Letter: In response to ‘It takes a village to abuse a child’

The letters written by various community members in support of Thomas Jack Jr. and Mary Chessica Hauge shocked and dismayed me. The Juneau Empire Editorial “It takes a village to abuse a child” compelled me, a victim of child sexual abuse, to share my thoughts on this matter.

The prison sentence of 50 years (40 to be served) for Thomas Jack Jr. is a long jail sentence. But, consider the fact that Thomas promoted himself to the Office of Children Services as a safe foster placement for the children and then proceeded to abuse the older child. And consider that since Jack is not repentant for his crime, he needs a long time to contemplate his wrongdoing. Unless Jack admits to his crime and seeks treatment, he would likely re-offend if released to society. I applaud the judge for wanting to protect children from Jack for a very long time.

I want to recognize the courage of Mrs. Thomas Jack Jr. for calling the authorities and reporting this abuse. Sadly, sometimes the spouse in these circumstances fears the breakup of their home, public scrutiny (and sometimes scorn) and doesn’t report the abuse. Mrs. Jack’s instinct was to protect these children at great cost to herself. She’s my hero in this case.

The prison sentence of 30 months in the case of Mary Chessica Hauge seems very short in comparison to the felony that she committed by leaving her children in the care of her husband, a known sex offender, who abused and filmed the children. Her conviction of eight felony counts of child endangerment surely should include a longer sentence on each count. This woman knew the children would be abused. It sounds more like she was an accessory to the crime.

Children who are sexually abused get a life sentence. They spend their entire lives with the knowledge of their abuse.

Children have a great need for security and they look to the adults in their lives to provide that. When they are abused by an adult, the child often feels shame and wonders why it is happening to them. Their need to make sense of it causes them to create compensatory explanations for the abuse: “I must have done something wrong for that to happen,” “I brought it on myself,” “I was bad.” With that narrative the child takes on the guilt for the abuse. And until and unless they get help to understand their vulnerability, they carry that guilt with them for years and sometimes to their graves. The guilt has toxic effects on their psyche and their self-esteem. They are much more likely to make poor choices in life, such as drug and alcohol addiction, teen pregnancy, homelessness, depression, suicide, and often, further victimization as adults by their partners.

I volunteered as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for 12 years representing the interests of children in state of Alaska custody. Often these children were removed from their homes due to neglect and abuse and placed in foster care until a final resolution of their future safety and well-being was ensured. I found that in many of my cases the mother of the abused children was the victim of sexual (and other) abuse as a child, as well. These mothers were experiencing the trauma of the unresolved grief from their abuse and carrying it forward with their children.

With all the horror sexual abuse wreaks on a victim, I ask you, “What kind of society do we want?” Do we support shorter sentences for unrepentant perpetrators? Or do we support a no-tolerance policy for sexually abusing children. And instead, do we as a society throw our collective arms around these innocent young victims and get them all the help they need to recover from this heinous crime?

In closing, I applaud the Juneau Empire for its reporting on this issue. In the mid-1980s, you published a series of articles about sexual abuse survivors. As I read them, I realized that my depression in adulthood was linked to my childhood experience of sexual assault. I finally sought help to heal from the deep wounds it caused. The articles changed my life for the better.

Thank you,

Sheri Williams,