Everyday thousands of children are being sexually abused. You can stop the abuse of at least one child by simply praying. You can possibly stop the abuse of thousands of children by forwarding the link in First Time Visitor? by email, Twitter or Facebook to every Christian you know. Save a child or lots of children!!!! Do Something, please!

3:15 PM prayer in brief:
Pray for God to stop 1 child from being molested today.
Pray for God to stop 1 child molestation happening now.
Pray for God to rescue 1 child from sexual slavery.
Pray for God to save 1 girl from genital circumcision.
Pray for God to stop 1 girl from becoming a child-bride.
If you have the faith pray for 100 children rather than one.
Give Thanks. There is more to this prayer here

Please note: All my writings and comments appear in bold italics in this colour

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Her Father Avoided Trial in a Plea Deal; She Says Sexual Trauma is Still Painful

A sexual assault survivor shares her story
Chris Mueller, USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin 

Keaira Damon-Stine hopes her story can help others heal

STEVENS POINT, Wisconson - She ran herself a bath. He walked by the bathroom door and disappeared into the basement.

He returned with a video camera and began recording her. She was 11. He was 37.

She later filed a police report about what happened. The "i" in her name, Keaira, was dotted with a heart at the top of the form.

“The whole thing freaked me out,” she wrote. “I told him that I was uncomfortable, especially with all of the closeups to my private areas.”

Keaira also reported another incident, which happened when her stepmother was away at the grocery store. Her father called her to the basement and told her she needed to change her behavior. He threatened to send her away to her biological mother or foster care.

Then, she wrote, he forced her to perform oral sex on him. When it was over, she ran upstairs and brushed her teeth. But, according to Keaira's police statement, he had one more thing to say before she did.

“He told me that if I told anyone he would kill me and that no one would believe me anyway,” she wrote.

Keaira Damron-Stine is 26 now but said she still lives each day painfully aware of what happened to her as a child. Outside of a police report and a courtroom — where a judge once told her "you will overcome this" — she wasn't able to share her story for a long time.

The memories were too personal, too awful. She felt alone. Keaira said she still feels that way sometimes.

Thousands of children in Wisconsin grow up suffering from the trauma of sexual abuse. Child protective services verified more than 6,100 reports of children sexually abused in the state from 2011 to 2015, an average of more than three new cases each day, according to a report by the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families.

And those are only the ones they hear about, which make up a small minority of the actual number of sexual abuses of children.

Children who are sexually abused often struggle with the consequences long after they become adults. Keaira said she approached USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin to share her story as part of a personal search for healing, but also with the hope that it would let others suffering from sexual abuse know they, too, should be heard.

As I mentioned in a post earlier today, this is the need for survivors to tell their stories publicly. Many will never get closure without it.

Painful memories

Keaira now lives near Amherst and has tried to move on with her life. She got married in February, but is seeking a divorce. She has four children.

Survivors of child sex abuse usually have great difficulty forming lasting relationships.

She admits to making poor decisions as a young adult. She gave birth for the first time at 18 years old and dropped out after two semesters at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point to take care of her son. She worked as an exotic dancer for a few years and constantly struggled with her self-esteem.

The story of her abuse is recorded in hundreds of pages of court documents, but she doesn’t need to read them to remember. Years have passed without a problem, but everything — a deluge of painful memories — can rush back to the surface in a moment.

“There are times when it’s all I can think about and it consumes me,” she said in an interview.

She said she has anxiety and panic attacks. She has a fear of being alone, but also problems getting close to people.

“I don’t like hugs,” she said. “I don’t like to be touched, really.”

A traumatic event, including sexual abuse, can lead to short- and long-term consequences even if the victim doesn’t have a clear memory of what happened, said Gretchen Hintz, counseling manager for Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin Community Services in Marshfield, Stevens Point and Wausau.

“They don’t necessarily need to remember a lot of details,” she said. “They do need to get to the point where their body feels safe.”

That doesn’t happen quickly, especially when almost anything — a sound, a smell, a taste — can trigger horrible memories.

A survey of thousands of adults in Wisconsin found a link between traumatic childhood experiences and higher rates of depression, but also poor physical health, chronic health conditions and risky behaviors, such as smoking or heavy drinking.

“It can lead to premature death,” Hintz said.

'Cold light of day'

Keaira didn’t tell anyone for about three weeks what happened to her. But when her father and stepmother began talking seriously about divorce, she was terrified she would be left alone with him. So she spoke up.

She and her stepmother walked into the Plover Police Department at about 5:30 p.m. May 1, 2002, a Wednesday. They wrote everything down, about three handwritten pages each. Her father was arrested and taken to jail the same night.

The officers took a computer and a few CDs with them, too. A detective later found hundreds of explicit photos, including photos of underage girls, some taking baths or showers, according to a police report.

Her stepmother told an officer that she found the video of Keaira and later saw her husband remove a hard drive from his computer, drill holes in it and throw it away. She also said he had struggled with a drinking problem in the past and recently started drinking again, including on the day of the alleged sexual assault, according to a police report.

Her father, George Scott, who still lives in the same house in the village of Plover, declined to comment for this story.

A detective questioned her father the day after he was arrested. Scott admitted to filming Keaira in the bath, according to a police report, but claimed she wasn’t naked — a claim later debunked when police viewed the video — and that he was unaware it made her uncomfortable. He has steadfastly denied ever having sexual contact with his daughter.

“We’ll see what she says in the cold light of day,” he told a detective, according to a police report.

'I felt like I was being punished'

A few days after her father’s arrest, Keaira was called to the office at school. A social worker was waiting for her. She couldn’t go home — her father was there. Her stepmother didn't believe her anymore and allowed him to come home. Keaira was in foster care by the end of the day.

“I felt like I was being punished,” she said. “He got to stay home. He got to still have his family.”

Keaira had lived with other relatives or foster parents earlier in her childhood when her mother struggled to take care of her.

Scott had gained custody in 1999. Keaira was 8 or 9 years old and had to move from her hometown in Kentucky to Wisconsin, hundreds of miles away, to live with him and his family. She said she hardly knew her father. She didn’t want to go.

A few weeks after Keaira went to the police in Plover, her father was charged with two felonies, including sexual assault of a child. Those charges filed against him in late May 2002, along with another felony added a few months later, carried the possibility of decades in prison.

Scott claimed his daughter had behavioral problems, calling her “morally bankrupt,” according to court documents. Prosecutors planned to have school officials testify on Keaira’s behalf to show she wasn’t having any serious problems with behavior.

A report by a social worker described Keaira as a “normal and healthy” girl. The report also noted her father continued to blame Keaira and “her poor upbringing by her mother” for his situation.

As her father prepared his defense, Keaira was living with foster parents, away from the rest of her family. The social worker’s report describes some misbehavior, but that wasn’t considered unusual given the circumstances.

Keaira was moved to a new foster home in January 2003, about eight months after she accused her father of sexual assault. Her other foster parents were planning to move and no longer felt they could care for her. She was 12 at the time.

Her new foster parents, Bruce and Kolette Stine, would adopt her years later. Keaira always seemed to be holding back anger just beneath the surface as she grew up, Bruce Stine said in a recent interview.

“We knew it was going to be rough at times,” he said.

They didn't doubt her story. They couldn’t give her all the help she needed, though. She began to get counseling, sometimes as often as twice a week.

Hintz, the counseling manager, didn't treat Keaira, but said her patients work to build skills meant to help them deal with the painful feelings, rather than avoid them.

“If you keep avoiding something, then it just keeps getting bigger and bigger,” she said.

'I believe you'

Her father’s case ended without a trial. He took a plea agreement in October 2003 and was convicted of a felony and three misdemeanors. The charges were far less serious than what he originally faced.

He was convicted of one count of capturing a representation depicting nudity, one count of child neglect and two counts of exposing genitals, according to court records. He was sentenced in January 2004 to nine months in county jail and four years of probation.

Despite the weakened charges, the prosecutor, then-Portage County Assistant District Attorney Kelly Benjamin, was harshly critical of him at sentencing, according to a transcript of the hearing.

“I have never seen someone so vindictive, manipulative and self-centered,” Benjamin said. “And I have never seen someone go so far out of his way to make his child’s life as miserable as possible.”

Her father didn’t speak at the sentencing, but his attorney, James Connell, made it clear he still denied ever sexually assaulting Keaira.

The denial didn’t convince Portage County Judge Thomas Flugaur, who said during sentencing that he believed a conviction was likely had the case gone to a jury trial.

“This court believes Keaira,” he said. “I believe you, Keaira, in your statement that you made.”

Fluguar described the evidence to support Keaira’s claims as “overwhelming” and was confident a jury would have believed her story.

So why did the DA agree to such a pathetic plea deal? I hate plea deals!

“You are a very strong girl,” he said. “And you have a lot of positive qualities. And I believe you will overcome this and you will make it.”

'The person that listens'

Keaira became comfortable sharing her story only after talking to people close to her and realizing sexual abuse was too common and happened to all types of people.

“The more I tell it, the more I understand I did nothing,” she said.

She isn't satisfied with the way her case was handled in court but says that, at the time, she didn't care what punishment her father received. Now she feels he has been able to move on with his life, while she hasn’t fully.

She finally feels confident in herself, though, and proud of the life she has built.

"I did it myself," she said. "I didn’t have anybody around for very long, so I learned to depend on me."

She has involved herself in causes she believes are important, including a recent trip to Madison as one of three women who testified in front of state lawmakers in favor of Marsy’s Law, a proposal meant to strengthen rights for crime victims in Wisconsin.

She wants to work with other sexual assault victims, listening to their stories and telling her own. She doesn’t think she will ever fully heal, but she hopes helping other victims will give her a sense of purpose.

“I just want to be that person who listens,” she said.

That's how important it is to be able to tell your story!

Chris Mueller: 715-345-2251 or christopher.mueller@gannettwisconsin.com; on Twitter @AtChrisMueller.

Get help

CAP Services Family Crisis Center 24-hour crisis line: 1-800-472-3377 or 715-343-7125

Portage County Sexual Assault Victim Services: 715-343-7179

The Women's Community 24-hour confidential hotline : 715-842-7323 or 1-888-665-1234

Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault: 608-257-1516

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233

Rape and Incest National Network: 1-800-656-4673