Tara and Nilsa, Saving Their Futures (Child Advocacy Centers)
When dealing with a child who has suffered unimaginable abuse, sometimes the simplest things can offer the greatest joy. And seeing two little girls, Tara and Nilsa,* smile again was the best reward we could give their mothers.
Tara was seven and Nilsa only nine when an uncle they loved and looked up to sexually abused them. They were afraid to tell anyone, until Nilsa realized that her younger brother had witnessed one of the assaults. The girls bravely told their mothers. When their mothers heard their stories, they immediately took them to the hospital emergency room, where doctors examined the girls. The doctors reported the abuse, and with that report, Tara, Nilsa, and their moms came to one of our Child Advocacy Centers.
Our centers offer children an inviting place where they should feel comfortable and safe. Yet when Tara and Nilsa came in, it was obvious just how deeply the abuse had affected them. They held each other’s hands tightly and didn’t look at the toys. They didn’t look at us. They wouldn’t smile. It took very gentle, patient, and expert guidance from our staff to get the girls to finally talk – and to reveal terrible things about their uncle that no child should ever have to recount.
Once they told their stories, it was all we and our partners needed to take the critical action that would help them. As our police partners went out looking for Tara and Nilsa’s uncle, we talked with their mothers to learn more.
Tragically, we learned that Tara and Nilsa’s mothers had gone through the same thing when they were children. Their father had sexually abused them and their brother – the girls’ uncle – and also witnessed that abuse. They were shocked that he would hurt his nieces the way he watched his father hurt them. They were confused, and they were extremely angry. What would be different for their daughters, however, was having a Child Advocacy Center to get them through the trauma they suffered.
We worked with the girls and with their mothers to help address what happened, and to learn how they could deal with both the abuse and with the trauma the abuse created, through special counseling sessions that taught Tara and Nilsa’s mothers how they could support their daughters as they recovered. Meanwhile, the police found the girls’ uncle and brought him in for questioning. Faced with the girls’ accounts, he confessed, and the police arrested him.
It was after just a few counseling sessions when we knew they were working – because Tara and Nilsa were smiling. To see the girls today is to see two friends laughing and playing. Yet we didn’t just help Tara and Nilsa: Their mothers thanked us, because we’d helped them recognize that they were still traumatized by their own experiences with sexual abuse, and they, too, had learned through the sessions how they could deal with that trauma. What they wished, they told us, was that there’d been a Child Advocacy Center around for them when they needed one.
Tara and Nilsa’s uncle was indicted for his crimes and now awaits trial. Their mothers are grateful to have their joyful little daughters back, and that their girls have the chance to not only survive sexual abuse, but to overcome trauma and to regain their safety. And I’m grateful that because of our caring, committed supporters, there is a Child Advocacy Center for children like Tara and Nilsa and for their families, giving them the hope, help, and healing they deserve.