Every year, tens of thousands of children across the country are sexually abused. We'll never know exactly how many because only some report it. Sometimes it's years after the fact, others never come forward. In 2010, there were 540 documented cases of sexual abuse in the state of Iowa. But that statistic is just part of the story. It's the personal details from children and their families that paint the bigger picture.
Over the next three nights, you'll meet just one of those victims from the small town of Spencer, Iowa. We'll tell you why he came forward, why no one's ever been charged and why this isn't unusual in sexual abuse cases. To protect the people involved in this case, we've changed their names and blurred their faces.
"So it was at nighttime, my mom was sleeping in her bedroom. I was sleeping on the couch because I didn't want to sleep in my room because it was like really dark. So he got home, and he washed some dishes and he ate something and then he came over and basically raped me," says Andrew.
13-year-old Andrew describes what happened the night he says his mother's boyfriend sexually abused him.
According to DHS documents, the alleged abuse happened in the basement apartment of this home where the family lived some 7 or 8 years ago.
The Iowa Department of Human Services report gives more details. Andrew told investigators, "Jeff was lying on top of him, also face down ... and Jeff was humping. After Jeff did this, he told Andrew that it was a secret and not to tell anyone. Andrew thinks this happened when he was 5 or 6 or 7."
Andrew didn't reveal his secret until he was 11 years old. At the time, he was living with his mother Becky and her boyfriend Jeff. But that hadn't always been the case. Andrew lived with his grandparents until he was 5. Then Becky and Jeff wanted to take over custody.
"My first thought is, okay well, it's his mother. I kind of went against my better wishes but let's see how it goes. What a mistake," says Randy.
From the beginning, Becky's father Randy says he knew Jeff was trouble.
"I've got a 6th sense about stuff and when I met this guy, I knew he was a dead-end street," says Randy.
Over the years, his rap sheet included assault, disorderly conduct, possession of a controlled substance and OWI.
"The alleged perpetrator, we've had many dealings with him. Not necessarily related to this incident that we're investigating but we know him on a first-name basis," says Mark Lawson, Spencer Police Chief.
Andrew describes Jeff as an alcoholic with anger issues. And that anger turned violent in July of 2010 when the two got into a fight over Jeff's drinking. The next day, things escalated between Andrew and his mom. So he left home to go stay with his grandparents. Over the next couple of weeks, his family noticed he was acting aggressive and getting angry. That's when Andrew's aunt decided it was time to talk.
"So she sat him down and said, what he wrong? And finally he took a piece of paper and wrote it down, what had happened. And he titled it, 'The Secrets of the Basement,'" says Randy.
"I didn't really want it to become a secret anymore," says Andrew. "(How did they react?) They were shocked."
Randy says for him, the news was a revelation after years of feeling like something just wasn't right.
"There's a red flag. There was a red flag. There's all kind of red flags going up," says Randy. "Then I finally said, now I know what it was all about."
Andrew's family called the police and DHS to report the abuse. Both agencies started investigating. During that time, juvenile court awarded Andrew's grandparents full custody. After two months, DHS concluded a number of the abuse allegations were FOUNDED, including Jeff committing second degree sexual abuse. Those founded accusations are now listed on the Central Abuse Registry. But that's as far as this case has gone. No criminal charges have ever been filed against Jeff.
"DHS's standard, level of standard is lower than what law enforcement's is so they can do more on less than what enforcement and the courts can do," says Lawson.
For Randy, this is unacceptable, he wants Jeff behind bars. But Clay County Attorney Mike Houchins says he won't go to trial unless he thinks he can win.
"Basically, I didn't feel that there was going to be a reasonable likelihood of us being able to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt," says Mike Houchins, Clay County Attorney.
"So I'm thinking, okay, 3 hots and a cot, right? If the judicial system wants to let me down, I'll go ahead and do what I got to do," says Randy.
Again, Jeff has never been arrested or faced any criminal charges in connection with the sexual abuse allegations. We asked both he and Becky to speak with us on camera. They declined our invitation.
Over the next two nights, we'll explore why prosecutors won't take this case to court, why this story is far too familiar to counselors who help victims of sexual abuse, and what Andrew and his grandfather plan to do about it.
Reported by Erika Thomas. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Friend her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ErikaThomasTV.
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