SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Utah) – Despite an apology, there is still fear in the heart of a young teen sexually abused by her father.
The scene played out last week at a parole hearing at the Utah State Prison. Their identities are not being revealed to allow the young victim her privacy.
“It’s taken her since 2006 to reach the point where she is at right now,” said the victim’s aunt.
The interaction occurred through a video conference set up by the Board of Pardons. The aunt was speaking from her home and the teen was at her side. But the aunt said her niece did not want to speak.
“She may need to get back into counseling to deal with this whole situation,” the aunt said.
The man who has been in prison since 2006 is up for parole.
“I hope everybody understands that I am truly sorry for the pain that I’ve caused,” said the inmate.
A hearing officer with the Board of Pardons asked him bluntly if he was still attracted to young females.
“Not anymore at all,” he responded.
But the hurt imposed on his daughter haunts her, according to her aunt. She said the victim doesn’t want him released from prison for fear he may try to contact her.
Child advocates said this is the kind of trauma children experience after they are sexually molested. And right now, during the COVID-19 shelter in place order, children are vulnerable.
“Children are very isolated, they’re bored said Dr. Christina Sally, an investigator with the Summit County attorney’s office.
Note: The risk to your children could be even higher during the COVID-19 pandemic because children are spending longer hours on electronic devices. Here are some internet safety tips.
Dr. Sally is also a child advocate and in 2012, helped create the Children’s Justice Center in Summit County.
“They have an innate need for social interaction which they’re not getting right now,” said Sally. “We have the ingredients for things that could be horrible for children.”
According to Rainn, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, since March there’s been a spike in calls to their hotline. Rainn reports the number of calls between minors and their hotline to report abuse has increased by 22%. The non-profit group also claimed 67% of those who called said their perpetrator was a family member and 79% said they are still living with that perpetrator.
“We anticipate seeing that soon,” said Sally. Most abused children are abused by somebody that they know like a family member. But how do you have that conversation?”
Sally has now written a children’s book that she said could help parents break the ice with their children. The book is titled “I know you and…” Dr. Sally is well known in Utah and national circles for her children’s advocacy. The book centers on the story of a baby whale called Mina. The whale encounters several creatures in the ocean who “Mina” knows. They attempt to lure her to reveal personal things.
“I wanted to have a character that was a little vulnerable but had also got into these situations where they started to be groomed which is something that happens with perpetrators and children,” Sally said. “But (book) is a ways to say ‘no, I don’t want to do that, that’s the private area of my body.'”
The book is also written in Spanish.
“I feel so lucky to have it in English and Spanish,” said said. “I think once it gets out there, it will be a great tool for parents. It really does start a dialogue that is very difficult to have.”
She said the book was recently published and is not available in bookstores but can be purchased through her website.
If you suspect child abuse or neglect is occurring, call the Child Abuse/Neglect Hotline 855.323.3237.
If you or someone you know needs help, call the toll-free Statewide 24-hour Sexual Violence Crisis and Information Hotline at 1-888-421-1100. Click here for a list of Rape Crisis Resources in Utah.