SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – After decades of alleged sexual abuse, David Allen Williams is now facing more than 20 charges of first and second degree felonies. He made his first court appearance Monday morning, but advocates say the healing is just beginning for the victims.
Kyli Rodriguez-Cayro said she survived nearly two decades of child sexual abuse by her own father. She shared her perspective on what the victims in Williams’ case might have endured, based on her own experience.
“My father was a very skilled groomer and on top of that, my mother was being physically abused. I didn’t know about that until later,” she said.
Rodriguez-Cayro said Williams’ case hit home for her because of the similarities with her abuse. In both instances, the abuse went on for years for the victims before they came forward.
“When you’re that young and the abuser is a family member, there’s a lot of confusion because there’s so much betrayal. Kids trust and love their parents unconditionally,” she said. “In your home, you get raised in a culture where it’s normalized. I didn’t know it wasn’t normal for my father to be doing these things to me.”
She came forward twice before the age of 18 but said no one believed her. When Williams’ daughter spoke to ABC4 News last week in an exclusive interview, she said her father’s victims also came forward several times with no action taken.
“I think we still have this idea that abusers are the monsters under the bed. When in reality, a lot of serial abusers are people who live in our neighborhoods, they may be the people in the church who are in high-powered positions,” said Rodriguez-Cayro. “That’s used as a facade. My father is a smart man. He knew how to create this persona of being a great father and that allowed for the abuse to continue.”
She said that’s the reason many survivors wait decades before coming forward again. But by then, it becomes more difficult to prosecute their abusers.
“The problem is with childhood sexual abuse is if you don’t have the physical evidence right there and now (which a lot of us don’t have because you come out decades later), there’s very little hope of prosecution,” she said. “A lot of my healing process has been realizing that the justice system isn’t created to help survivors or lift their voices.”
Getting to point of being able to talk openly about her abuse and trauma wasn’t easy. She said she is still healing five years after filing a restraining order against her father.
“I deal with mental health issues now. I deal with depression and anxiety. It’s hard to trust people. It’s alarming for me to see children come forward and not be believed,” she said. “Survivors feel shame and guilt. It causes that silence to linger.”
However, Rodriguez-Cayro said she’s found solace by using her adversity to help others. She’s now a sexual abuse and mental health advocate, working for a grant program with the Utah Department of Human Services.
“It’s important for survivors to remember that the healing process is not linear. It’s not going to be an easy process. You’ll have good days and you’ll have bad days,” she said. “But your process is YOUR process. It won’t look the same as someone else’s. Each person will have their own way of finding your voice, whether that’s through art, writing, or advocacy.”
Ms. Rodriguez-Cayro’s father has never been charged, she has filed a civil lawsuit against her father. He categorically denies her claims of child sexual abuse and has countersued for defamation.