Child sex abuse: Stopping the hands that hurt

WASHINGTON, DC (WUSA9) -- There is comfort in this room, and there is joy. But, it took years of walking through dark tunnels for William Kellibrew to finally see the light.

"My world ended as I knew it," he says.

More than 30 years ago when William was just 6, someone he trusted, pierced his soul.

"This was my mother's friend, neighbor, was supposed to fix my bicycle. And lured me into the apartment alone. And when I left, i had been shut down, completely, violently sexually assaulted that day," says William Kellibrew.

He didn't say a word about it. But, there were signs that William had changed.

"I started to wet the bed. I wet the bed up to 13 years old. I describe it to people as someone reaching inside of you and taking everything you have and pulling it out of you and putting it on the floor," he says.

William suffered in silence. Four years later, at the tender age of 10, he endured another blow.

Kellibrew says, "My mom's ex-boyfriend was dragging her down the street by her two wrists and my 12 year old brother was on the other side of my mom trying to pull her back the other way."

William's mother was trying to hide from Marshall Williams. But, he found her.

"I remember her yelling at him. And, he just silenced her. He, he shot her. He shot her right in the face," he says.

William's brother, Tony was next. And soon, William stared down the barrel of a killer's gun, trying to make the case to survive.

He says, "I just said please don't kill me. Please don't kill me. I'll do anything."

That day was a turning point in William's life. It could have been the breaking point.

"This is happening everyday, all the time time, and we need our community to pay attention to children, to care for children and to come around to protect them," says Michele Booth Cole.

Michele Booth Cole is the Executive Director for Safe Shores. The organization serves children who bear the scars of physical and sexual abuse. Cole says it often comes from the very people children trust the most.

"They groom children by giving them gifts, by giving them compliments, by giving them special attention. They also groom the adults around children so that they will trust them with their children," she says.

Report Child Abuse: Maryland

Report Child Abuse: Virginia

Report Child Abuse: District of Columbia

One in 10 children experience child sexual abuse before their 18th birthday. So, each month Safe Shores hosts a free class to educate parents, caregivers and the community on how to spot and stop the hands that hurt.

There are five steps you should know to protect children.

Learning the facts

Minimize opportunity

Talk about it

Recognize the signs

React responsibly

Ultimately, it's that how to react that can be most difficult.

Safe Shores

Stewards of Children

Sudden changes in behavior at home or school are potential signs. Is your child acting differently around certain family members or people they know? Are they more fidgety, easily distracted or acting out? Educator LaGreta Pringle says after taking the course, she'll be looking at her pre-K'ers differently in the classroom.

"Instead of being quick to say, 'Oh, they're in trouble. They're always causing a problem,' I'm now gonna look with a keener set of eyes," she says.

William Kellibrew wishes this class and the comfort of Safe Shores was available for his family. Now, he travels the world speaking out about the signs of abuse, using his life story to advocate for other children.

He says, "I came from a room where my life, I thought, was over to everyday being a beginning."

William is now a White House Champion of Change working to end child sex abuse and domestic violence. He also consults with the government and travels on behalf of a foundation created in his name.

There were moments when he didn't want to live when he literally stopped talking and didn't get therapy until eight years after his abuse.

But, he's had a Phoenix-like rise through the years and is committed to ensuring that other children have safer spaces to live.

WUSA 9's Lesli Foster will delve deeper into this issue tomorrow at 5:00 pm on WUSA 9 News, and talk more about the signs and how adults can intervene to save a child's life.

Safe Shores: Community Resources for Responding to Child Sexual Abuse in D.C.


To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment
More Stories