Stories of Hope
Sisters’ Healing Journey to Become Survivors
Jennifer’s teacher never thought she would be making a child abuse report on one of her students when she received mandatory child abuse reporter training from the Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC). However, the teacher knew exactly what to do when Jennifer disclosed that her father was molesting her, and she was afraid he might do the same to one of her three sisters.
The Department of Child Safety (DCS) brought Jennifer and her sisters to Children’s Advocacy Center. Our bi-lingual forensic interviewers, trained to talk to children without asking leading or suggestive questions, interviewed the girls and in a manner that elicits a free narrative from the child. Through careful interviewing, it was discovered that Jennifer was not the only daughter Mr. Romero was molesting. All the sisters but the youngest were victims, and Jennifer described “grooming” behavior that indicated the five year old was his next victim.
Jennifer was examined by our sexual assault nurse examiner, who is experienced working with pediatric patients and recognizing physical signs of abuse. Because the last incident of sexual assault had occurred with 24 hours of the interview, DNA evidence of sexual assault was found on Jennifer’s body. It was collected and turned over to law enforcement to be analyzed and stored for use at trial.
This initial phase of the investigation took several hours to complete. With the children safely tucked away at the CAC, our staff were able to provide snacks, lunch, and a safe, quiet, caring place for the sisters to tell their stories and discover the truth. Without the CAC, the girls would have been taken to a chaotic police station or child protective services office with little privacy and no individual attention to their needs. They would have been talked to by detectives or DCS workers with less experience and training than our dedicated forensic interviewers, and examined in a hospital emergency room by doctors and nurses not familiar with working with sexual abuse child victims and the criminal justice system.
The girl’s mother was out of town and unable to take custody of them, so the girls spent the night in a foster home. To make them feel more comfortable, the CAC provided each girl with an overnight bag with a brand new change of clothing, pajamas, personal hygiene items, a book and stuffed animal.
Using the interviews and evidence collected, law enforcement presented the case to the Pima County Attorney’s Office. Charges were filed and the case went to trial. Our interviewers, medical staff, and the girls testified at trial. Mr. Romero was found guilty and sentenced to 35 years in prison.
Our hope is that the girls will move along their healing journey and become survivors due in part to the compassionate, professional care they received from CAC and all our partners, law enforcement and the Department of Child Safety, working together.