Shattered Innocence: Child abuse survivors share their stories | Community events
Most often, the victims of sexual abuse are women. According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 5 women has been a victim of rape or attempted rape in her lifetime.
For men, it’s a whole different story. This statistic is 1 in 38.
One of those men is here in northern Alabama. For the first time, 40 years after the attack, he is sharing his story.
Randy Gautreau is 56 years old. He considers his childhood to be quite a happy one – he had a loving mother, a caring father and a special big brother.
This is what he shares with this brother he wishes he could forget.
“It’s a very violent act,” Gautreau said. “There were four guys – teenagers – from a neighborhood, and they were coming to choose us. They also have my brother.
Gautreau was raped at age 4.
“The others were participating by holding you back, something like that,” Gautreau recalled. “There were two places where these attacks would happen. They would only do one of us at a time.”
It’s a rape forgotten for 40 years.
“I come back in those episodes where I come back as this 4-year-old kid,” Gautreau said. “But I’m thrown back in. I’m immediately thrown back in where these guys hold you, stuff like that.”
Gautreau suffers from dissociative identity disorder, formerly known as multiple personality disorder. He suffers violent flashbacks that bring him back to his rape. At worst, they were happening every day. Now it’s more manageable. Gautreau said they perform about once a month.
“I always thought that kid was another kid,” Gautreau said, wiping away tears. I think that’s why it’s so important to talk about it.
From the time of her rape in the late 1960s until 2010, Gautreau was unaware that the rape had even taken place. It was such a violent act that his brain suppressed it. In 2010, 40 years after the attack, it was a conversation with his brother that brought everything back.
“I finally put together some stuff. So, I called my brother one night to kind of get yeses or noes, but not too detailed,” Gautreau said. “I’ll never forget that. At the end of the conversation, he said, ‘I was hoping they wouldn’t have touched you.’
A period of severe depression followed. Gautreau even nearly committed suicide. And all because of a new, fresh and horrible memory.
“The thing with the house was the mattress. You’re pressed against the mattress. You struggled to breathe when you were little. It’s like they didn’t care,” Gautreau recalled. “When they were done, they would have just leaned on you, standing up. It was like you were nothing.
Years of therapy, difficult conversations and self-realization then led to a new Randy Gautreau. A Randy Gautreau who helps others so that stories like his are a thing of the past and another child doesn’t have to go through the same thing.
“People have to be so aware of what’s going on with their kids. It’s their family members. It’s people they trust doing this stuff. They may think, ‘Oh, they’re there. down with so-and-so, “but he’s a trustworthy person,” Gautreau said. “I don’t know what motivates these people. I don’t know how they can attack someone.”
At the time of Gautreau’s rape, the National Center for the Defense of Children was not even an idea, much less a reality. Knowing that a resource of this magnitude is here now brings comfort to Gautreau, as he knows that stories like his can only be told in the past tense one day.
“Having a place where the focus is on the child, the safety of the child, the future of the child, that’s so important,” Gautreau said.
Even though Gautreau didn’t get justice in his case, he said he was happy to know that the children in his place have more resources at their disposal.
The likelihood of a conviction
In the office of investigator Priscilla Padgett, the front page of a local newspaper is pinned to the wall.
“I’ll never forget sitting in court, and I’ll never forget a mother’s face to see tears and see her hold back, try to hold back without bursting out,” Padgett said. “It’s etched in my mind.”
On that first page is a headline about the indictment of a former Fort Payne teacher, who has since been convicted of sex crimes involving his own students. He has a twin brother – also a teacher – who has been implicated in similar crimes.
“The twin, the one who made a deal this week, he had one. There was a victim. A woman,” Padgett said.
The brothers each reached a plea deal, which reduced their time in jail. But any prison sentence is a victory for investigators and prosecutors.
Gabrielle Helix is a domestic violence resource attorney for the Alabama Bureau of Prosecutions.
“Child abuse in general is a Class C felony,” Helix said. “They won’t go to prison for life.”
Helix assists 41 district attorney offices across the state. Previously, she was an assistant DA in Madison County, working at NCAC. She focused on prosecuting child abuse cases.
“When you isolate, heal, coerce, intimidate your victim to the point that it’s not a bar fight because you can’t fight back, you have this unequal balance of power, and to me, that’s the crime the most offensive of the justice system,” Helix said.
Yet Helix respects the legal system. She said she had to be realistic with each family.
“You know, as a mother, if someone hurt my child, I would want them under jail. Well, ‘under jail’ is not a punishment we have, but they won’t have life. , then it’s managing those expectations and helping them heal by connecting them with resources and so on,” Helix said, “to mitigate and manage the trauma, so that when we come to a disposition, they’re in a better place.
Even if there appears to be evidence, it may not be enough to convince a jury.
“So we have to get a case beyond a reasonable doubt, which is to say, we have to ask ourselves, ‘Is there acceptable evidence? .”
For some victims, the priority may be getting the child to safety – a child like Kanea Tinker. Tinker lives with his aunt, Sonya Clemons, in DeKalb County. She remains there now, away from her accused abusers – her own father and mother.
“I just learned to deal with it, honestly,” Tinker said. “I never really knew when I was going to school. I never really knew what was going to happen when I got home.
Tinker said her parents have abused her emotionally and physically for as long as she can remember. When she was 11, her aunt and grandmother figured it out. They discovered bruises on Tinker’s body. They took photos and surrendered to the police.
“But when you take a board that you made and you whip a kid, if you want to call it ‘whipping’ – and they admitted she would get over 25 licks multiple times a day,” said Clemons. “She could’ve gotten 100 licks a day!
The parents were eventually charged with third-degree domestic violence, a misdemeanor. The Alabama Department of Human Resources placed Tinker with his aunt and uncle in December 2019.
“I see a future now more than I do,” Tinker said.
“She wants to go to college. She wants to be a veterinarian,” Clemons said. “She told me yesterday, if she can’t be a vet, she loves doing hair.”
Tinker has been healing for several years now. She loves volleyball, doing her hair, doing straight A’s and hanging out with friends. She said she finally felt at home and was asking her aunt and uncle to legally adopt her. They are a couple who never planned to have children but who have no regrets for having saved this brilliant young girl.
“I couldn’t thank them enough, honestly,” Tinker said.
Clemons said she would do anything to keep her niece safe.
“We just want her to know she is loved, she will never be abused. As long as my husband and I are alive, she will never be abused,” Clemons said.