REAL LIFE STORIES
Here are the stories of a few of the children whom The Children’s Alliance of Hawai‘i (CAH) has helped on their journey of healing toward becoming healthy, productive adults.
Names and identities have been changed to protect confidentiality.
Anna, a quiet 9-year-old who rarely smiled, was referred to CAH by the State Dept. of Human Services Child Welfare Services Division. Anna had been sexually abused by her stepfather from age 4 to age 8. After each episode of abuse, Anna’s stepfather would remind her that she and her immigrant mother would be deported if she ever told anyone. However, Anna’s mother knew something was wrong, even before Anna finally told her what was happening. The sexual abuse was reported and Anna’s stepfather was incarcerated and later deported. Anna felt shame and guilt, and isolated herself in school. She was ‘bullied’ in school about her weight and crooked teeth, which added to her depression.
Anna joined CAH’s HEART and Ho‘omaka programs. On her first day, she quietly entered the room and barely spoke a word. She sat down at the table and had difficulty looking up. When spoken to, she would look up quickly, answer and put her head down again.
She was badly in need of orthodontic services to correct her teeth. CAH, through its Enhancements program, secured funding to partially pay for orthodontic services and found a generous orthodontist who provided braces for Anna at a very discounted rate.
Two years later, Anna has grown into a mature, confident and caring young girl. She is now very outgoing, leads others when they need help and understands her role in the world. She auditioned for her school’s talent show by singing a solo. She took it upon herself to help a new girl in CAH’s HEART program complete an activity. One component of CAH’s HEART program is therapeutic horseback riding. Anna had never been on a horse before, and at first, she refused to even try, for fear that she was too heavy and would break the horse. After three sessions and the continued encouragement of the other children, she finally got on the horse and was soon smiling as she rode confidently around the corral. She loves horseback riding now and proudly shows her mother what she has accomplished.
Today, Anna smiles and laughs often, and has made many friends at school. Her future goal is to one day help others who are like her.
Gina comes from a large family. At age 12, she sought out her biological father whom she had not seen very much for most of her life. As their relationship grew, the sex abuse started. It lasted for over two years. When Gina finally disclosed the abuse to a family member, her biological father was arrested.
After becoming involved in CAH’s HEART and Ho‘omaka programs, Gina’s school grades improved and she became active in school sports. She found ways to effectively manage other challenges in her life. She received financial support for sports registration fees and uniforms through CAH’s Enhancements program. As a senior in high school, Gina decided to base her senior project on her future career goal of becoming a social worker. She asked a CAH staff member to be her community mentor for this project, and successfully created and facilitated a series of activities for CAH’s HEART program. Her goal is to positively change the lives of sexually abused girls, just as CAH has done for her.
Karen is the mother of four active boys, ranging from 2 to 15 years of age. Her oldest son was sexually abused by his uncle from age 6 to 10. She was distraught when she learned about her son’s abuse and tried to find ways to provide support to her son.
A clinical therapist referred her son to CAH’s HEART program, where he has blossomed from a quiet boy to a confident, active teenager. Karen was invited to attend CAH’s Strengthening Parents program to learn more about the complex issues related to child sex abuse. During these bi-monthly group support and educational sessions, Karen began to understand her own feelings about what happened to her son, and admitted that she herself had been sexually abused as a child. Upon this disclosure, CAH referred Karen to services for adults molested as children. Karen continues to attend CAH’s Strengthening Parents program on a regular basis, finding a safe environment to share her feelings as well as the support and resources to help herself and her family.
Bryant and Sai
Bryant and Sai have been best friends since the third grade when they lived in the same apartment building and went to school together. Like many children, Bryant and Sai were inquisitive, adventurous and sometimes a bit daring. They feared little. When the resident manager of their apartment building invited them into his unit to use his computer, it was easy to accept. He was friendly and everyone in the building knew him. The boys got unlimited access to the computer, cool videos and snacks. It was during the fourth or fifth visit that he sexually molested them. He warned them that, if they tried to tell anyone, no one would believe them, and their families would be kicked out of the building because of them.
Bryant was referred to CAH by the Victim Witness Kōkua program at the City Prosecutor’s office. Both Bryant and Sai became participants in CAH’s HEART program. They met other boys who had also been sexually abused, and almost immediately developed strong, healthy bonds with them. CAH’s Enhancements program helped them register and buy uniforms to play sports—football for Bryant and basketball for Sai. They were able to talk openly about the abuse, and also go hiking, horseback riding, play games and just be kids again.
For the first time in almost a year, neither Bryant nor Sai had to be a bully or be afraid of being bullied. They found a place where they learned about healthy boundaries, about how courageous they really were for telling, and that it is okay to be inquisitive, adventurous and a bit daring.
About nine months into the program at CAH, Bryant and his dad moved out of State. Sai felt abandoned. With the encouragement of staff and the other kids in the program, Sai continued to stay involved. He has made new friends, but still communicates with his friend Bryant over Facebook. He will enter high school next year, and hopes to continue playing basketball.