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Living in the shadows

The truth comes out — there was more than one child abused

Editor’s note: This is the second segment in a series on sexual abuse. The names in this four-part series have been changed to protect the identity of the family involved.

Jane and John Smith learned their pre-teen daughter, Susie, had been sexually abused by her grandfather.

Jane said she’d ask Susie questions but soon learned her daughter didn’t like discussing it.

“She hated to talk about it, and if she confirmed one of my suspicions about a particular incident, I crumbled emotionally all over again,” Jane said. “I tried not to let her see how painful it was, but she knew and often wouldn’t tell me the full truth to protect me.”

While the news of Grandpa sexually abusing their daughter was devastating, the horrible nightmare was repeated eight months later. The Smiths’ youngest daughter, Annie, had a dream that triggered memories of her own abuse by Grandpa.

“I don’t know how to put it into words what it felt like when the hope we had held onto that she had been spared was obliterated,” Jane said. “No, no, NOOO! Not our precious little one. We thought she was safe. How could one ever conceive he would hurt our profoundly innocent youngest child?”

Jane said Annie’s abuse was more difficult to accept. With Susie’s confession, in spite of the horrible circumstances, there was some joy in having her set free from this secret. Susie became much more fun-loving, enjoyable to be around and much less serious.

But with Annie came episodes of terror. Even though Grandpa lived in a different state, if Annie thought she saw him, she would come running to her parents’ side, begging them to keep her safe. There would be similar anxiety issues if they drove by the courthouse or the jail, and the mere mention of the word “Grandpa” caused her to beg for protection.

While the list of what happened to the Smith family is long and involved, Jane’s chronological list of events is as follows:

1. Collected additional facts from Susie to validate her words as to what Grandpa had done to her.

2. Called a counselor and got an appointment for the next day.

3. The legal system then took over, and the family did whatever they were told to do. The Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) came knocking on their door. There were courthouse interviews for both girls, and counseling arranged for the entire family. A medical exam for Susie followed.

4. Visits with the detective assigned to the case.

5. A lot of waiting for all the facts to be assembled before confronting the abuser or contacting any extended family.

6. The DCFS case worker confronts the abuser. Jane said he was caught so off guard that he confessed. Jane called the confession “a blessing,” and the fears of being ostracized by the family vanished.

7. Grandpa was in court three and one-half months later.

8. Several court appearance in Bureau County and in another state. Bureau County State’s Attorney Patrick Herrmann handled the case locally.

“He (Herrmann) kept us well-advised of all the proceedings and considered our concerns and desires his priority,” Jane said. “We were also assigned a victim’s advocate, Heather Cain. She would accompany us to court hearings to give emotional support and professional guidance regarding what our options were ... They were both very thoughtful, caring and supportive. We never felt rushed through anything. They gave us their full attention when we were with them as if they didn’t have anything else on their agenda for the rest of the day.”

9. Grandpa was sentenced to six years in prison in another state.

Grandpa was incarcerated, but the story clearly doesn’t end there, especially for the Smiths.

The third segment in this series will appear in Thursday’s BCR and focuses on the aftermath of emotions and feelings that ensued.

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