Wednesday, June 11, 2014

My name is Ashlynn and I am a proud mama bear.

My name is Ashlynn and I am a proud mama bear.






















After school on a Monday my daughter came home telling me she no longer liked school and asked when it would end so she didn’t have to go back.  She had loved school so I was a little confused.  The next day, December 11, 2012, my 4 year old told me her vagina hurt.  I asked her if she had fallen on it or sat funny at school?  She hesitated and said she fell on it.  She told me what had happened with some boys at school.  I asked if she had told her teacher, she said no but that she wanted me to.

Later that night I called my father-in-law, who is a LCSW and he suggested I use dolls to have her role play what had happened at school, thinking maybe she would show me what happened.  He encouraged me to go to the school to report the incident but not to look too deep into the situation because of their age and that the activities seemed age appropriate for curiosity. So the next morning, I met with her teacher and the principal.  My daughter was happy about this.

After school that day, I went to my friends house (since my husband was out of town) and I got some dolls.  My daughter showed us what happened at school and it matched what she had said the day before.

But then she went on telling and SHOWING us what happened when someone comes into her bed. 

My heart sank as I looked up at my friend, hoping we would know what to do with way more information than we were prepared for.

I asked her to tell me more.

Was her sister with her?

Yes.

I asked her if she remembered who it was?

Yes.

She told me the name of the person. I asked again and she said the same name. I asked if it could be someone else other than who she was saying? It was the same name she had already told me.

Right after she answered the question, she stood up and walked out of the room saying she wanted to go home.

So we got in the car and started driving 4 hours away to my parents house. Literally 30 minutes later, my daughter was sick and by the time we got to my parents house, she had a fever and was coughing.  We didn’t sleep all night and by 5:00 am the next morning, I was in the ER with her 104 fever.  She was quickly diagnosed with Croup and was given 2 breathing treatments before they sent us home.  We spent the day snuggled on the couch with my parents watching movies and playing. My husband’s boss found out what happened and sent my husband home 2 days early and flew him directly to us! Amazing. She starting getting better and we headed home after a couple of days.

I had called the police from my parents house and started the process.  We scheduled the interview at The Children’s Justice Center and the interview went well but my daughter did not disclose anything at all.  After the interview she got sick again and cried that everything was all wrong.  I explained she had done nothing wrong and she was just sick.  We held her for hours.  She began having fits of horrible anger.  She would tell me she wanted to die so she would not have to think about bad things in her brain.  It killed me to hear the pain and anger coming my from little girl.













Once we found out who had done this, we immediately limited our contact with the abuser and all those associated with that person.  We wanted time to figure things out before the accusation came out publically.  It was hard on us and it was hard on those we loved.  They were left in the dark, they were hurt and they were worried but I wouldn’t do it any different.  We HAD to focus on ourselves, we had to protect our girls & make them feel safe.

Since she had told me about all of this, I had cried every single day– always when she wasn’t around to see my tears.  Then I asked the leader of our church group to come give us all a blessing and ever since the blessing, I stopped crying.  My husband and I truly felt Heavenly Father wrap his arms around us, guiding us with patience and love.

Two weeks after finding out, I also joined a gym.  I have used fitness as my drug.  I punched, pedaled and lifted my way through the pain.  I became stronger mentally, emotionally and, as a bonus, physically.  This saved me.




On December 18th my daughter started "play therapy" with a professional therapist who specialized in child abuse.  She really enjoyed going and went 1-2 times a week.  Sometimes she wanted me to sit in and sometimes she wanted to go in without me.  All sessions were recorded and I was sent the summary afterwards.  Slowly we started to see her become the girl we used to know.

But the nightmares had started quickly for both girls.  They went from sleeping through the night to waking up every.single.night crying and scared.  Her therapist suggested we redecorate her bedroom or move!  So we redecorated and that helped but the nightmares continued.  So we started "worry time" shortly after my daughter started therapy.  Each night we talk with our girls privately before bed asking about their day.  Sometimes our talks are filled with silliness, while others are filled with fear and crying.  "Worry time" is something I recommend to all parents, even if your kids are mentally healthy!  It is such a great bonding experience and helps our kids know we can help take away their worry and fear.

I remember seeing my daughter progress quickly in therapy, but I was still trying to truly accept that this person I loved would do this to my daughters.  I believed my daughter from the moment she told me-- no hesitation whatsoever.  However, accepting WHO was not as easy.  Our abuser was a loved one, close to us all, loving, sweet, and seemed totally normal.

She … yes, it was an adult woman … who showered my girls with gifts.  I remember numerous times asking this loved one not to bring gifts because it was always extravagant and made me uncomfortable.  This is grooming at its finest.  When we'd go out,  I'd offered to get a babysitter so she wouldn’t have to stay home, but she'd insist on babysitting the girls as a favor. All the signs were there, but were shadowed by the trust and love we felt for her.

Although my daughter was doing great in therapy, she was still not disclosing.  Sometimes I wondered what would cause more physiological damage to her? Letting her not tell anyone again and not dealing with it? Or for me to shake her shoulders and make her tell!  It is beyond frustrating to know why your child is hurting but then to watch them build a wall around that hurt, not letting anyone else in.  I was doing all I could to help her but it was incredibly taxing on us all.  I dealt with the side effects, and our new life of therapy and worry, every single day.

This has become a part of me,  just like it is part of her.





























Then in February, the doctor said that we needed to make a decision: we needed to decide if we would ever see the abuser again. At this point we hadn’t even talked to the abuser since before we found out.  We took a weekend to pray and think it over but kept coming back to our gut answer: NEVER AGAIN!

What does never again mean when it is a loved one? 

 It means you miss weddings, parties, funerals, holidays, and any family gathering.  No more family pictures.  It sounds harsh but we want what is best for our daughters.  We can forgive but we won’t forget … for our own safety.

On February 4th, just days after we told our daughter she would never have to see the abuser again, that she would always be safe, she disclosed to her doctor and to the police.  She just needed to know she was safe before she told anyone else.  The state had no choice but to press charges – not us.  On February 20th the abuser was arrested on 3 counts of sodomy.  It was a whirlwind of emotions.  Our loved ones quickly became aware of WHY we had been so distant and quickly rallied around the abuser and abandoned us for months.  We were heart broken to say the least.

Once she was released, she refused a lie detector test.  We were devastated but learned that child abuse cases are the worst – there are no wins.  So rather than fight it civilly, we chose to alert those who came into contact with her so they could choose to protect their children or not.  We forced no one to believe us or to side with us.

Instead, we decided to focus on healing and moving on. We started marriage counseling in April after we felt comfortable leaving our children with a babysitter.  It helped a ton!  We were carrying such heavy burdens that we needed it.  We also started family group therapy.  We met as parents to talk about progress and tools to help our children while our kids were in age grouped classes learning how to cope and fight off future problems.  It was fantastic and I feel very lucky that we had so many resources available to us.













I feel so blessed that my little 4 year old was brave enough, in the 10% of those who tell, to tell me what had happened.  She has a tender heart and wants to be good and choose the right.  I feel blessed when my girls wake up and tell me they had good dreams.  I feel so blessed seeing the change a priesthood blessing can bring to a family.  We have all felt such comfort and peace.  My daughter has that light back in her eyes … she is becoming more outgoing again.  It is still on her mind but now she tells me and we talk it out. I am blessed with a now 6 year old daughter who knows more about her emotions than most adults.




**Remember the purpose of the "My Name is" Series is to open our hearts, to interact, to uplift, to support and to grow. Ashlynn will be reading the comments and I know that she welcomes your love, words of encouragement and support, as well as any questions you may have.


You can follow Ashlynn as she talks about her fitness journey, and how she's coped with all of this, on her sites:

Instagram: http://instagram.com/mamabear.fitness


Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mamabearfit

*Ashlynn, thank you for you bravery and for your example. I am so honored to know you and I admire your willingness to not only fight for your girls, but for creating awareness on such a difficult subject. We cannot heal if we brush things under the rug…  ou are a beacon of hope and light to so many!

(Read more about the "My Name is" series, as well as the stories of other inspiring womenHERE)

40 comments:

  1. This breaks my heart for your family. I'm so grateful y'all sought out resources, listened to your daughter, and fought for her. It is so unfortunate that this happened, but I hope that sharing your experience will help keep someone else's child from the same or repeated experience.

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    1. Thank you I hope speaking out helps too. In the 1 1/2 years I've been open it's been a beautiful thing to share the pain with others who reach out to me.

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  2. I was abused as a child. I recieved the help I needed and now have a very happy life as a wife and mother. Keep protecting your child it is worth the sacrifices. Your strength and courage is amazing. I hope all of you recieve the peace and healing you need.

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    1. It's people like you who help me get through the worry about the future! Thanks for sharing

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  3. I'm sure in the many people you've met in this process, you don't remember me, but we met at family group counseling at the Children's Justice Center last year. Thank you so much for sharing your story here, and back then...I just wanted to tell you how much it's helped me, given me faith & hope and helped me be stronger than I feel. You and your family are remarkable people! May God continue to bless you all.

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    1. Hey Allison - yeah I love that we know each other from group! I've only run into one other person & she didn't remember me. Hehe. Let's connect on Facebook!

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    2. I'd love to! I started following your fitness page...I love it! It's inspiring me to make a much-needed change, especially now when my buddy is back where his situation happened for two weeks!

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  4. How heartbreaking and difficult this must have been. I can't even imagine. This little girl is so lucky to be surrounded with her little family that loves her so much and is doing all they possibly can to help her heal, while they heal themselves.

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  5. Thank you so much for sharing your story! I was sexually abused as a child and I swear we do a FHE about sex abuse monthly, but in the end I'm still sooooo scared it could still happen to my little ones and that they will keep that secret held tight inside them! I feel so Leary all the time about all the people they are around, but I know it could happen to anyone! I'm so thankful your sweet girl felt safe enough to tell you in the beginning! I'm so thankful you removed that person from your life forever, but I'm really sad she's not listed as a sex offender to protect all the other kids out there from her, how was she not charged and labeled?? Did they believe her word against your daughters? At least that this woman needs help and has to prove to the courts she's getting the proper help!!! Sorry for so many questions, just breaks my heart that these people who abuse little ones and who are very sick can walk away from something like this! You are a strong mama and I'm thankful you shared your story!

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    1. Jo Lynn yes it's heartbreaking & honestly when I really think about the legal system that's the worst part. This offender walked away & went back to work no problem. She was not charged because utah county attorney had decided just 3 months previous to our case that they would no longer try any abuse cases without physical evidence (happens 5% of the time) or a witness. So even though the detective said he had no doubt she was lying, especially when she refused a lie detector we could do nothing.

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    2. Sorry it cut me off! I wish it could have been different but I am at peace with it. We've been very vocal about it & those close to her know what is possible so it's up to them now. I've learned that knowing someone is a sex offender doesn't make you safe! I have NO registered offenders within 10 miles of me but I guarantee there are 100's that have family protecting them! Those are the ones we should be watching out for ... If we only knew!

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  6. Holy crap woman! I am SO SORRY you guys have had to go through this! Thank you for sharing your story, it takes a strong child and a strong mom to help others through sharing your own stories with others. I hope you all continue to heal and grow. Bless you all!

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  7. Thank you Jacy for letting me have a voice on your blog. You are so great!!! Building up so many of us!

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  8. This hits too close to home. It's been one year since my son disclosed he had been abused. It's so so difficult when it's family. Siblings feel like they need to take sides or blame you for ruining the family but protecting your child is so important. I haven't seen or talked to my sister in over a year now because of the way she is protecting her son, the abuser.
    You are courageous and strong. Thanks for sharing. X0X0

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    1. You hit the nail on the head. We were blamed for many things but in the end we know it wasn't our fault to stand up for truth & to protect our kids. I am so sorry you are also dealing with this - I wish it on no one but always feel an instant connection when someone does share with me. Thank you.

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  9. I appreciate you sharing the part about cutting off contact. It sounds like a sibling or very close family member and there are so many repercussions to that with, like you mentioned holidays, weddings, etc. So many times where you will feel isolated and left out. It is heart breaking that other family wasn't supportive but way to be a good mom anyway. Your daughters are in great hands. Thank you for the courage to share.

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    1. thank you - it has been hard but we've tried to keep our girls out of the sadness. they don't want to see the abuser of course but when they question where a family member is who we haven't talked to or seen for 2 years it's sad to reply we don't know. I have reached out to repair relationships but everyone works in their own time & I've accepted that.

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  10. Your strength is truly inspiring. I love to see your faith shine through as you rely on your Savior during this difficult process. Your daughters are so lucky to have amazing parents like you and Coby. Thank you for having the courage to share your family's story.

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    1. Oh Janet you are sweet - thank you. Love & support from friends, strangers & family means the world to us!

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  11. So I have a question... This stuff obviously makes mothers and fathers worried sick and heaven knows we all know some situation where this has happened to either a loved one or someone we know... So my question is... I have a brand new baby boy and so I have a little bit of time before I need to worry (I never let him out of my sight for the most part as of right now) and I guess my question is what advice do you have for parents on how to talk to your children about this stuff? Warn them about it? Keep an open communication line so they'll tell you if anything DID happen? Preventative measures? Things you noticed in the abuser that you didn't pick up on til after? And maybe there isn't an answer to all these I'm just curious as to what your insight is now that you've been through it.

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    1. Morgan - I know I used to be one of those parents who worried! I still worry honestly! But the best thing you can do is to become educated. During the month of April I posted every day on my IG & FB accounts information on educating parents & children about abuse.

      You can start now with a young baby! Start with the names of body parts saying the proper name for their private parts. Penis is penis. The sooner you do it, the more practiced you will be at making these acceptable, comfortable, non-taboo words. Abusers often make up names to private parts to make it fun or seem like a game. If your child begins calling their private parts by a different name - you should find out where they learned it from. Shame or embarrassment when talking about private parts and sexuality is a major reason children hold back from talking about their bodies when they have questions, and in the case of abuse - disclosing the abuse.

      Yes we talked about what was appropriate behavior (oddly enough the loved ones who told us we were wrong for teaching this & correct terminology were also the ones who sided with the abuser) with family & friends. We would always ask how the babysitter was - did she yell, was she nice, did she read to you, etc.

      I knew about "stranger danger" & those signs but I wasn't educated on what the REAL predators act like. Ours was pretty typical I just didn't pick up on it until it was too late. First off we felt like something was off but we weren't sure what it was. We had our children sleep in our room on the floor for 2 months because we felt like something was happening at night. Then this person would bring expensive gifts every.single.visit with our girls. I actually felt weird about this too & asked her to stop giving gifts but she still sent a box of gifts even after we cut off all contact! I refused the package & sent it back unopened. She would tell us not to pay a babysitter & to go out & she would babysit. She was the favorite person with my girls ... who wouldn't be when you shower them with gifts & are extra loving to them. She also taught them pinky promises.

      That was long & maybe too much but there you go! The best thing we can do as parents is listen to our children & give them the opportunity to have those quiet moments with us when we aren't focused on anything but them. Those are the moments my daughter has shared the most with me.

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    2. This wasn't too long at all! It was very helpful and I appreciate it! Luckily I have never been one to be weird when talking about sexuality or body parts or anything like that. I grew up with 3 older sisters who were all pretty open and so communication about this stuff is no big deal to me. So I think making it not a taboo subject for my children won't be hard for me. I really appreciate your reply! I'll have to look into some stuff!

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    3. You are ahead of the game then Morgan!

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  12. You are amazing and I LOVE LOVE LOVE that you chose your daughters over other relationships! I was also sexually abused by a family member and didn't disclose anything until much much later... but my parents shrugged it off and have continued the relationship with the abuser... This hurts me more than anything! Thank you for choosing your daughters! They are beautiful!!

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    1. Oh this breaks my heart - I am so sorry you had to hold that in & then never received the validation you deserve. Bless you & thank you for your support.

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  13. It sounds like from the beginning you did everything exactly right to help your daughter and your family heal and work through this. We had an instance with a family member abusing another and it is a very hard thing to accept. I am always overly cautious with men...I lock my kids' doors or keep them in the room with me if they are staying overnight, and we never have male babysitters. Hearing a story with a woman involved has made me realize I need to be cautious with my children always and keep open communication with them so they would feel safe to talk to me if anything did happen. It can be anyone, and like you mentioned, it is often someone who you like/love and who seems totally "normal." Thank you for your story and for siding with your daughter over anyone else. I can't believe anyone would side with an abuser. I have always told my kids I will believe them and fight for them and that they can tell me anything, and I put their protection over any other relationship, and she will love you forever for putting her first. Your family's courage is amazing and inspiring.

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    1. Thank you for sharing this & for your support. The statistics are very low for women to abuse - but it happens. 90% of the time it is family or a close friend you & your child know. Thank you also for seeing what we see in our story ... that truth is light & we stand for truth & light. I don't understand siding with the abuser as much either but I've been to group therapy when parents have both the abuser & victim in their home & it is an unbelievable struggle. They can't do what we did & just cut off contact - they must love them both & help them both. There are many variables in everyone's stories - ours just happened to turn out this way.

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  14. You are amazing! Thank you for sharing your story, your little girl will be so blessed to not hide in secrecy and shame. I just cant express how deeply this touched me. I am so sorry for the pain you all experienced.

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    1. Thank you for sharing - I have been emotional seeing the response sharing something like this can do. Thank you for your support!

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  15. Amazing, Your determination to protect your children and not let this be the defining thing in their lives is so inspiring. When I read these posts, I'm so grateful for people like you who choose to take the most difficult part of their lives and not only defeat them, but then go on to help others by sharing their experience. Its something I want to do, I'm working on it! Thank you, thank you.

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    1. Bronte thank you for taking the time to comment & share your support. I would have never guessed I would have to be a voice for something like this but the push inside of me to share is strong & I cannot deny that feeling. Thank you for sending your love!

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  16. What is the DEAL with rallying around the abuser?! Rationally, I guess I understand-- it's a lot safer in the bubble to believe that someone is making a ridiculous accusation than to believe that someone you love is capable of doing such awful things. But my brother-in-law assaulted me, and when I finally had the courage to say something, our entire extended family disowned us. I'm still struggling with it-- my kids deserve grandparents! Cousins! Uncles! Aunts! -- but they would rather believe that I'm a "crazy liar" than believe their precious son/grandson/brother/nephew would do something like that. I'm worth more than that. Your daughters and your family are worth more than that. This stuff HAPPENS. Thank you for having the courage to say something. I think if more people do, it will be a little bit easier for people to believe it.

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    1. Keighty - agreed! It took me months to get over the fact that people I had known so much of my life had turned against me to support someone who had hurt my children. It was mind boggling for sure. I had to just get past it & realize people react the way they do because of their own life experiences. Some times people can't handle hard things so they can only ignore it to survive.

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  17. I found out just a month ago that my little girl who was just 3 had been abused by her father. The agonizing pain and sadness that comes with that is unimaginable. My days since then have been filled with police, court, Dcfs, attorneys, counseling, forensic interviews, group therapy, and many many sleepless nights. He is fighting for full custody and turning all our friends against me. He has always been seen as a good father, and no one can believe he could do this. Which is why it went undetected by even me for over a year. My daughter would have been 2 when it started. I fear every day that she will have to see him. And what he will do to her physically ans emotionally. My heart breaks that i cant protect her from him fully. She has now started going to group therapy and i see a glimpse of her old self. The one who used to sing, not have nightmares every night, play and talk with others, and be just a happy little 3 year old. But our protectivevorder expires this month and i am terrified for her. Unless she can give more information to the interviewer he will go without punishment. And will get my little girls way too often. I am so happy you stood up for your girls.its overwhelming and heartbreaking every day. I wish we had a better legal system how these people go free, and in my case still able to abuse my little girl, is unimaginable. Thanks for sharing your story.

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  18. I am so sorry! So heartbreaking & so common sadly. I heard in group too many times that the children were sent back into the ex's homes because the legal system couldn't prove it wasn't safe. Prayers to you & your little ones!!! The road is rough, it is lonely at times but it does get better for you & for your kids. May you find peace & safety!

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  19. I feel your pain somewhat. My 5-yr-old was sexually abused at 3. I am so sorry your little angel and family had to experience this. The heart breaking thing is that this is a common occurrence these days. You handled it so well. Thank you for sharing!

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  20. We are going through something similar right now. :/ It is fresh and I definitely identify with your early emotions as well as the power God has to wipe away our tears! My husband gave me a priesthood blessing and I felt the pain and sorrow and anger and depression lift. I know Jesus loves us and am SO grateful He has provided a way to escape the turmoil. We are only about a month post finding out and have started therapy. The role play idea is genius--thank you for sharing that! Our daughter is only 2 and we still are finding out the extent of the abuse. The little things that have been off with her are starting to make sense now. :/ I know this process will be long and it will take time for healing. I hope things will turn out as well for ours as they have for you, despite all the drama from family. I'm proud of you for believing your daughter! Your relationship will be blessed for that and I'm sure there will be so many future blessings for you and your daughters as they will be empowered from a very young age to advocate for themselves. They will turn to you and your husband because you've been there for them and what a blessing come the teenage years!! ♡

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  21. We are going through something similar right now. :/ It is fresh and I definitely identify with your early emotions as well as the power God has to wipe away our tears! My husband gave me a priesthood blessing and I felt the pain and sorrow and anger and depression lift. I know Jesus loves us and am SO grateful He has provided a way to escape the turmoil. We are only about a month post finding out and have started therapy. The role play idea is genius--thank you for sharing that! Our daughter is only 2 and we still are finding out the extent of the abuse. The little things that have been off with her are starting to make sense now. :/ I know this process will be long and it will take time for healing. I hope things will turn out as well for ours as they have for you, despite all the drama from family. I'm proud of you for believing your daughter! Your relationship will be blessed for that and I'm sure there will be so many future blessings for you and your daughters as they will be empowered from a very young age to advocate for themselves. They will turn to you and your husband because you've been there for them and what a blessing come the teenage years!! ♡

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