Before OPRAH or any other mainstream media covered this unique true story, CHANNEL A TV Founder and C.E.O Davies Chirwa, was the first to ever secure a chilling but uplifting interview with Sara L. Charlton to discuss exclusively how her family is keep up with life after Abduction of a family member. Here is what Sara had to say to us;
In 2006 I experienced a mother’s worst nightmare: my twenty six month old son was abducted from our childcare provider in Boise, Idaho. Miraculously, my son was found over five years later, but his return home resulted in daily struggles that are hard for most to fathom. To this point, there exists a severe lack of resources and services to help us cope with and provide for a severely abused and mentally unstable eight year old victim of abduction. More professional support for people like my son will be necessary in order to help him overcome this terrible trauma.
In December 2011 our son came home at the age of almost seven. He was home for just a few short weeks before the severe issues came to a head. Estimates are that nearly 1.3 million children are reported missing every year. That means that approximately 2,700 children a day are abducted by people they know — acquaintances, family members, people they have met on the Internet — and by complete strangers. Fortunately, many of these children return home safely. Unfortunately, some do not return at all. Those children who do return encounter many obstacles to recovery and healing from the resulting trauma of their abduction and its consequences. Our son started acting out in sexually explicit ways, lying, stealing and was very timid. We then were introduced to some health issues that at the time we didn’t think anything of whenever our son ate any food he would throw up. we assumed that maybe he had acid reflex disease, well at a regular checkup where he was getting updated on immunizations beings that the last ones that he had were at the age of two, we spoke to his doctor about him throwing up and our son was way underweight he weighed thirty two pounds at the age of almost seven. The doctor sent us to do some testing and to find out our son had a stomach the size of an infant and was severely malnourished. We were told that if he was malnourished for much longer that he would of died of starvation. So we got some of the health issues tackled in light of asthma, food hoarding, cracked skull, torn anal cavity. This was all in the first month.
We then got our son into school after never being in school and soon we learned that he had little to NO social skills and it was very hard for him to interact or engage in activities with others. Our son then had learning issues not that he couldn’t learn or had a difficult time it was that it was foreign to him and he was uncomfortable learning something new. We began to have issues with him wetting the bed and urinating all over in his room and in things. Our son began to hear voices, and have imaginary friends that he has full blown conversations with, asking and answering questions. We soon learned that our son has developed many mental health issues after we started him in counseling just months after he returned home. It took us awhile to get him into counseling due to us not wanting to think the worst and coming to terms that he has serious issues. Our son has been developed with stage five post-traumatic stress disorder, oppositional defiance disorder, and schizophrenia, he has also been diagnosed with severe anxiety and sleep disorders as well as a complex disorder. Our son eats his shoes and clothes, he also puts holes in the walls he has destroyed all of his toys so that he can see what is in them, he bites and hits himself, when in the community he is all over the place and very nervous due to thinking that the kidnapper is coming for him again, we were dealing with him not sleeping at all for nine months and he would climb onto the top of the roof so that he could watch all sides of the house and know that he was safe, we deal with absolute defiant behavior you say not to do something he will do everything in his power to make sure that he does it, our son does things over and over to see if he will get more attention or if he will get a different punishment, our son frequently acts like he forgets how to do things like eat with utensils, go to the bathroom, bath, brush teeth, pick up his mess and so on. Our daily obstacles that we deal with make me feel like I am babysitting someone else’s nightmare child and that it is past time for them to pick their child up, but reality is that this is my child and I hardly know him, he is not the same as he was when he was abducted. Our son has put up a barrier so that no one can get to know him our even show him affection. We try to do positive reinforcement and that is like a spit in the face he does not know anything positive and it is so uncomfortable for him that he automatically does something to counter act the positive and make it a negative. Our son is eight and has the mental capability of a four year old child. He struggles daily just to function and perform simple daily activities and routines. These are just a few of the many struggles that we face.
As a parent I have searched for many resources and support for him and our family, we have found that there are a few services out there two of them are across the united states, we have one abduction and trauma specialist here in the Seattle- Tacoma area. Our son sees her but she has never worked with children that have been recovered from abduction, she mainly works with adults. We have had numerous evaluations done on our son with a struggle in getting them and we have recently been blessed with a WRAP service that is based from out of Chicago and they have started working with our family and our son, the services that they offer us is they come into our home and offer family therapy, they reiterate our son into the community, offer respite care so that I can go places and do appointments without a child, they offer, massive support, hire attorneys to get our son into school and make sure that the school is going to give him the support that he needs, offer life skills training for our son, teach him about everyday life and get his feelings and emotions under control, as well as his behaviors. This service we have been trying to get for two years and it cost over six thousand dollars a year. We have applied for social security benefits for our son and were refused, because our son’s case is so unique that they know little about the afterlife of abduction and how it affects children mentally, socially, emotionally, and in everyday life. We hired an attorney so that our son can get the ongoing insurance that he needs and so we can support him by one of us staying home to give him the twenty four hour care that he needs. Our son will probably never be able to live on his own and function like a normal human being, due to the lack of life skills that he has and many other mental and emotional issues that may never go away or be able for him to learn to cope with.
The main support that is needed I believe is for the parents and the victim. As a parent of a child with severe issues I tend to get so overwhelmed and frustrated with the system and society. I have so much hate inside of me for the person that did this to my son and it seems that every day that we see issues arise in our son that have been caused from his abduction the hate gets stronger. Parents need to be able to have some type of training in how to handle all that goes on and now don’t get me wrong every child renders different issues caused by abduction but they all pretty much have similar issues, and parents have no clue how to handle them. Or even what issues they might have at hand. The child needs services to know that it is not their fault and to help with coping with the issues as well as getting what happened to them out so that they can heal. We need people that are trained specifically in child abduction. So that they know exactly how these children feel and what they are dealing with and possibly even what they have gone through. We need someone that can study these kids and understand that they are not going to get better overnight. Our son was gone for over five years and he has just barely been home two years and his mental health issues are just getting worse and we know very little about his abduction and all that he rendered during his time away. Beings that our son was gone for so long he barely knows us and so we need family reunification and bonding but there are no services for that.
My daily life seems like hell. We battle with the issues that my son has from the moment that he wakes up all the way until three the next morning. We are fighting to get him back into public school and the school district will not take him back because they are aware of his mental status from the previous school year. The school only wants him to go one hour a day. We are struggling with finding a medicine that can help him not be so hypervigulant during his hours awake. We do finally, after two years have a psychiatrist on board. He is doing studies in watching my sons behavior and actions we have people from the wrap service that come stay the night at our home and watch and observe our son. We have fought for two years to get services and they have started in the last few days, they are unexperienced in recovered children.
If we have services for abduction victims and their families then we could possibly turn the victims into survivors. We can help these children and their families be reunified and strong.
These children along with mine feel powerless, dirty, low self-worth, little or no self-esteem, they want out and keep having all the bad things that happened to them play over and over in their head, they feel guilty, as well as some develop mental instability from the abuse or neglect that they received, they are uncomfortable to love and nurturing or anything positive. We need to find some service that can empower these innocent children and their families. I know that I feel like a horrible parent because these horrific things happened to my child and there was nothing that I could do to help him. Except look for him and now that he his home I feel helpless still because I have no clue how to approach or deal with what he has going on I don’t have the answers and it is very painful to try things and they back fire on you. I have spent the last seven years looking for information on what to do and different creative ideas of what to try or even who to talk to that could be a mentor to me or to my son and I have found nothing. I do talk to Jaci DuGuard every once and awhile she was an adult when she was recovered from a life of abduction but she is recently home and she still has issues herself.
The national missing and exploited children’s center offers few services mainly recovery services and they are funded by the John Walsh foundation. Child find is another service that is offered and they do offer some support services after recovery but their main focus is to recover the missing. “There is very little out there for those who experience abduction and especially this sort of long-term abduction,” says Seattle-based psychologist Neil Kirkpatrick, clinical director for Take Root, a name that reflects the victims’ goal of reestablishing roots.
“The resources,” he says, “are excruciatingly limited, and most of our Take Root members have experienced painfully how hard it is to find help.” In a recent article by Los Angeles Times says “a 2000 study of 24 kidnap victims from Italy found that 46% suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and 38% were diagnosed with major depression after their release. More than two-thirds reported “intrusive recollections,” maintained a state of hyper-vigilance and said they had a sense of a “foreshortened future.” The average length of captivity among these people was only 99 days”. Another victim of abduction says this “ Says Haviv: “Friends, family and society urge newly found victims to ‘move on,’ ” but with freedom “comes a new set of challenges” — including guilt for not rebounding quickly enough or feeling responsible for putting loved ones through pain and suffering. Michele Harway, a psychologist and family research specialist in California, acknowledges the lack of specialized understanding of the trauma of abduction.
There are several people that acknowledge that there is lack of services for recovered people from abduction. There are few online support groups but those are mainly geared for adults recovered. There is one federal program that offers services but the only services that the federal government offers besides recovery assistance is project grants and offers training for anyone whom is willing to take the training.
We need more services that are either government funded or are covered by insurance as well as we need more people in the professional field that are willing to get the intensive training so that there can be more services all over the united states to help children and adults that have been recovered from abduction. There also needs to be more support services and therapeutic services for the victim and their entire family. One big need is to have someone that is trained in being aware of triggers for the recovered things that make them regress. I have been in contact with the John Walch foundation and they say they will look into placing services in Seattle in the future. We need large and small scale support services in big and small towns. Let’s all help together to make more aware that we and I don’t only mean myself and my family need these services but our communities need these services to help turn a horrific experience and a victim into one that is a survivor and productive member of society. I’ve come to believe what is more important than what happens to us in life is what we do about it. Everyone has done something very difficult, by keeping their spirits strong in the face of one of a parent’s greatest nightmares – having a missing or sexually exploited child. Having strength is not enough, how you use it is more important. Everyone needs to put their strength to good use by reaching out to help others. We can be a beacon of light guiding those lost in the darkness of despair. Only those who have already been there can possibly know how it feels. We’re sad about the circumstances that brought us together, but grateful we can use our experiences to help others so they don’t feel alone in their pain. Recovered children as my son have been through many things that most could never imagine seen murder forced daily to perform sexual acts on other children and if he did not fallow through then they acts that were asked of him were done to him. During this time of my son missing I was on probation for something that in most states is not a charge I was refused the right to file a report on my son missing and was told that it was a civil matter I went to more then 10 different courts after years of studing abduction and kidnapping law finally after learning enough and speaking with numerous private investigators I represented myself in court and was grated the writ of habeaus corpus ordering that law enforcement assist in the location of my son at that time 5 years later my son was entered into the NCIC database and an age progression photo was sent out and I was assigned a detective whom interviewed many possible people and then my son was located in side a probation officers home behind a locked door smelling like urine and was very malnourished we struggle daily with many issues and stories that many don’t understand or even fatham during this I was on supervision and went through many invasive issues with probation of people officers searching my home in the middle of the night waking my children up which caused many issues for my child my son is scared to live everyday which effects our entire family. There is more to my story to come in due time.