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Sandra and Dave's Story
The children in the neighborhood called him “Mr. Theo.” He was the guy all the families knew who helped his neighbors when not working around his own home. When he lost his job, he offered to take the neighbors’ children to school when he dropped his own children off.
Then, Mr. Theo and his family moved away. That’s when two of the children, *Sandra and *Dave, found the courage to tell their parents what had happened during those rides to school.
It was late that night but Sandra and Dave’s parents immediately took them to their local precinct. There, they reported that Mr. Theo had sexually abused the children. The officers who took the report then referred Sandra, Dave, and their parents to one of Safe Horizon’s Child Advocacy Centers (CACs).
Sandra and Dave Find Help at the CAC
The officers at the precinct referred the family to our center because abused children can find the specialized care they need during times of crisis. At our centers, children and their families walk into an inviting, child-friendly space where we welcome them, and where they can find help from a team of trained professionals all in one location. Law enforcement agents, representatives from the district attorney’s office and child protective services, and Safe Horizon’s own clinical staff all work together to respond to children who urgently need support when abuse happens.
We were ready that night when Sandra and Dave came in, and in spite of the late hour we were ready to listen as they repeated what they’d told the police about Mr. Theo. As they talked, they revealed that Mr. Theo had not only hurt them, but had hurt some of their friends as well.
Our police detective partners immediately contacted the families of the other children that Sandra and Dave mentioned and asked them to come to the CAC to talk about what happened. That night, the other children arrived with their parents and confirmed that Mr. Theo had hurt them, too.
Our medical partners examined the children to make sure they were okay. While the doctors worked with the children, the detectives left to search for Mr. Theo.
It was four in the morning when detectives returned with Mr. Theo. The detectives confronted him with the children’s stories. Faced with the revelation of his crimes, Mr. Theo confessed to abusing seven of his neighbors’ children, as well as his own stepchildren.
Providing Continuous Care for Child Victims of Abuse
In the weeks following Mr. Theo’s confession, our clinical and counseling staff met with the children while the district attorney’s office prepared its case against Mr. Theo. We needed to help Sandra, Dave, the other children, and their parents find the critical services they needed if they were to overcome the effects from the abuse. At Safe Horizon, we offer children a range of support from finding basic items such as clothing to providing mental health treatment so children and their families can recover from trauma.
When Mr. Theo’s case went to trial, the children were asked to describe the abuse they endured for the court. They requested to return to CAC because it was the only place they felt safe and comfortable enough to talk about the abuse. The attorneys interviewed them at the CAC and taped the interviews. Mr. Theo’s confession, the children’s statements and the strong evidence that the detectives and doctors collected at our CAC helped the district attorney’s office win the case against Mr. Theo.
Thanks to the team of caring, committed staff at our Child Advocacy Center and brave children like Sandra and Dave, who found the courage to help end the silence of abuse, Mr. Theo is currently serving a 25-year prison sentence for his crimes.
If you suspect that a child you know may be a victim of abuse, please report this to the New York State Central Register of Child Abuse & Maltreatment: 800.342.3720.
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* Client names and identifying information have been changed to protect their privacy. Images used are representations of Safe Horizon’s clients.