Van Beek: A peek into the loss of innocence
Warning, the discussion of child sexual exploitation is a topic that contains elements for mature audiences, yet for the protection of minors, should be discussed in families. Children don’t always understand what’s happening to them, and while it is thankfully not common it is much too frequent. In fact, if it only happens to one child — that is one child too many.
There are numerous resources available with statistics and procedures, but I wanted to delve into the heart and soul of this traumatic experience from a victim’s perspective. It is from that angle that we might understand how easy it is for a child to be influenced by a trusted source.
The stories vary from case to case, but many elements are similar. The idea is to understand the vulnerability of children and the ease with which predators seek their victims and maintain their hold. We’ve decided to present it from a child’s perspective.
As parents and community members, we are often oblivious to its reality. These issues don’t even occur to us — thus, molesters are often hidden in plain sight. In Eagle County, we have recently made several arrests, which highlights the fact that this happens everywhere.
Some might say it’s an increase in child sexual exploitation, while others might say that it’s just being reported more frequently as people become more aware and children realize that they have somewhere to turn. Either way, we as adults are the first line of defense against those who seek to harm children.
Support Local Journalism
As law enforcement, we are sadly all too aware of the fear, torture and lifelong damage caused by the horrific actions of violence imposed on the most precious among us, our children. A time of innocence is replaced by a time of intense pain, grief and life-altering trauma.
In the commission of these atrocities, to maintain control of their victims, fear, abuse and drugs are used, sometimes resulting in death. While it’s hard to imagine any adult deliberately harming young lives in this manner, it does occur and we cannot hide from its reality if we are to put a stop to this heartbreaking crime.
This will be a three-part series. This first part focuses on child sexual exploitation through incest. The second part will involve internet predators. The third part will be on abduction and human trafficking.
I caution that the nature of the content below is intense and has elements of sexuality.
The sun was coming up. It was chilly. I can’t wait until summer. But, today will be a great day. My friends and I are planning a fun trip. It’s just for one day, but every year we go somewhere special. I couldn’t help but smile.
Cuddled under the blanket, I rolled over, wondering where we were going, while deciding what I should wear today. The door slowly opened and the light from the hallway streamed in. Normally, the soft light is comforting, it’s usually accompanied by the smell of breakfast cooking, but today was game day, so it was just a harsh cold bright light.
I didn’t want to play today. But, before I could even think, the covers were off, and the weight was on me. He’s so heavy, I can barely breathe. I’m forced to do things that I don’t like, but I shouldn’t complain because it’s just a game.
His hands are everywhere, and it hurts but he’s excited, and I’m not supposed to talk unless the camera is on. In fact, silence is one of the main rules, both during and after. I don’t understand the game, but it doesn’t last long.
When he takes his phone out and films it, he says, it’s like being in a movie. He has me play pretend. But I never know what I am supposed to say. It’s different every time and if I say the wrong thing, he hurts me even more.
I really don’t like this game. I’m so tired. I just want it to end. Sometimes I cry, but that seems to get him more excited, and he hurts me even more, so I just try to think of other things and wait for it to be over. This is a game that I never win — I don’t understand the rules.
Thankfully, today was quicker than usual. I looked at the clock and rushed to get ready. Should I wear a sweater or just a blouse? I’m running late so I don’t have time for breakfast.
Once I arrived, I ran into my friends who were talking and laughing about some silly TV show last night, then we all went inside. I wondered if they were as tired as I was from game day this morning. I’m told that it’s rude to ask, and I’d get into trouble for mentioning it because it’s a private game.
As soon as I got to my desk, I heard the words I was waiting for all week … class, tomorrow is our third-grade field trip!
I’ll always remember the game. … It was secret, it was special, and I later discovered it was incest.
If you see a child that looks uncomfortable or frightened with an adult, shows signs of physical abuse, or chats about topics that seem inappropriate for their age, don’t be afraid to engage that child in simple conversation to either confirm their safety or to validate concerns.
If in doubt, call 911. In this valley, our law enforcement and social services agencies are sensitive and respectful to families and appreciate that there may also be cultural differences in how families interact. As long as you aren’t accusatory, a good parent will appreciate your concern for their child’s well-being.
Please reach out if you are worried about a child’s safety at 970-328-8500. We will investigate in conjunction with social service agencies and mental health professionals. You may have only one chance to save that child’s life. If it ends up being nothing, we can all celebrate that we are a community that looks after one another.
James van Beek is the Eagle County sheriff. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.