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AMA- Sexual Exploitation/Abuse Of A Child

Victoria Veruca Salt
Jan 12, 2018

My son was a victim of child sexual exploitation and abuse. His abuser is now in prison and I'm here to answer questions about what this is like. We can talk about the process of legalities, we can talk about feelings related to your child's abuse, we can talk about feelings related to WHO the abuser was. I'm here to answer your questions as a mom who has lived this and wants to help other parents, and more imporantly their children stay safe and stop this abuse. This is a tough topic but we need to be brave and talk about it. Children are depending on us. 

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Who has been your greatest support throughout the ordeal?

Jan 13, 1:01PM EST1

I'd still say my best friend. I talked about her for the question a few comments down as well. She's an amazing woman and I've never felt a minute of doubt from her. She was 100% here for me from the moment she found out what was going on. 

Jan 13, 1:43PM EST0

How are you coping at present? How has this experience affected the way you approach daily life?

Jan 13, 12:35PM EST1

It depends on the day. Sometimes I cry my eyes out when my son isn't around to see me that upset. I have tried very hard to remain as even keeled and normal as possible around him, as I don't want anything I do to suggest he should think something is wrong. Daily life has changed in more subtle ways like my desire to not be around people as much anymore. Trust is a huge issue to me now, and I'm not sure if I will overcome this new side of my social anxieties or not. 

Jan 13, 1:40PM EST0

Do you believe you were given fair trial? If not, why?

Jan 13, 12:21PM EST1

I am very disappointed in the plea deal that was eventually developed. It dropped most of the charges, including the charge that would've had a mandatory life in prison sentence due to the young age of my son. Because he did plead guilty we did not have to go to trial, but I did attend the sentencing hearing. He did get sentenced to the maximum amount of time possible for the plea deal he took, which was 35 years. 

Jan 13, 1:38PM EST0

Who do you think is your superhero who has been there, supporting you throughout.

Jan 13, 11:10AM EST1

Definitely my best friend. She has done some amazing things for me and never once has she been anything but supportive. There was no point in time where she ever questioned the situation. As soon as I told her she was ready to help and I can't ever repay her for that. She is an amazing and wonderful woman and I don't think I could've done this without her. 

Jan 13, 11:36AM EST0

Is there any possibility for you to find forgiveness in your heart somehow, in the future?

Jan 13, 10:42AM EST1

I really don't think there is. I guess I can't speak for what might change in me as I keep growing and changing as human but I just cannot see a way I will be able to forgive this. I feel like he truly violated the most sacred thing he ever could when he took advantage of my son being so loving and kindhearted. I don't think there's a way to forgive that. 

Jan 13, 11:35AM EST0

Your site is also about political opinions. How does this affect your case against the perpetrator of your son?

Jan 12, 10:20AM EST1

I don't think it does. I do not think of this issue as partisan in any manner. I would equally condemn someone harming a child regardless of their political affiliations.

Jan 12, 3:50PM EST0

If your son grows older and talks to you about this traumatic experience, what do you think he will say to you?

Jan 12, 9:43AM EST1

I used to wonder about that but I've decided it's best to not give myself expectations for that conversation. After thinking it through I think it's only fair to enter that conversation with zero preconceived notions. He's the victim in this and he should be able to express whatever he is feeling, and he also deserves that to be an authentic conversation. 

Jan 12, 3:49PM EST0

Were there any signs with your son to give you the idea that something is off?

Jan 12, 8:58AM EST1

No. I've gone over everything I can possibly think of and nothing indicated something was wrong. He loved my ex very much and never even slightly had body language that he didn't want to be around my ex. He didn't have other signs like regressing to bed wetting etc either. He really has not given the slightest indication he knows something was wrong. 

Jan 12, 9:04AM EST0
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How is your son getting on with life after that dreadful experience?

Jan 12, 8:09AM EST1

He still hasn't indicated that he even knows what happened. He is by all accounts doing really well. He's happy and very kind hearted. He's teaching himself how to play guitar and obsessed with lego sets and super heroes. I'd say he's a normal 9yr old. I don't know what the future will hold and if there will come a day he does remember or talk about what happened but right now he's doing very very well. 

Jan 12, 8:19AM EST0
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How long is the process of prosecution?

Jan 12, 7:46AM EST1

From what I've seen and experienced that varies greatly from case to case. For me I reported the crime on March 7th and he was sentenced on the 14th of October in the same year. 

Jan 12, 7:50AM EST0

What has National Center For Missing And Exploited Children helped you in the process of convicting your ex?

Jan 12, 4:44AM EST1

There is so much NCMEC does that goes on behind the scenes. Access to databases between only them and law enforcement played a huge role in our story. One of the things NCMEC does almost right away is assist law enforcement by allowing them to access a database of known child victims. This helped a lot in some of the situations where the evidence was not of my child. There are things I don't have the full details on but I do know they were able to identify another child using that database. The other thing that database does is takes new victims and compares the images to victims they have not yet been able to identify. This also played a role in my son's case as it was later disclosed that he was identified in another case where they'd previously listed him as an unkown child. NCMEC also has resources for parents of missing and/or exploited children like Team Hope which is a support group. Team Hope exists to do many things. I can go there and talk or listen, and parents who have walked this road are a great resource for new parents just starting the legal process. Because of NCMEC and Team Hope I was able to learn about things that law enforcement didn't explain to me such as having the right to directly contact and communicate with the State's Attorney for our case. They also encouraged and supported me in writing the Victim Impact Statement I submitted to the judge. I view NCMEC in our case as a liason or cushion of communication and information. Sometimes law enforcement doesn't consider what a parent might not know (like the previously mentioned ability to contact the State directly) because they are looking at so many facets of the case and trying to save the child. This is exactly what we need them to do so NCMEC kind of takes over the gap there. NCMEC offers a lot of things to parents in immediate crisis situations too. Such as a parent who has just reported their child missing and has not yet been reunited with the child. They have established procedures for how to handle missing children reporting procedures, and are often a direct pipeline to the media when a child needs help. John Walsh's story is imperative to many things the NCMEC does now. (Including the national registry) I owe him my child's safety and my lifelong gratitude. There are other members of the board like Patty Wetterling that also mean a lot to me. Patty Wetterling's son's story was quite possibly the beginning of the end of my son's abuse. The arrest of Danny Heinrich ended up being a huge thing in my life after the fact. I kind of discussed why in another question further down. I think the work NCMEC does is directly responsible for ensuring my son's abuser got the longest sentence possible. I will never disparage the work they do and I will continue to post the information for reporting cyber crimes against children any chance I get.

Jan 12, 5:36AM EST1
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Where were you when he was being abused?

Jan 12, 1:31AM EST1

Based on the images I found and other things later discovered I'd have to say I was asleep. That's based on various things we were able to put together. Other than that, I honestly wouldn't be able to tell you. I cannot remember any period of time we would not have been together as a family. This does break my heart. I wish I could give you a better answer for that but there just isn't one. 

Jan 12, 1:53AM EST0

Did your son tell you about it? Did you discuss it after the case?

Jan 11, 11:39PM EST1

My son has still not indicated verbally or in any other way that he was ever aware of this going on. It is possible he was too young to know, but there are indications in some images he possibly had no way of being aware. We have not told him yet. I struggle with the timing of this issue. It is something we will talk with his counselor about more this year I think. Right now we've opted to let him continue to go to counseling and also continue to just be a kid. He will need to know, but I don't know when that right moment will come yet. 

Last edited @ Jan 12, 5:39AM EST.
Jan 12, 12:01AM EST0
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Have you been in touch with other parents who's kids have been victimized? Is there some organization or forum or anything that offers support and advice? 

Jan 11, 11:33PM EST1

Yes! NCMEC has a support group for parents of missing and or exploited children. It is called Team Hope and it is a great resource. Sometimes I find it a mixed bag of feelings because I don't enjoy knowing another parent would understand the feelings I have, but it's also nice to feel less isolated and alone. 

Jan 11, 11:58PM EST0

Have you spoken to your ex since? Did he ever try to explain or justify himself?

Jan 11, 11:29PM EST1

No. On both accounts actually. I have not spoken to him, nor has he tried to explain. At his sentencing he was given a chance to speak, but he opted not to. He did ask his lawyer to convey that he was very sorry. It was not enough for me to feel any bit of hate melt away.

Jan 11, 11:56PM EST0
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What do you aim to achieve with your blog site? Is this your way of healing?

Jan 11, 11:06PM EST1

Actually my blog was at first related to my Twitter account. I had a lot of followers that had asked to see game responses and political commentary on a separate venue and I opted for a blog. After a little while people did start asking more about my son's story, as my pinned tweet has always been about information from NCMEC on where to report cyber crimes against children, with a comment about my son having benefitted from the amazing things NCMEC does. The blog is more a representation of my general sense of humor. It definitely didn't start because of Kiddo's story. I do however, find healing in knowing his story can get information into the hands of people who can help stop the victimization of children in their own lives. 

Jan 11, 11:50PM EST0
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Would the experience be hindering you from finding another mate or partner in life?

Jan 11, 8:57PM EST1

I think the honest answer here has to be that yes it will be a hinderance and probably has been already. There's just no way for me to see the world the same now and that affects how I view a potiential partner. We're almost to the 2 yr mark of when I left so I can say I've not been active in looking for a new partner yet but just thinking about the idea is tough for me sometimes. It's hard to leave a 4yr relationship even if that person harmed your child. What he did was unforgiveable but sometimes my heart still breaks because I thought things would be so different than they were. Those are bitter feelings and it will take time to overcome them. I will forever be more gaurded and a little less trusting. I think the best I can do is be honest with a potential new partner and say upfront what I might need that would be different from another person. I feel communication and total honesty will be imperative in moving on to a new relationship. 

Jan 11, 9:02PM EST0

Is there a registry or place where one can get information about pedophiles in a given area to protect your children from other perpetrators just lurking about?

Jan 11, 7:26PM EST1

Yes. At least in the US there is. It may vary for other countries. I suggest looking at the official website in your area. Try Googling a phrase such as "State Sex Offender Registry" and use the link that is most likely a government or state affiliated web link. (.gov or .statename.us for example) While there are other websites that have this information, I have found in my experience those not directly affiliated with the state can sometimes be months behind in updating the addresses or other changes that could be pertinent info if you're trying to keep your child safe. Regulations for registration can vary slightly so make sure you're getting information for your state when wondering about anything related to the registry. 

Jan 11, 8:56PM EST0

Can you share the basic steps for filing the case against the abuser? Do you think that procedure should be simplified/improved and how?

Jan 11, 6:57PM EST1

Yes, the procedure needs work. That is without doubt. Perhaps it's something we as parents need to take on but it could be a symptom of a bigger issue. There are gaps in the understanding of how things really work, and what law enforcement communicates to a family. Thankfully at this point many states do have Victim's Rights Laws which address issues like this. Unfortunately for my personal experience we did not yet have these laws in place. As of January 2017 however, that has changed and I'm very happy to know this. The steps themselves are fairly basic, but devastating to think about and actually take. The first thing I'd say is most important is to make sure you, your child, and anyone else that needs to know are all safe. I would never advise reporting before assuring you don't have to interact with this person at all anymore. In my case I did have to wait 2 days but my child was safe with his dad while I waited. Had he been with me we would've left and gone to a shelter that very minute. I think I probably would've said we were going to the store or something but we would've been gone. The next step is to call the police which is tough. You have to actually say the words no one wants to say. This is where I'd recommend considering writing things down prior to calling. It's very hard to remember something little that could end up being very very important when you're filing the actual report. You can expect to first talk with an officer and then most likely a detective. If there's something that needs to be collected they will begin the process for getting warrants, most likely while you're still talking with them. For me the police officer left when the detective showed up. He went back to the station and got the warrants while the detective (after asking permission) stood in front of the door to our computer room so no one would move or touch anything on the computer or other electronics waiting for warrants. She did not touch anything or turn anything on. She asked some more questions and helped me set up the appointment with the place in town that interviews potential child victims. The interview for my child was handled much like a check up. The police watched from another room and Kiddo never had to see anyone in a uniform. They were skilled in asking questions but in a way that is court permissible (focuses on not leading the child on etc) and the detective was very clear about telling us not to ask our child anything about the case as it could be seen as "victim coaching" which we didn't want. It took about 3 months between the report and the actual arrest. March 7th to May 16th. There were periodic calls from the detective asking about specific dates or periods of time. An email of "scrubbed" images (they take out the explicit parts) where both myself and my son's father were asked to identify the child and or the room. (Do you recognize this room etc) Notifcations when Kiddo was added to the NCMEC's known victim database. As the process moved along we got letters letting us know about key hearing dates. I learned to call the day before to make sure nothing had been changed or canceled as this was a pretty common thing to have happen. I made sure to stay on top of the notifications and made an effort on my own to contact and be in touch with the State's Attorney for the case. After the plea deal was made I submitted my Victim Impact Statement. This is essentially a letter in your own words to the judge and all involved that explains how you and your family have suffered because of the crime committed. It's important to note that if you do submit a VIS it becomes part of court record and thusly available (with names of minors redacted) to anyone with access to those files. This means someone can pay to see the case files and would also see your statement. Some people find this too personal and opt out of a VIS. I did not but I understand why someone would. I attended the sentencing in person, and that was hard. It's hard to see the person who did this to your child sitting right in front of you. The SA and Public Defender both spoke, and then the judge commented on a few things and explained the sentence he was giving. Then they cuffed my ex and he left the court room. He did not opt to speak for himself or submit his own statement. He did have his lawyer convey that he was "very sorry" for his actions. And... then from their point of view it was over. It doesn't feel that way to us but the case itself is closed.

Last edited @ Jan 12, 5:48AM EST.
Jan 11, 8:48PM EST0
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Were there signs that indicate your ex is a person capable of abusing children? When you look back do you remember anything suspicious?

Jan 11, 5:11PM EST1

I have asked myself this question so so so many times. The simplest answer is there truly wasn't anything I can think of. I cannot think of anything he did that worried me at the time or looking back. I can say there was some... weird tension around the time of a man name Danny Heinrich being arrested. He was arrested on child pornography charges and later confessed to the abduction and murder of Jacob Wetterling. Jacob's disappearance was a huge thing in my childhood and really for anyone in our area. It's a case people were following for years and years. When Heinrich was arrested I watched a lot of the early coverage and interviews regarding his possible link to Jacob. My ex was VERY edgy about it and often refused to discuss my frustration and heartbreak for the children Heinrich victimized. Much later I realized he had been in contact with Heinrich on social media. This causes me to wonder if my child was one of the boys he had pictures of or if my ex was edgy soly because of their similar crimes. At the time I just thought talking about a child being harmed was upsetting, but looking back I see that as a possible red flag.

Jan 11, 8:08PM EST0
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How old was your son when he was victimized?

Jan 11, 4:11PM EST1

Based on the evidence, we know some of the images were 4 years old. My son was 7 when I found the pictures and left. To me this means he was victimized from ages 3 to 7. 

Jan 11, 7:55PM EST1
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What kind of support did you get from the real father of your child? Did he even know about this tragedy?

Jan 11, 2:54PM EST1

I can't say I got a ton of emotional support from him directly but his job is to support our child. He's a great father and he definitely was the first person to know about the situation. We're very much focused on Kiddo and his wellbeing and that's a team effort. There's no way I would've ever considered not telling him. 

Jan 11, 7:37PM EST0

Can you tell us the emotions you felt when you found out?

Jan 11, 10:52AM EST1

I don't think there's a good word for anything I felt at that moment. Devastated, shocked, terrified, worried, horrified... I know my feelings were strong enough to make me throw up. Several times over. But even almost 2 years later the feelings are at times still so strong they are beyond words. 

Jan 11, 6:54PM EST0
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How were you able to help your son recover fully from the trauma?

Jan 11, 6:48AM EST1

This is still an ongoing and to be determined situation. As I said in my link, we only know what happened because of the evidence I found myself. My son did not ever say anything to anyone nor did he display common warning signs you might see in children. I have no idea how long it would've continued had I not found the evidence. I realize this sounds weird. There are details I don't talk about in regards to the pictures and videos found, but suffice to say there is ample evidence my son may not have been aware of what was going on. Given his continued stable mental health and happy demeanor I do think there's a good chance he's going to be ok. 

Jan 11, 10:32AM EST0

If you will be given the chance to go back and change the past, do you think there is something you could have you done to protect him?

Jan 11, 6:47AM EST1

I guess I'd have to say never letting this man into our lives to begin with. I've played it over and over in my head and I just don't know how or when any of these things happened. I feel like our time together was always very much the three of us as a family. So my choices would be never getting involved, or somehow figuring out a way to never ever sleep so I could constantly stand gaurd. Clearly only one of those is a reasonable and attainable thing to do.

Jan 11, 10:28AM EST0

Why do you think pedophiles are behaving and acting like they do? What are the common background reasons for such behavior?

Jan 11, 6:26AM EST1

I wish I had a more insightful answer for this but I honestly can't tell you there's one specific thing I think is the main issue. It's very hard for me to accept as a mother that there's anyone who thinks this isn't a reprehensible thing to do to a child. I have read a lot and there are suggestions of past victimization being an issue, and also various mental health diagnoses that could be contributing factors. I know past abuse issues are commonly brought up as a main reason so I guess maybe I'd look there as a possible place to start. Maybe we need to do better in getting these kids help and counseling. Maybe victim's rights laws need to include lifelong counseling for this type of crime. I can't justify what they do, no matter the root causes, but maybe we can stop the cycle from repeating.

Last edited @ Jan 12, 5:54AM EST.
Jan 11, 10:23AM EST0

How are you dealing with all of this right now?

Jan 10, 8:09PM EST1

It depends on the day. Today I cried a lot. I saw and got tagged for a lot of the issues brought up with the accusations aimed at Shane Dawson and it was VERY hard for me to read and hear some of the things said. Even on the best days this is still there. It still hurts. I don't know when that will change. 

Jan 10, 8:33PM EST0

The father of your son, was he understanding and supportive or did he blame you in any way?

Jan 10, 11:23AM EST1

This is a really good question. It's something I worried about a lot in the 2 days between knowing and reporting. I had to keep telling myself that my son's safety had to be more important than his dad possibly being angry with me. He does blame me sometimes. He's also made comments that sting but aren't direct blame. It's a really tough situation and despite it being almost 2 years we're still picking up the pieces. I think it's important to say that he is a great father, and my son has NEVER heard his father say anything bad about me. For the most part we've been a team through this and I'm thankful for that. 

Jan 10, 6:06PM EST0

Are you still living at the shelter? Until when?

Jan 10, 5:46AM EST1

I am not living at the shelter any longer. Shelters for situations of abuse are a GREAT resource and I would never tell a victim not to go there. (It's important for me to notate that while my shelter was specifically for women and children, there ARE shelters for male victims as well) However, shelters are a temporary situation. In my case the shelter offers up to 30 days max, depending on the specific situation and needs of the victim(s). I did get to stay for the full 30 days but I then did have to leave the shelter. They did a great job of helping me get info on how to find housing assistance etc, but I'm not going to lie and say it was or has been easy. I lived with my best friend for about a month and then moved into an apartment complex sort of aimed at people trying to get back on their feet. Leaving everything behind like I did really causes a lot of struggles. 2 years later my living situation is still a rocky road to be traveled. All this being said, I am very thankful to the shelter for their assistance and support. I never would've been able to safely leave without them. 

Jan 10, 5:54AM EST0

What happened? I hope they lose the key on this predator!

Jan 9, 8:41PM EST1

The man who abused my son was my fiance. I did link our full story, but in short one morning I found pornographic pictures on his phone. The child's face was never pictured but I am 100% sure that was my son. It was later proven that he'd been abusing and using my child to exploit for pornography to share with other men for over 4 years.  In all there were originally 8 charges.  His plea deal involved 3 of them, allowing him to get a 35 year sentence as one of the charges dropped would've required an automatic life sentence due to the extremely young age of my son at the time. (He's only 9 right now.) He is eligible for parole in 2034, at the age of 70. It is my belief based on the judge's case comments and laws in our state that parole will be denied, however, I will be there every chance I get to make sure I'm heard and do everything I can to prevent him from ever being released early.

Last edited @ Jan 10, 3:54AM EST.
Jan 9, 9:26PM EST0

Thanks for sharing!

Jan 12, 8:38AM EST1
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