. And I want the children to understand that, all it takes is to say no, one time and to go tell someone."

The National Children's Advocacy Center is based in Huntsville. Since 1985, the Center has trained 54 thousand child abuse professionals from all 50 states and 20 countrys. ..Source.. by Linda White

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