Nine-year-old Angelica lost her mother suddenly, and she, her brother, and her father struggled to go on with their lives after this tragedy. Yet Angelica was suffering another tragedy – being sexually assaulted by her father’s best friend for months. She was too afraid to tell anyone, but finally, she couldn’t take the abuse anymore. She told her teachers, and her teachers reported what she’d said. With their report, Angelica and her father came to one of Safe Horizon's Child Advocacy Centers.
At first, Angelica didn’t want to talk about what happened. When she did, she revealed to us that her mother had died. Her father told us that his best friend had offered to babysit Angelica and her brother so he could return to work. But instead of the best friend caring for the children, he hurt Angelica. Angelica told us that her abuser had threatened her, telling her that if she told anyone about the terrible things he’d done that her father would be arrested and she and her brother would be taken away.
Her father was devastated when he heard how his best friend had taken advantage of their tragic situation to hurt and terrorize Angelica. He’d trusted him to help his family … but the friend abused both his daughter, and his trust. Angelica and her father were equally hurt by this horrific revelation - and they both desperately needed help to get through the trauma it had created as well as deal with the loss of Angelica's mother. They needed expert support and they needed services. And that’s where our Child Advocacy Centers come in.
First, we assured Angelica that she’d done the right thing by telling her teachers. She’d been so scared of losing her father and of being taken away that she’d held on to this awful secret for months. By letting her know how brave she was and that we were there to help her, we were able to get Angelica to talk more about what happened and how she felt. Angelica’s father, meanwhile, was angry – but he also felt guilty. Our counselors helped him understand that the abuse was not his fault, and offered him a chance to learn more about how he could support Angelica.
As we worked with Angelica and her father, our police partners went searching for Angelica’s abuser. They caught him just as he was planning to escape. He’d found out that Angelica had finally reported what he’d done and he decided to flee. The detectives brought him back to our center, where they interviewed him and at last arrested him.
Today, Angelica’s abuser is on trial for the sexual abuse. With the tremendous help of our counselors and partners, Angelica is no longer afraid to tell her father when something’s wrong and her father tells us that they’ve become much closer. They’re able to deal with their grief over losing Angelica’s mother. Most important, Angelica knows that her father supports her. This New Year, Angelica and her father got back their ability to talk with each other and to feel supported, thanks to our supporters who help children like Angelica get another chance to find happiness, safety, and a new start after abuse.
* Client names and identifying information have been changed to protect their privacy. Images used are representations of Safe Horizon’s clients.