Editors Note: The following story discusses child sexual abuse, which may be sensitive to some readers. In order to protect the victim’s identity, the victim has chosen the alias Blayke for her name in the story.
BY KYNLI SMITH
For 10 years a Big Horn County girl was abused in the walls of her own home. While her story is her own, her story is far too common. Blayke, 18, spoke up, and her abuser is now behind bars. Blayke has come forward to share her story in the hopes that other victims can come forward and begin to heal as she has. She is just one of the nearly 100 children that have come forward in the past five years in Big Horn County to report child sexual abuse.
“I’m not coming forward because I want the attention or any of that,” said Blayke. “I want to share my story to help other victims out there. While going through this whole process I have learned I’m not alone.”
Many who would see Blayke today would see a bubbly young woman who is engaged and has dreams of becoming a traveling trauma nurse. No one would see the silent, invisible scars she carries from being a survivor of childhood sexual abuse.
According to Blayke, the abuse started when she was in kindergarten.
“He was my stepdad,” she said. “He was supposed to protect me. I didn’t tell anyone.”
Blayke added that in ninth grade her mother and stepfather made her drop out of school to work fulltime to support their family.
“He didn’t trust me to be at home alone,” said Blayke.
She also added that her stepfather would make her mom ride in the backseat so she could ride in the front.
“My mom joked that he was my boyfriend,” said Blayke.
After another person in Blayke’s family spoke up about the abuse they experienced with her stepfather, Blayke spoke up about her abuse a year later.
Blayke moved from south Big Horn County to her father and stepmother’s home in a neighboring community.
“The hardest part in the process was being put into my dad’s home,” said Blayke. “And being interviewed by the cops. I really had to change my whole lifestyle,” said Blayke. “When I first moved in I didn’t care about school. I just wanted to work because that is what I knew. My dad and his wife were really supportive and put me on the right path.”
When Blayke started back up at high school as a junior she needed 24 credits to graduate, she only had three.
“I would go to school from 7 in the morning to almost 4 or 5 p.m. for a year in half,” said Blayke.
She ended up going to the Shoshone Learning Center for her classes and took college level classes as well. Blayke graduated in the spring, a month early.
In the midst of graduating from high school, Blayke’s stepfather’s court case was moving through district court in Big Horn County. He was sentenced to 10 to 12 years in the Wyoming State Penitentiary on two counts of sexual abuse of a minor in the first degree. Once his sentenced is served he will also be on 10 years probation and will have to register as a sex offender.
When he was sentenced at the Big Horn County Courthouse in Basin, Blayke went to court to face her abuser.
“I needed to go,” said Blayke. “I needed to go watch him get sentenced. I wanted to see the look on his face, that I was going to send him away to prison.”
Blayke’s mom, grandpa and friends were there as her support system in court.
“The judge asked if there were any victims in the room after he was handed the victim impact statement. I raised my hand in front of everyone, which I wasn’t expecting to have to do,” Blayke said. “I remember walking out and a lady I didn’t know said ‘you are such a brave girl’. After court I broke down.”
While going through the court process and the healing process Blayke says she has been going to counseling weekly to get help.
“It was hard but in the end I know that I put him away and he can’t hurt anyone else,” said Blayke.
Through the process, Blayke started an account on a social media website that is dedicated to not only her personal life but also helping victims and survivors of sexual abuse.
The account currently has more than 15,000 followers on the site.
“I didn’t expect 15,000 followers,” said Blayke. “I get private messages all the time that thank me for opening up. Some people have messaged me on advice on how to tell someone they have been abused. There are so many people out there that are scared and don’t know how to tell.”
While she claims to get some negative comments on the account, most of the comments are positive ones.
“The positive comments outweigh the negative ones,” said Blayke. “Going through this whole process has been an empowering experience.”
Blayke says that she is still continuing to heal.
“I still have hard time with hugs and being touched on the back,” said Blayke. “I get flashbacks but I have people that help me get through it.”
When it comes to speaking out and advocating for victims and survivors of sexual abuse, Blayke wants to continue making her voice heard.
“We are not all alike but there is a thing that draws us all together,” said Blayke. “We understand we all lose something. We lose a part of ourselves that we shouldn’t lose. My motto for myself and what I share with other’s is: ‘Be who you needed when you were younger.’”
Sexual abuse by the numbers
Blayke’s story is unique but also common throughout Big Horn County. According to CARES, there have been 90 reports of child sexual abuse in the last five years. In 2016, there were 29 reports.
Compared to adults who reported sexual assault and adults who reported sexual abuse as children, child sexual abuse outnumbers them by nearly four times. In the past five years 18 adults have reported sexual abuse as children, and 26 have reported sexual abuse as an adult.
According to the Department of Justice Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering and Tracking, in a 2012 maltreatment report, of the victims who were sexually abused, 26 percent were in the age group of 12–14 years and 34 percent were younger than 9 years. Approximately 1.8 million adolescents in the United States have been the victims of sexual assault.
Research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that approximately 1 in 6 boys and 1 in 4 girls are sexually abused before the age of 18
“We serve many sexual assault victims,” said CARES director Leslie Hoffman. “As you can see by the numbers, the vast majority of sexual assault victims served by CARES are children (below the age of 18) or adults molested as children. We know that most sexual assault victims do not report for various reasons. So these numbers represent more victims than the number they add up to. Not all cases can be prosecuted. I would like you as a community member to realize how important you are to victims in our community.”
Hoffman also offered some advice if a victim discloses sexual abuse to you:
1. Believe that person
2. Tell that victim that they did not deserve to have this happen to them and it is not their fault.
“This can go so far in helping victims in Big Horn County,” said Hoffman. “The road to healing for a sexual assault victim is long and hard. The dynamics and feelings described by Blayke are very common to all sexual assault victims. As you can see from Blayke’s story, a victim can heal and go forward to do amazing things. As a community member, I appeal to you to believe and support them on their journey. “
Blayke hopes that other victims will come forward from her sharing her story of abuse and can begin to heal.
“I want to help victims,” said Blayke. “I want to tell my story because I feel like I can help someone out there even in Big Horn County.”