It’s a heart breaking statistic, 1 in 10 West Virginia kids will experience sexual abuse. But now, there’s a massive movement to help protect our children. I recently sat down with an abuse survivor who is finding her strength and hoping to empower others by sharing her story. Child abuse survivor and advocate, Amber Higgins, chooses to shine for kids so they know someone is fighting for them.
“I didn’t have a very close family life at home,” said Amber Higginns. “When I met them, they became like sisters to me and their dad became like a father to me.”
Amber Higgins could have never imagined what would happen next. Her dream family and home soon turned into a house of horrors.
“When I was about eight years old, I began being groomed by my best friend‘s father to sexually abuse me over the course of about three years,” exclaimed Higgins.
While using any situation to abuse her.
“He put his arm around my shoulder and pushed his arm down my shirt as his daughter is sitting right next to him reading a story,” Higgins said.
And as with many victims of child sexual abuse, fear and shame kept Amber from sharing. It wasn’t until she was 19 years old that she found her voice and someone who would listen to it.
“I went to to the state trooper’s office and met Officer Horn,” added Higgins. “He was the first person to look me in my eyes and say, I believe you after I shared my story. It was so impactful for me.
Because her abuser was acting as her guardian at the time of abuse, there was no statute of limitations on the crime. However, knowing that she would have a hard time proving it after so many years, she took an even braver step and agreed to wear a wire during a meeting with her abuser.
“I just kind of felt like I needed to stop him from hurting someone the way that he had hurt me,” Higgins exclaimed.
But even after he confessed to the abuse, it still took two years before Amber would face him in court. And she still copes with the trauma, even today.
“The triggers are always there,” said Higgins. “I have days where I see someone who may look like my abuser and it can kind of stop me in my tracks.”
Her abuser was convicted on two counts of abuse and was sentenced to 20 years. Now, advocate Amber finds joy in helping others survive.
“You’re not alone,” Higgins concluded. “There are people like you who have gone through this and they’re willing to help you get through it.”
Changes in eating habits and school performance are some of the more common signs of child abuse, but did you know there are 10 different signs? Do you know how to react if a child reveals their abuse?
Learn the signs of abuse from WVCAN’s guide.
If you suspect a child under the age of 18 is being abused or neglected, or is at risk for abuse or neglect, you should make a report to DHHR’s Centralized Intake by calling 1-800-352-6513, and contacting your local law enforcement agency.
Find your nearest advocacy center.