Kids' step up to protect peers from heinous crime
“My name is ‘Dreamer,’ and I am a child sexual abuse survivor. I don’t announce that as something to be proud of or to brag about but because I hope in doing so that someone afraid of talking about it will know they are not alone and come forward for help.”
Those powerful words by a 14-year-old local girl opened the first official meeting of Kids Protecting Kids, held July 15 in the Stewart County High School Annex Auditorium.
She and her 12-year-old-sister, “Sunshine,” also a survivor, hope that the organization will grow and bring awareness of the problem of child sexual abuse as well as bring together victims, law enforcement and child advocacy and protection agencies to give victims back their childhood – and their future.
The hour-and-a-half-long meeting also included moving testimonies by two adult survivors, several presentations by representatives of area organizations that aid victims of child sexual abuse and a talk by some members of Bikers Against Child Abuse, who showed up in force to help kick off the physical presence of the organization.
Organizers also looked at candidates for positions on the KPK advisory committee and the board of directors.
They will hold their next meeting at 4 p.m. Monday, Aug. 10, in the Annex Auditorium, 110 Natcor Drive, Dover, and they encourage anyone in the community who would like to learn more about the subject to attend.
Kids Protecting Kids is the positive result of a heinous crime.
Dreamer’s grandfather began taking sexual liberties with her when she was 7 years old, and for the next six years, the abuse continued. She said that she was afraid to tell anyone due to threats concerning herself and her family. She viewed any adult as a potential predator and was afraid to trust anyone.
Later, she told her mother that she always felt alone, even in a crowded room.
On Father’s Day 2008, her older brother found something she had written in a journal, and concerned, he carried it to his parents.
They questioned her in private, and after initial hesitation, her defenses began to crumble. Her parents were horrified to find that the perpetrator was her grandfather.
Dreamer’s mother is a nurse, and she immediately contacted law enforcement, their doctor, called the Rape Center hotline and arranged for a forensic examination through the Child Advocacy Center.
They subsequently found out that during the final year or so of Dreamer’s abuse, Sunshine was also abused by her grandfather.
Through the next weeks and months, the family endured some tough times as they saw to the physical and emotional needs of the entire family.
Dreamer turned an emotional corner during a medical exam conducted by a female doctor specializing in child sexual abuse. The doctor asked her if there was anything she was afraid of, and she replied that there was.
She had said that she had wanted to give herself some day to her husband as a virgin.
The doctor told her that she still could; a woman’s virginity is something that she gives away, and Dreamer had not given it away – it was taken from her.
This gave the youngster a new perspective; it changed her self-image.
She began to think beyond herself, to other victims.
“It’s got to stop,” she told her mother in the fall.
As 2009 dawned, Dreamer and Sunshine approached their mother with a proposal to start an organization to connect kids with available resources to help them if they are sexually abused, and to make people aware that it is such a problem.
They created on online presence through cafemom.com, a forum for mothers that mom participated in.
Dreamer and Sunshine created the logo, a child offering comfort to another child.
In the meantime, the family became acquainted with Bikers Against Child Abuse, or BACA.
BACA members nationwide “adopt” child abuse victims into the BACA family, coming to their homes and forming bonds with the children.
According to their mission statement, the group exists “as a body of bikers to empower children not to feel afraid of the word in which they live.”
They work in conjunction with local law enforcement.
“We desire to send a clear message to all involved with the abused child that this child is part of our organization and that we are prepared to lend physical and emotional support to them by affiliation and our physical presence,” the mission statement says.
In extreme cases, BACA members will accompany their “wounded friends” to court so they will feel less intimidated and thereby give accurate testimony.
The 200 or so BACA members who rode to visit the girls made a big impression and continue to be a source of comfort for the whole family. The girls were allowed to pick their own “road” names, and Dreamer chose hers because she had so long dreamed for a better day, which is now dawning. Sunshine chose hers because she felt that she had been in the dark, and now she wants to shine for herself and others.
With a great deal of courage, Dreamer began to speak about her experience to her friends. By the end of the school year, the girls’ mom said that she was told that six other girls had come forward at school to seek help for being abused.
“I didn’t know there were people out there to help us,” Dreamer told her mother. “I want other kids to know this.”
Kids Protecting Kids got off the ground this summer, and their plans are ambitious.
Among other things, they would like to conduct an awareness walk similar to Relay For Life as well as to offer some free, fun and safe events for all children that will contain some educational components.
KPK would also like to put together two resource books, one for children and one for adults. Both would contain a listing of agencies that can provide a range of assistance to children and families who are victims of sexual abuse.
They hope to bring training sessions to Stewart County for all adults so they can learn what signs to look for and how to respond if abuse is suspected or known. Mom said that statistics show that Stewart County has one of the highest rates of incest and child sexual abuse in the state.
Communication skills will also be stressed.
“You don’t know what they are not telling you,” Dreamer’s mother said. “We always had an open relationship with our kids. We never thought they wouldn’t come to us with something like this.”
The girls would like to address other school children as well, and their mom will sit down soon with school system officials to discuss the matter.
“Kids trust me – they’ll listen to me,” said Dreamer.
“None of us can do it on our own,” Dreamer’s mom said. “Each organization that we deal with brings something different. The girls want to put those resources in the hands of other kids.”
She said that they do not want money to be an obstacle to any family seeking help, and so fundraising will be ongoing to cover the cost of outreach, administration and events.
Their first fundraiser will be a car wash Saturday, Aug. 22, from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. at the Krystal’s restaurant on Wilma Rudolph Blvd. in Clarksville.
“It’s been a long year but there is a light at the end of the tunnel,” Dreamer’s mom said.
Many challenges still remain for the girls and their family.
Since the abuser was her father, many family members have disowned her for turning him in.
According to information from the Stewart County Circuit Court, the grandfather pled guilty and was sentenced to 15 years in prison. . This further angered some extended family members.
As close as mom had been to her father previously, there was no doubt in her mind and no hesitation when she found out what had happened to her girls at her father’s hand. Still, the familial repudiation hurts.
Both of Dreamer and Sunshine’s parents are working through the guilt that they still feel for not realizing what was going on.
“If you had told me 18 months ago that there were kids in Stewart County being sexually abused, I would have said, ‘I’m sure there are.’ If you had told me that two of them were mine, I would have said you were crazy. We just had no idea,” she said.
And the girls are still piecing together their childhood with the help of therapists, friends, family and BACA. It’s a long road, but there is hope.
Now that the girls’ mom has been shocked into reality, she is also galvanized into action.
In a written statement, she said, “As a mom of four children and as a resident of Stewart County, I am appalled and shocked at the way too many children here have to live. I am amazed at the abuse children here suffer through daily that is allowed and unstopped. … Doing nothing at all is as bad as committing the crime, Sometimes you are the only voice a child has. Please step up to the plate and use your voice. Abuse is not a disease we can find a cure for; we cannot stop it with a dollar amount. Only education, advocacy, and awareness are going to stop it. Let’s start today and give back children who are being abused their childhood and innocence and stop it from happening to others.”
For more information on Kids Protecting Kids, visit http://kidsprotectingkids.weebly.c... They can be contacted through firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on Bikers Against Child Abuse, call (615)715-5039 or visit www.BACAUSA.com. They can be reached by email at email@example.com.
The Stewart Houston Times does not name victims of sex crimes.
Posted on 08/08/09, 08:08 am