Tuesday, September 29, 2015

PLEASE inform yourselves!

I got into a very heated discussion with someone this week and in the end we had to agree to disagree. The discussion was about sex offenders and keeping our children safe from them, an issue that I am passionate about! It has been 4 days since this conversation, but I'm still fired up about it.

The part of the discussion that was the most frustrating for me was when this person claimed that I was not leaving room for God's power to change a person if I would never again trust someone who was a child sex offender. This website on pg 16 quotes an offender and shows why it is so important not to easily trust: “I considered church people easy to fool…they have a trust that comes from being Christians…they seem to want to believe in the good that exists in all people…I think they want to believe in people. And because of that, you can easily convince, with or without convincing words” (Anna Salter, Predators, p 29). (I would recommend that you read the entire talk because it is very informative) My belief is that if an offender has truly changed then they will understand that for the rest of their life there will be consequences for their past actions. Some of those consequences should be safeguards being set up so that they don't have contact with children. That is for everyone's safety! If you have hurt a child in this way you have NO business ever being allowed (or wanting to be) near children again.

Part of our discussion involved the grooming process. This is such a misunderstood concept! The process that a sex offender goes through to groom a child can be very subtle! It can be as simple as giving a child special privileges, showing favoritism, finding common interests with the child, or buying them simple gifts. This website gives even more behaviors that sex offenders use to groom potential victims. Basically they get the child and even you as the parent to trust them so that they can have access to your child.

I implore you if you have children to please be vigilant!  Protect your children at all costs, and PLEASE DO NOT TRUST a sex offender (or allow them to be near your child) just because they tell you that they have "converted or been changed by God". I can't even begin to tell you just how easy this is for people to fake. Please educate yourself about the dangers of these offenders and how to protect your children! Our children are FAR too precious for us not to do all in our power to protect them!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Broken System part 2

There are 3 things I think need to be noted about my recent experiences with our broken justice system. I'm convinced that I need to speak out because if this happened to me it is inevitably happening to others. These are things that absolutely NEED to change!

First, our system needs truth in sentencing. For criminals, especially those that are violent or sexual offenders to be able to get out of jail after only having served 2/3 of their sentence is completely unacceptable. My abuser got out of jail on "good behavior". He is a child sex offender, there are no children in prison, of course he could have good behavior. It is ludicrous for any violent offender to receive that large of an amount off their sentence.

Second, victims MUST be notified when their offenders are going to be released. It is traumatizing for victims to know that those who have inflicted so much harm upon them are out of prison, it is even much more so when there is no notice that it is going to happen. Victims need time to mentally prepare and put safeguards in place before their abuser is free.

Third, my perpetrator is finally on the sex offender registry, but it took a solid week AFTER he was released for this to happen. I wonder if it happened that quickly because I caused a stink when I found out. This is completely unacceptable! Sex offenders should not take one step out of jail until their name and picture is on that list! The sex offender registry was created to help protect innocent people from these monsters that so often do NOT change. If it takes a week or more to get them on the list they have no accountability during this time.

I wish I knew how to make my voice on these matters heard by someone who could make a difference. I would love to see our laws changed so that victims are protected in these ways. Going through the trauma of prosecuting your abuser is hard enough without having to wonder if it was really worth it when all is said and done.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Broken Justice System

This weekend I learned through the grapevine that one of my abusers was let out of jail significantly before they were supposed to be let out. Unfortunately, the justice system once again failed to notify me like they are supposed to. Time and again throughout this hard process information that I should have found out from the prosecutor's office or the victim's advocate within that office has been told to me by the media or through the grapevine. This is NOT ok.

Our justice system is woefully broken. This is the reason that so many victims aren't willing to go through the extreme trauma that comes with prosecuting their abusers. It simply often isn't worth the price that the victims pay.

After finding out that this criminal was let out of jail after just 8 months I attempted to do some research. As of the publishing of this blog post he is not listed either on the NH prison database or on the sex offender registry. WHY????? I do happen to know that he had been listed on the sex offender registry BEFORE this conviction. Our justice system is failing not only me by this move, but also other potential victims.

We NEED harsher laws in this country. We need to be protecting our children. They are our future! If we do not protect them from these predators who will? We need to speak out and do whatever we can to demand harsher penalties for these criminals who so often re-offend.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

What matters most

There are many times I question my abilities as a mother, and feel like I fall so very short. My kids are overall pretty good kids, but they fight like crazy. They often whine when asked to do something, and aren't afraid to voice their opinion and question me. I think that allowing our children to ask questions is important so we can teach them the why behind what we say. I don't want robots, but at times I feel like a failure because of how disrespectful they come across. (For the record I do think that learning appropriate tone is a process.)

As I was sitting back and contemplating my mothering skills (or lack thereof), I began to think of what the most important things I would have wanted from or remember about my own mother now that I'm an adult. There were 3 things that stuck out to me in my contemplation...

1. Time ~ I wish my mother had spent more time with me. In the end I didn't care so much about gifts and stuff, but I really wish she had spent more quality time with me. 

2. Support and Belief.~ I wish that when I was a child my mother would have believed me and supported me not only in the big things, but also in the day to day stuff of life.

3. Putting your Child's needs and safety above your own comfort. ~ There are so many times that I wish my mother had loved us enough to protect us from the monster that hurt us so badly rather than thinking of her own desires. 

As I sit back and look at the things that I would have valued most and what I felt that I needed as a child it changes my perspective of how I'm doing as a mother. I am not perfect, and have a very long way to go, but I know my children are loved, valued, supported, believed, and I would do anything I could to protect them. We make it a point to take both family time and time with the kids by themselves so they know we want to be with them. I hope these things mean as much to my children as they would have to me. 

Monday, June 1, 2015

Encouragement for Abuse Survivors

Recent news stories have brought back into light the problem of sexual abuse, and how it often happens right within a home. So much has already been written about the Duggars, and I don't want to rehash it. What I would like to do is to is to encourage not only the Duggar girls (if they ever read this) and any others who have gone through the trauma of sexual abuse.

First, if you are a victim please know that the abuse was NEVER your fault! The guilt and the shame belong to the abuser alone! Your scars do not make you damaged, or less of a person.

Second, healing takes time. Please don't be afraid to get counseling! A good licensed therapist can help you work through the vast emotions that come with being abused. Don't lose hope!

Third, forgiveness does not equal reconciliation. Forgiveness is for you as the person who was hurt, not for the offender. Forgiveness does not negate consequences, nor does it mean you ever have to trust the person who hurt you.

Lastly, please know you are not alone! Know that there are people who understand what you are walking through, and they care. If you are struggling please reach out for help!

There is so much more I could say, but I will keep this short. I know there are a myriad of emotions and struggles that come from being hurt by those who you should be able to trust. When you see a glimmer of hope hold on to it and don't let it go!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015


Our youngest daughter like many girls her age is very into the movie Frozen. The other day she asked if we could watch a couple of the songs on You Tube that have the words at the bottom so she could get all the words right as she sang along. As we sat here together I couldn't help but see a correlation to my past.

In the middle of the song Do you want to Build a Snowman? the father (king) tells Elsa when she is scared to "Conceal it, Don't feel it, Don't let it show!" That was often what I was told was to keep it quiet. I very quickly learned to hide what was really going on in my life and put on a mask and so that no one could see what was really going on in life.

As in the movie, that didn't work in life. Eventually the truth came out. I too wanted to run away like Elsa did and escape the reality of everyone knowing my secret. The fear was overwhelming at times. Eventually I too had to "Let it Go" and I also found the amazing freedom that comes when true love transforms your life!

Hiding doesn't help! Hiding doesn't make the problem go away! Hiding does far more harm in the long run!

On the contrary the healing begins when we are able to tell the truth, be believed, and let light shine in the dark places!

If you are a survivor please talk until someone will listen! There is so much healing and freedom in being heard, believed, and loved unconditionally! If you have a friend or child that has shared horrible abuse with you please just be there for them! Love them! Believe them! Walk beside them and let them know they are not alone!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

If you could see my heart...

Sometimes it is easy when you hear a news story to pick apart a person in that story whether it be a person who committed a crime or someone who made a choice you don't agree with. The internet has become a place where people are not afraid to very publicly share their opinions. This can be both good and bad! I know my story has been very public (more so than I would have liked), and that has caused people to be very opinionated about me (and the other players in my story). Far too often I see people ascribing feelings and motives to me that aren't mine in any way. While I know I should let these things roll off my back, it is hard! So I thought I'd write a few things that I would like people to know about me.

If you could see my heart:

~ You would see no hatred or bitterness for any of those who have wronged me, only prayers for them to see the error of their ways so they don't hurt others in the same way.

~ You would see someone who would rather not have my story public, but someone who is amazed at what God has done because it has been so public.

~ You would see someone who grieved going through the trial process and only did it because it was the right thing to do so other potential victims could be protected.

~ You would see I share my story not for pity or notoriety, but to bring awareness so others can be protected from the trauma I went through.

~ You would see I am passionate about protecting children!

~ You would see my desire to help those who have been through trauma to see that there is always hope!

~ You would see my love for God and my sadness for how people (often in church leadership) have hurt others in the "name of God".

~ You would see someone who has experienced NO financial gain, rather suffered extensive loss through this painful process, but would chose to do it again in spite of the hardship.

~ You would see that for me if even one child has been protected, or one survivor given hope because of my story than it has been worth it for me!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Dear Church

Dear Church,

Our children are precious. It is not only our job, but our privilege to protect them! If we do not do this, who will?

For so long churches have been complacent about protecting our children, and as a result many children have been hurt. It is long past time for this to stop! There are several BASIC steps that a church can take, as well as many others.

First, a background check of anyone who works with children is essential. This of course will not catch all offenders (some may not have been caught yet), but it is a good starting point. Next, every room that is used for children should have windows in the doors so that someone can walk by at any time and see what is going on inside the room. Another very big thing that is IMPERATIVE is that there ALWAYS be at least 2 unrelated adults in a room with children at all times.

I have heard so many excuses about why the last thing is unreasonable. 1.) We don't have enough volunteers ~ if this is true shut down rooms until you have enough people to help (I'm sure you would get more help quickly if you actually did this). 2.) I really trust the person that is in there, they would never hurt a child ~ FYI most child abusers are amazing at the art of manipulation. They have people (especially those in a church) trusting them completely in very little time. 3.) There isn't a need for more than one person because there are only ___ children ~ This policy is not only for the protection of the children, but it also protects the integrity of the church. Not only that, but it also just makes sense to always have more than one adult. If there is an emergency and you are alone it is much more difficult to get the necessary help because you can't leave the other children alone to take care of that emergency.

I will admit that in the past I have been the only adult in a room with children at church. As I have learned more I have seen how unwise that is. We recently left a church, and while there were several reasons for our leaving, this was one of the big ones. If simple child protection policies, such as the ones I've suggested, aren't put in place and consistently followed, then my children are NOT safe in your "ministry".

As I mentioned before, these are only basic steps. There are many amazing resources out there, such as G.R.A.C.E,that can help. They not only have amazing suggestions on their website, they can come and work with your ministry (if hired) to educate people and help to create protection policies in your ministry.

If you are in ministry I beg of you to see how important this issue is! Our children deserve to be protected! It is time for the church to wake up and step up and do everything they can to ensure that our children are safe!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Trial 2 Part 5 ~ Sentencing and Impact Statement

As I mentioned before when trial was over and we had a guilty verdict that didn't mean that everything was done. The defense had played dirty games and gambled on having that be their whole defense. With the uncertainty of whether the amended charges would stick or not both sides were more ready for compromise.

A couple of days after the guilty verdict was returned the defense approached the prosecutor asking if they would consider offering Daniel another plea bargain. This would really benefit both sides because Daniel would get a significantly reduced sentence, BUT there would be NO chance for appeal and he would have to plead guilty in order to take it.

There is a time for mercy and a time for justice. I think that it HAS to be up to the victim to determine what they feel like needs to be given. Every victim, and every case is different. For many reasons I felt like mercy was needed in this case. NOT for Daniel, but for the sake of my mother. I did however agonize over the decision. Ultimately Daniel got a very short prison term IF he gets into counseling and the sex offender treatment program (this will be followed by a significant term of probation). If he does not cooperate with the program his sentence will be extended. In the end, it is up to him how much time he will spend in jail.

I think the best way to understand my thought process is to read my victim impact statement that I shared in court. I know it is long, but I think it is worth the read.

               When a person makes the choice to abuse a child whether that be physically, sexually, emotionally, or spiritually they impact the rest of that child’s life in ways most can’t even imagine. Daniel, when he chose to abuse me, forever changed my life.
                As a child my life was ruled by fear. Fear of Daniel, fear of God, fear of not being perfect and the punishment that would bring. I also feared being honest with people about what life was really like and learned to keep my mouth shut. I was even threatened about what would happen if I didn’t keep my mouth shut.
                When Daniel chose to abuse me he stole so much from not only me, but also my family. From me he stole my innocence, my sense of security, my ability to trust, my mother, and my sense of self-worth. Daniel’s abuse continues to have repercussions today in my home. My children sadly do not know my mother, their grandmother, because he has manipulated her into choosing him over everyone else and in doing so has taken the ability of knowing their grandmother from them. They also do not get to do things (such as sleepovers) that many of their friends do because Daniel taught me it isn’t safe to trust most people with your children. My husband also has paid a steep price because of my trust issues and my flashbacks which cause issues with intimacy. The emotional toll on our entire family as we have walked this process has been immense.
                Daniel is a master manipulator, and knows how to use people to get what he wants. In his selfishness he thinks only of himself and not those he has hurt. This was seen even in the trial. Not only did he scoff at people on the stand, but he also worked with his attorneys to pull a dirty, underhanded move to try to get the charges thrown out after the state had already presented its case. This was not only distressing to me as a victim, but a potential waste of the court’s time and resources. This is just one of the many ways Daniel, and in this case his attorneys as well, shows a total lack of character.
                Daniel deserves to spend the rest of his life in jail because of what he has done. He deserves to pay for his crimes. Frankly, any person who would sexually abuse a child should be locked up forever so they never have a chance to hurt another child.
                Regardless of what he deserves it is my desire that Daniel get help more than punishment. I would love to see him fully admit what he has done, realize how his actions changed my life, and get into therapy so he can get the help he needs. I understand that he appears to be a help to my mother who suffers from MS, and it is not my desire to take away her help. It is however my desire to see Daniel have accountability so that he can’t hurt another child. It is my belief that unless a person understands the ramifications that their actions have and truly desires to make things right and change, that they never will. For these reasons I want Daniel to be in the sex offender treatment program.  

                In closing, while I never thought that I would ever see justice, or that my story would be as public as it has been, I really hope that my story will show the need for reform. Our children need to be protected! When a child makes a disclosure it is important that they be believed and that the authorities not only be contacted, but that the authorities have the ability to speak with the child in a timely manner. Our churches need to not harbor these offenders and protect them, but instead protect the children. Our legal system needs to be reformed so that victims do not endure even more trauma because of the unethical tactics of defense attorneys. I hope that my story will be the catalyst that spurs even some of these desperately needed changes.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Trial 2 ~ Part 4 ~ Tim's point of view

I was so grateful to have my husband with me for this trial. He has been my greatest supporter throughout the entire process and I'm glad he was able to be with me in person this time! Here is his viewpoint of the trial.

The day the trial started it was cold and raining. I remember thinking that the day reflected how everyone, especially Tina, was feeling with the trial about to start.  The months leading up to this were not any easier, especially since the mistrial in June and the postponement of the second trial from October to November.
I spent the first couple days in a small room in the courthouse waiting my turn to testify. I had a very small part to collaborate Tina’s story of how Daniel had asked us for his forgiveness about ten years ago. I was very nervous about it. I can only imagine how drastically worse Tina’s anticipation was leading up to her testimony.
I was able to watch Tina’s mom testify. I never saw her acknowledge or even glance at Tina. Her thoughts were for herself and her husband. She was distraught over situation but not what Tina had been through.
Watching Chuck Phelps on the stand was just disgusting. The lying that poured out of that man was incomprehensible. He denied being in charge of the church, especially the money. Most of his answers were, “I don’t recall that.” He hemmed and hawed and tried to come up with answers without taking any responsibility for his actions, or in-actions. I have nothing kind I can say about him or the people that respect him or call him pastor and so I’ll just keep quiet. His true lack of character was demonstrated to everyone involved in this court case and he did more harm to the name of God than even Daniel Leaf.
Closing arguments was the most interesting part to me. It was interesting to hear the defense spin their tale. I was really impressed with the prosecutor and his skill of laying out the facts and presenting his argument. The prosecutor really had his hands tied in what he could and couldn’t say throughout the trial and his carefulness, deliberateness, and professionalism in and out of the courtroom was impressive.
I loved hearing the words of the judge as he praised Tina for the awesome woman that she is and what she had to overcome to become a successful, intelligent, capable woman overcame the odds of her abusive past. The prosecutor, when it was all done and behind closed doors, started to express his admiration for Tina and was very emotional and almost lost his composure in expressing himself to her but he was interrupted before he could finish.
The greatest encouragement was Tina’s friends who came out to see her. Some came to the courtroom and sat with her. Fran, one of her biggest supporters, was there every day, along with Tina’s uncle, Girouard. We had a big gathering at a local restaurant. We even had one friend, Jeffrey, drive up from New York to show his support. We know more would have like to come if it had been possible and we appreciated everyone’s love and support throughout this trial.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Trial 2 Part 3 ~ A guest post

There were several amazing people that were with me during this trial. One of them has been like a mother to me, and I can't even begin to express how grateful I am for her! She is truly an amazing lady and someone I'm so grateful to have her in my corner. Today, you get to hear some things about the trial and sentencing from her point of view. So, here is Fran Earle's point of view...

After I testified for the state of New Hampshire in the trial of Daniel Leaf I was finally allowed into the courtroom to hear the closing arguments.  As I sat there I looked around and saw the detective from the Concord Police Dept. who worked so hard to bring Daniel Leaf to justice for Tina, I then focused on the prosecutor who also with almost nothing but the credibility of the witnesses he had brought into the courtroom had brought this trial before a judge.  Then I looked at the judge and saw a fair man who in open court had told Tina that he was in "awe" of what she had done with her life.  My attention was then drawn to Tina's mother, and I used that term loosely because she is an obsessed woman who put the "man" she married before her children and left them open to his horrible temper and his perversion. She was crying, but not for her daughter but her husband!   Then I just looked at Daniel Leaf and thought of all the years it had taken for this moment and the smug look he had on his face.  THEN I heard the words the prosecutor was saying to the jury and all of a sudden it hit me, that this young woman who I love and admire greatly lived in such fear in her own home as a child!  As he spoke I felt myself get sick and I started shaking.  I was shocked at what I was hearing had a very violent emotional reaction.  I left the courthouse with Tina and Tim, but had to cancel our dinner plans because I was so upset.  

I had a hard time pulling myself together so was not present when the guilty verdict was read.  I turned down an invitation to join Tina and Tim and friends for lunch because I was still crying!  But my husband pushed me to go to be with my friends and I am so happy that I did.  That was in Nov, then in January I was present to hear the sentence and viewed the bailiff put the handcuffs on this man and I was so lighthearted leaving that day!  

I have no words for the admiration I have for Tina and all she has been through.  I want to adopt her and be her mother!  I also greatly admire her husband Tim.  How many men can sit and listen to how such horrible things happened to his lovely wife as a child and still keep his composure?  He was a rock, just supporting his wife.  It was and experience that I never thought I go through, but I'd do it all again for Tina.  

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Trial 2 Part 2

Day one of the trial opened with a detective on the stand first, and then I took the stand. I was FAR more nervous than I had ever been taking the stand (other than when I was a young child) because the last time this case went to trial it ended in a mistrial because of me. I was asked by the prosecutor: "Did your mother ever intervene when Daniel was physically abusing you?" I simply responded: "Only one time and Daniel pushed her down and she fell and broke her wrist.". The defense attorneys contended that this painted Daniel and my mother (because she chose to stay with him) in too bad of a light and that it would bias the jury against him. Therefore a mistrial was declared.

I was far more careful to simply answer questions and not elaborate or share details unless specifically asked to during this trial.  It is always hard to share painful details of your past and have to re-live those times. Thankfully, I was able to make it through my testimony without causing another mistrial!

Other than testifying one of the hardest parts of the trial was listening to my mother get on the stand and lie about me. While I love her it became painfully clear that she only cares for herself and Daniel. As a mom I simply can't understand how she can make the choices that she has made. I know Daniel is a master manipulator, but it breaks my heart that he has been able to manipulate her into choosing him over her own children. She knows who he is and what he has done (he admitted it to her), and yet she defends him and lies about me. There just aren't words to express the heartbreak that her choices cause.

Chuck Phelps was once again subpoenaed and had to testify. The trial was put on hold for several hours because he failed to make it to court on time even though the state of NH had paid for him to fly in for the trial. His testimony directly contradicted the testimony of several police officers, a former youth staff volunteer from Trinity Baptist Church, and a DCYF (division for children and family services) worker.

Many others including my own husband testified. When the prosecution rested the defense pulled a dirty, underhanded move. They literally had NO defense, not one single witness. Their entire strategy of defense was to try to get the case thrown out on a minor technicality in the laws at the time the crime was committed. These kind of technicalities are supposed to be brought up before a case ever goes to trial so that the charges can be amended if necessary.

Based on the actions of the defense, after looking at case law and hearing arguments the judge allowed the jury to deliberate on what would be the amended charges. The jury deliberated and returned a guilty verdict on both counts. While I was relieved at the verdict, I knew that the case wasn't really over because we weren't sure if the amended charges would stick or whether we would have to go back to the grand jury for another indictment and go back to trial all over again.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Trial 2 Part 1

In many ways this trial was completely different, and much harder than the other trial was. I think in many ways it can be much more emotionally difficult when you are testifying against an abuser who is either a part of your family, or has very close ties to your family.

In this trial I testified against my step father who is still married to my mother. While his actions are no less heinous, and in fact may be even more heinous than those of Ernie Willis in some ways, I felt conflicting feelings about being willing to cooperate with this investigation. The knowledge that I was speaking truth didn't make it any easier emotionally. While I have no attachment whatsoever to Daniel, he is still married to my mother. And even though she refuses to have any contact with me because she thinks I have been wrong to testify against my abusers, I will still always love her.

For me the decision to cooperate with law enforcement was not based on any kind of anger, resentment, or desire for revenge. I ultimately decided to cooperate because I know the stats about those who re-offend. I've researched enough to know that most people who would hurt a child would hurt many and not just one. With this knowledge I felt it was important to protect other potential victims from the men who abused me.

Ultimately the choice to report or to cooperate with law enforcement has to be the choice of the victim. The legal process is exhausting, long, unfair to victims, and often traumatizing. Getting justice in this country is far from easy. If I hadn't been fully convinced that this was the right thing to do, I may have given up long ago.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Dear Younger Me...

For quite a while I have been mulling around doing a series of posts about the last trial. I have decided to start that sometime this week. I have put it off because I know it will be a tough series to write. But, I do believe that now is the time.

Today our family was blessed to be able to go to a GCU basketball game and then a Mercy Me concert after the game (Thanks HopeKids!). Their lead singer, Bart Millard, has a story of abuse that has similarities to mine, and has a heart of gold from what I could see. Anyway, one of the songs that he sung tonight really resonated with me, especially with the series of posts that are coming up.

If I could go back and talk to my "younger me" what would I say? There are so many things that I could think of, but the words of the song really resonated with me, so I will share those. I hope that this will encourage you and remind you of truths the way it did me!

If I knew then what I know now
Condemnation would’ve had no power
My joy my pain would’ve never been my worth
If I knew then what I know now
Would’ve not been hard to figure out
What I would’ve changed if I had heard

Dear younger me
It’s not your fault
You were never meant to carry this beyond the cross
Dear younger me

You are holy
You are righteous
You are one of the redeemed
Set apart a brand new heart
You are free indeed