DENISHA DIXON did not know where to find help for her daughter, Cayla, until she arrived at a place like Children's Center.
It was a typical Saturday morning when Child Protective Services (CPS) unexpectantly appeared at her door with the news that her daughter, Cayla, had been sexually abused by a step-brother who had shared their home many years earlier. Denisha learned the abuse began when Cayla was only two years old.
But because of Cayla’s age at the time, they were unable to determine how often she was abused. In Cayla’s words, it was “all the time.”
“Their relationship was a typical brother and sister relationship in front of me,” Denisha said. “I trusted him, and Kayla trusted him and loved him with all of her heart.”
In the midst of the disclosure, Denisha tried to address how she could have prevented the abuse, and where she could go to help her daughter begin the healing process.
Child Protective Services gave Denisha a card for a child advocacy center as the “next step.” Introduced to a dedicated team of trained, caring professionals, Denisha found a welcoming environment and gained a sense of relief as Cayla went through a medical assessment, talked with a forensic interviewer, and left the center with a comforting teddy bear and quilt.
“All I wanted to do was hold my child and protect her,” Denisha said. “I didn’t even know what that card meant. I just knew it was a start to something. And I was totally surprised that there was a place that had everything you needed.”
Without immediate access to an intervention center, Denisha believes she would have been in a constant search to understand what happened to Cayla. She also realized that her daughter would have to repeat and relive the traumatic story over and over again to law enforcement officials and state authorities, and she would continue to face difficult, life-changing decisions without support.
“Children’s Center is like someone waking you up and letting you know the nightmare is over,” Denisha said. “My heart is full knowing Children’s Center is in place for other families who are experiencing their own nightmare. It is imperative for children to know that they are supported and for the parents to know they are making the best decision.”
As a result of Cayla sharing her story at a child abuse intervention center, and bravely testifying in front of a private jury in 2013, her abuser was later convicted.
Recently, Denisha shifted her focus to further educating concerned adults on the prevalence of child sexual abuse by connecting her own experiences to the emerging child abuse prevention programs throughout the community.
In 2016, Denisha became a certified facilitator for Darkness to Light’s Stewards of Children® child sexual abuse prevention initiative and began working with Children’s Center as a volunteer to help equip adults with the tools to support children and caregivers.
Cayla is now an amazing 10-year-old fifth grader. With a passion for music, she now dreams of singing on Broadway – a dream that is possible because her mother found the intervention and treatment needed to start her on the road to healing.