The majority of children who come to CALICO do so because they have been sexually abused, most often by an adult they knew and trusted. Research indicates that adult sexual offenders abuse an average of 12 children. One child’s disclosure can therefore prevent siblings, neighbors, and classmates from suffering the same fate. With the testimony of just one victim, detectives can apprehend an offender and prevent numerous other children from harm.
When cousins Mindy and Sylvia came to CALICO, they both shared that their uncle would stroke their hair, rub their backs, and accidentally brush up against them. Sylvia told how he showed her pictures of naked men, saying it was their little secret. Mindy revealed that he called her into his room, where she saw a man and woman without any clothes on the TV. He said, “Only special people get to watch this movie.”
The uncle’s behaviors are consistent with grooming techniques that offenders employ to break down a child’s defenses. Nonsexual or seemingly accidental touches are often used to desensitize a child, making it easier to build up to sexual touching. Abusers also rely on secrets to make children feel closer to them and less likely to tell their parents what is happening.
Sylvia and Mindy described incidents that happened over many months. Yet Sylvia told her parents only once she became worried that her uncle would start doing the same things to her little sister. The girls’ testimonies led to their uncle being convicted of lewd and lascivious behavior towards a child under 14. He will be required to register as a sex offender, and his family now knows about his misconduct.
The courage Sylvia and Mindy showed in coming forward meant that not only the abuse against them would stop, but their uncle would not hurt any more children. We commend them for their determination to prevent further abuse.