EDITOR’S NOTE: The names of the victim and his mother have been altered to protect their identity.
In Seguin’s working-class neighborhoods, Joy raised her family promoting education, tolerance, and above all else, follow the word of Christ, she said. Joy has a close relationship with her son, James, and described herself as James’ anchor.
When James was a boy, he was active with his church. That’s where he met 18-year-old, church youth group volunteer Christopher Wayne Brown — the man who would eventually sexually abuse him. The two hit it off, becoming friends, James’ mother said.
At one point, Joy had to have back surgery that’s when Brown worked his way into their home. He helped around the house, aiding the family in a time of need.
“He befriended us, pulled himself into our family, so that we would trust him implicitly,” Joy said. “And I did, I trusted him implicitly.”
After gaining their trust, Brown started sexually assaulting James when he was on 12 years old, Joy said.
GROOMING FOR ABUSE
Guadalupe County Children Advocacy Center Executive Director Christy Williams said that this was part of Brown’s plan of attack.
“There’s a process to it,” she said. “The perpetrator is not only grooming the individual, but everyone in the household.”
Williams said the grooming process can be as subtle as a brush on the victims’ shoulder.
“Grooming will look different,” she said. “At first they can touch the child on the shoulder, neck or back, then giving them a back massage, then touching the butt. It’s a slow progression. They’re slowly desensitizing the victim.”
Sometimes Brown and a couple of James’ friends would stay over at the house, playing video games, watching TV, and nothing was suspected until the two friends broke their silence about what they witnessed between Brown and James.
“Why would we have thought twice about what the boys were doing? They were playing video games, with the door closed,” she said. “If it was a girl, it may have been an issue, but these were boys.”
“We weren’t out at the clubs, or partying, we were there, watching TV in the living room,” she said. “It happened right under our nose.”
Williams said the guilt is common among parents whose children have been abused.
“We give a lot of reassurance,” she said. “They’re not the only ones that this happened to. They can do everything in their power to keep their child safe going forward.”
After learning about the tragedy, Joy said she didn’t know what to feel.
“I was numb, you hear of these things in the news, but you think it won’t happen to you,” she said.
Williams said there often is duplicity in what child sex predators say in front of victims and non-offending caregivers.
“(The perpetrator) They might say something like, ‘Didn’t we have fun last night?’ to the non-offending caregiver, in front of the child, and they (the non-offending caregiver) can say, ‘Yeah it was,’ thinking that they’re talking about how they went out to dinner last night, but really, he’s talking about what happened when the lights were off, between the sheets,” she said. “The child can see that and think, the non-offending caregiver knows what’s going on, and that it’s OK. It’s very manipulative.”
A FAMILY DIVIDED
Joy said she found hope at the Guadalupe County Child Advocacy Center, and where she met Williams.
From there, Joy said individual and group counseling services were provided for James and his family.
However, James’ father did not support him, and excluded himself from the recovery process.
“The most painful part was my (now) ex-husband didn’t accept our invitation to come to counseling,” she said.
Joy and her former husband had different views about James’ future.
Joy said she wanted to take the necessary steps to help her son recover, but his father believed James was “tainted.” He believed James was going to become a predator and a homosexual, she added.
James’ father was re-victimizing his son, Joy said, which led to their divorce and the father’s rights were revoked.
“In the counseling sessions, it turned out to be not of his (James’) abuse, but more of how his birth father was dealing with it,” she said. “He didn’t have the capability of understanding our son can be put in harms way without it changing him internally.”
“I had to protect my son from his father,” she added. “He was being re-abused mentally, and it was not in his best interest to continue his visits.”
Williams said because of these troublesome accusations, James’ father may have been abused himself.
“He may have been offended upon as a child, or it’s fear of the unknown,” she said. “Just because someone is being abused, doesn’t mean they’re going to be abusive. It’s not predisposed.”
Williams said from her experience, a lack of parent support is common.
“There are barriers,” she said. “They could have been victims themselves. They could say, ‘I made it through that without it, and my kid can make it through without counseling.’ Another barrier could be they’ve been groomed too, and they didn’t see it happening, so they don’t believe it. Another could be resources. Sometimes parents work and can’t get the day off for counseling, but we can at least send counselors to the school.”
In James’ case, despite his father not being supportive, his mother and the rest of his family were there for him.
“I told my son,‘In no circumstance are you being blamed for this,’” Joy said. “He needed to hear that he was not going to ever be at risk for harming a child. He would even be less at risk because he knows how that child would feel.”
After working 14 years in managing private prisons, Guadalupe County Commissioner Pct. 4 Judy Cope witnessed firsthand the pain victims endure when being sexually abused.
“Some pedophiles have not been sexually abused as a child,” Cope said. “The ones who are caught, it’s usually not their first rodeo ... It’s very unlikely for pedophiles to be reformed. It seems once they’re a pedophile, it’s something they cannot overcome.”
Joy suspects James was not the only victim.
“We believe there was multiple victims,” Joy said. “There was only two that came forward, he only confessed to one, so they only charged him with one. We suspect at least three or four additional victims.”
Williams said having support is the key to recovering from abuse.
“If there’s support from non-offending caregivers, it’s less of a likelihood for self harm, perpetrating, having a child who is abused, and becoming victims again,” she said.
But therapy is another key component to recover, Williams said.
For example, she said, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is one of many symptoms that can manifest after abuse which can be treated.
According to the findings in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for PTSD in Children and Adolescents: A Preliminarily Randomized Controlled Trial,” it supports therapy also.
The article reports that after 10-weeks of individual trauma-based cognitive behavioral therapy, about 92 percent of children and young people no longer meet the standards for PTSD. Those who participated in the test showed significant improvement from symptoms like, PTSD, anxiety and depression.
“No matter what, we encourage therapy,” Williams said. “It could be as bad as its been going on the last 10 years of their life, we can tailor that counseling. In counseling, we teach them to recognize red flags, because, when someone is victimized, it happens often enough to where we notice, the victim doesn’t recognize the red flags. That person may have gone through years of grooming and doesn’t feel the same alarming feeling they did at first — it deadens them. In therapy, it strengthens them ... so they can recognize those red flags to prevent them from being future victims.”
Now, about 10 years later, James is working and going to school attending Northeast Lakeview at Alamo Colleges.
Joy said since the incident, he’s recovered and is leading a normal life.
“When I think of abuse, I automatically think of scars,” Joy said. “That’s not every kind of abuse — it starts small. They’re small indicators that escalate. It goes from a category one tornado to a category five tornado ... But, there is a light at the end of the tunnel,” she said.
“Abuse knows no discriminatory boundaries,” Joy added. “It can happen to anyone.”