Continuing our month long special "Dark Secrets: Uncovering Child Predators" we are highlighting the problem of child sex abuse in hopes of coming up with a solution. Kaela VanGilder is all too pleased to help. She says her life was turned upside down by a man who was supposed to protect her but instead he preyed upon her, his own granddaughter.
"I think he's sad. I think he's sick. I think he needs help. I think he needs to stop lying," Kaela says about her mother's father, her own grandfather.
Kaela VanGilder and her mom moved to the Houston area, near her grandparents. She was 14 years old and stayed the night with her cousin at Grandma and Grandpa's house. Kaela says in the middle of the night she and her cousin were awakened by their grandfather asking if they wanted to play on the computer. "So we went into the bedroom with him where the computer was and he wanted us to sit on his lap and I thought it was kind of weird. My cousin sat on his lap and he was touching on her and he lifted my shirt up and started rubbing on my sides and touching me inappropriately," explains Kaela.
When the girls went back into the room they were sleeping in, Kaela's cousin asked "That wasn't weird to you, us sitting on his lap, the way he was touching us? And I was like I thought it was weird but I thought I was over exaggerating or making into a bigger deal than what it really was and she said he does stuff like that to me all the time," says Kaela.
Kaela stayed away from her grandfather for months until he called her mom asking if she and her sister could come by and sleep over. "Later that night he woke me up to give him a back rub". Kaela says she quickly realized her grandfather wanted more than a massage.
"He told me if I said anything to anybody nobody would believe me". She ran from the house, called her mom and waited in the darkness for her to arrive. "I was sitting out in the driveway just laying down on the driveway just crying and crying and my sister was standing next to me".
Kaela says that horrible night seemed to never end as most in her family didn't believe her, which is the case with many molestation victims.
"Having all your family turn their back on you is definitely depressing. It was hard having people who are supposed to care about you calling you a liar and not wanting to talk to you. It was just my mom, my dad and my immediate family. The rest of my family shut us out".
Her grandfather was charged but didn't have a criminal record and held an important job and after a two year fight in court the trial ended in a hung jury. So he was tried again. Kaela says in the six year court battle she lost the rest of her childhood. "All throughout my high school years I could never go and do any type of athletics or dance because it was always court is right around the corner".
Finally, last year her 66-year old grandfather agreed to plead guilty to Indecency With a Child and is now a registered sex offender. In open court she gave a victim's impact statement. "I told his wife how I felt about what she had done too and how she fed all of her grandchildren to him. All the family was like a playground that they just put their hands in and took their pick from".
Kaela is now 21-years old, married and moving on with her life. "My family, my husband it took them a long time to get me back to being normal because it was very hard".
Kaela now volunteers encouraging victims to speak out, to trust their instinct and to never feel abuse is their fault. She says she knows her purpose in life is to help others.