Breaking The Stigma Of Silence For Child Sex Abuse Victims

Thursday, May 16th 2024, 10:35 pm

By: Lori Fullbright

When a child is sexually abused, it is almost always by someone they know and trust, not a stranger.

These stories are difficult to report because we don’t reveal the relationship between the victim and abuser, to protect the victim’s privacy.

Most victims are reluctant to talk about their trauma, so it's a crime that continues for years, but a young woman is breaking the stigma of silence.

She's able to share her story because her stepfather is now serving a life sentence. She was abused by him for 13 years, even impregnated by him.

She wants others to know there is hope of escape and hope of healing. And while her story is important to tell, it's difficult to hear.

Amanda is now married and has a son with her husband, and a daughter, from being raped by her stepfather.

"He played like a dad. But behind closed doors, he wasn't a dad," says Amanda.

Amanda's step-father, Russell Griffith, came into her life when she was 3. He and her mother got married and had a little girl and all was good until Amanda turned 9. That's when he started molesting her.

He told her if she ever told, he'd take away her mother and sister and she'd be alone, so she didn't tell. Until she was 13 and it was so bad she told her mother.

"And the first thing out of her mouth was, she said, 'he would never do that to you. He loves you,'" says Amanda.

He denied it, made her recant, pulled her out of high school and refused to let her date.

"At some point, I felt everybody thought something was going on, just nobody wanted to say it out loud," says Amanda.

After she tried to kill herself the first time, he told everyone she was a problem child.

"He told me I couldn't leave, I was his and there was no escaping him and he wouldn't let me go out the easy way,” says Amanda.

By the time she was 16, he was raping her regularly. He moved her into a house across the street and put up video cameras. She felt like a hostage, and fighting back only brought violence.

"I thought that man was going to kill me if I left. I spent years being trapped inside a house, inside my own body. I couldn't leave no matter what I did," she says. 

When she was 22, she got pregnant and he forced her to tell everyone that it was a co-worker's baby.

"At this point, this big, giant secret I've been hiding my entire life is about to come out and explode," she says.

Seeing that baby girl's face and feeling a mother's love changed everything.

"I knew at that point, I had to get out, for her," says Amanda.

She called a cousin who raced to the rescue. Amanda left in the middle of the night with only her baby, a diaper bag, important papers and the clothes on her back. Her cousin took her to police.

Amanda told her mother the baby was his, but he had a story of his own.

“What he told police is, 'we were having an affair,'" she says.

Griffith was charged in federal court and put on trial. Even though Amanda's mother testified for him, Amanda found the strength to tell that jury every horrifying thing he'd done to her and about the 4 suicide attempts, pills, alcohol and time in mental institutions.

And the jury listened, believed and found him guilty. He was sentenced to life.

"My whole body felt relieved. I felt like I was finally free, completely," says Amanda.

She says with intense trauma therapy and a loving support system, she's now letting go of the pain and anger and sees herself as a survivor. She wants others to know they are not alone; there are teachers, doctors and police officers who will help.

"Don't be scared to tell anybody, someone will listen. You can get out now and don't have to spend the rest of your life wondering," she says.