What happens after the fact is what determines the extent of mental damage. (Damage Control) This is a dramatization of an ACTUAL EVENT that happened in Floyd County, Virginia on Feb. 15, 2010 to seven year old Sally Andrews. (not her real name)
Sally answered the hard knocking on the front door. It was Joshua Lantz Cromer, and he was mad! He barged through the storm door and proceeded to beat her then raped her with foreign objects. All her begging, screaming, and pleading for help and mercy was in vain.
There hasn’t been a night pass by since that fateful day that she hasn’t woken up screaming, in a cold-sweat-drenched nightmare. She was terrified of being alone for even a minute, anywhere, at anytime. She was frightened of going to school, petrified to go outside to play, but mostly, she was horrified of just being at home. It happened right there, in the living room. She could still see the blood stain on the carpet, under the coffee table. Every time there was a knock on the door, her heart fluttered and her eyes darted around the room looking for escape routes. Joshua Lantz Cromer, violated and stripped away the sanctity and safety of her own home, among other things. If it could happen in her own living room, without a reason or a cause, it could happen again, anywhere, at any time, and for no reason at all.
For weeks now, the counseling and therapy sessions has had no effect in alleviating this trauma and her parents pleaded for help. The child-care counselor involved with this case contacted TARP (Teens At Risk Program) and spoke to Dr. Amy Baxter at the University in Pennsylvania. Dr. Baxter immediately arranged to bring Sally and her parents to Gray’s Farm the following week for a six-month intensive, TARP intervention program, with all expenses covered by the research foundation.
Arriving at the farm the family had set up in trailer #12, which nestled in along side the horse corral and the pasture with an over-looking view of Wintergreen Gorge. For the first two weeks, they were to live there together and participate in every activity as a family unit. The father had to return home after a few days but the mother stayed on for the second week, participated in some of the activities with her daughter, and helped with chores around the farm. For sixteen hours a day, everyday, Sally’s day filled over with action, adventure, structure, mentoring, learning, teaching, dog training, etc, etc, etc, all with good guidance and mentoring from the many, good and caring people who understood pain and suffering.
Julia Roberts, (17) had been working with Sally to develop assertiveness and self-identity through defensive action moves in the Combat Hapkido Self-Defense Program. “It’s all about control.” Julia kept repeating to Sally. Julia knew about fear and its ability to freeze you in that moment of indecision and panic. It will lock up your mind making you virtually unable to move, helpless with no recourse, no choice, and no control. She knew the only solution is to take control now and prepare, with training, for that day when you might need it.
Julia had worked with Sally every day for a week now, both at the farm and here at the Animal Shelter. She showed Sally just a couple simple techniques and focused on speed, accuracy, conviction, and spontaneous reaction. There are at least five techniques to break the thumb of an 800 lb gorilla and Sally already knew two of them. She was getting readings of ‘SEVERE SPRAIN’, on the ‘Rule of Thumb Meter’, a contraption J.F. designed and built to measure the actual twist torque delivered to a fake thumb. She knew the sidekick and the front kick now and her impact force, speed, and accuracy kept improving every day. Julia knew it doesn’t matter how many moves you know, but how well you know them and kept repeating the mantra, “It’s better to know one thing well than ten things not quite good enough in a pinch.”
Mrs. Andrews, Sally’s mom, sat on a bench and watched them finish their workout in the front yard of the shelter. The kick bag hung from a big oak tree in the yard and Buddy stood behind the bag, supporting it. Julia looked over to Sally and smiled, “OK, let’s do it one last time for today.” Then she shouted, “MY NAME IS JULIA AND YOU WILL NOT HURT ME!!!” She went into a backspin, then a round kick hitting high on the bag almost knocking Buddy off his balance with the impact force. “It’s your turn Sally. Show your mom what you can do!”
Sally glanced around at her mom then back at the bag. She zoned in on that exact spot Julia had showed her and with conviction in her voice, she shouted loudly, “MY NAME IS SALLY, AND YOU WILL NOT HURT ME!”, and then went into her kick. At the impact, Buddy, in his bag-support position, grunted loudly and pushed himself off into a back roll. Being the natural clown that he is, he bounced off the tree and rolled backwards again. He then got up, staggered a few steps, feigned a faint, and fell to the ground, motionless, and pleaded, “Hey, take it easy on me, I’m a good guy.” Sally and Julia looked at each other, high fived it, and started laughing.
Mrs. Andrews just sat there for a moment. She could not believe the difference in her daughter, after only two weeks. She had thought she might never see her sweet child laugh again, but…. A tear seeped into her eye, and she had to shake herself, to control her voice, “You’re doing really good sweetheart.”
Julia put her arm around Sally as they walked towards her mother, “She’s going to be a champ Mrs. Andrews, you can be real proud of her.”
Her mom stood up and took Sally in her arms and they hugged.
After a second Julia spoke, “Were going to do a short cool down walk, then she can get ready for her appointment with Dr. Amy. Come on Sally, let’s get a quick drink, grab a dog, and hit the trails.” Julia patted Sally’s back. “You’re doing good kid, there’s nobody ever gona ever mess with you again.”
After grabbing two bottles of water from the fridge and two leashes off the hook on the wall, they went into the kennel area, walked down ‘dog-isle’, and stopped about halfway. Julia opened a gate and put a leash on a little beagle pup for Sally then went to the large dog section. She went to the last kennel on the left, knelt down, and spoke softly to Ol’ Maude, an old yellow lab they found last year beaten and almost starved to death. Maude was about ten years old and nobody seemed interested in adopting the old dog so Julia did. Ol’ Maude was Julia’s favorite and got all excited when Julia stood up and opened her gate. She wagged her tail so hard it swayed her whole backside back and forth, and she almost lost her balance. She loved her walks with Julia everyday. With people in tow, the dogs lead the way out the side door, around the agility course, and up the well-worn trail that meandered through the trees. Ol’ Maude took point position with her keen nose and sharp eyes, always looking and smelling for any signs of danger, or food. This was her pack and she had a job to do. Julia and Sally followed behind their dogs with an easy walk and some small talk until they came to a fork in the trail. Julia paused for a moment. “What time is your meeting with Dr. Amy?”
“Three o’clock.” Sally said.
Julia looked at her watch then back to Sally, “We’d better take the short trail this time.” She then tugged the leash to the left with two easy snaps of her wrist and said “Haw.” to Ol’ Maude, who knew the lingo and headed off onto the trail to the left.
Sally looked over and asked, “How long have you lived at the farm Julia?”
“Oh, for about a year now, my real home is in W.Va. Did you know that J.F., Christina’s dad lives right next me and that’s where Christina grew up? And Buddy always use to come down for the summers, and that’s how we became best friends.”
“No, I didn’t know that. So how come you’re here, don’t you miss being home?”
“Yeah, I miss home, but this is important, helping Christina, Buddy, and Cathy get this Animal Shelter going.” Julia went off in thought for a second, “Ya know, what I really miss the most is watching the wild mustangs frolic in the creek, in the late evening with the moonlight reflecting off the water. It looks like a liquid silver-ribbon running back and forth through the valley. It’s the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.”
“YOU have wild mustangs?”
“Yep, ‘bout 25 of them, all ranging free in the upper meadows behind J.F.s cabin. We bring them down every year for the rodeos.”
“Rodeos! Oh, that’s mean; I saw how they are so mean to those horses on TV.”
“Nobody’s mean to my horses! I’m with them most of the time and they really like it. They spend all year long looking forward for the rodeo season to begin, so they can buck those cowboys off their backs and put em down on their butts in the dirt.” Julia smiled and looked over to Sally, “Do you ride?”
“No, I’ve always wanted to but…”
“Well how about tonight, after supper, you can come along with me and Buddy for a little trail ride.”
“Sure! That’s neat.” Sally piped up with enthusiasm. “Julia? Will you teach me to barrel race like you do?”
“I think that might be something we can work towards, yeah! That’s good idea, Sally.”
They reached the half waypoint of the trail where it turned and followed along side the babbling creek for a short bit before winding into the woods back towards the shelter. “Hey, you want to switch dogs?” Julia asked as she held out her leash towards Sally.
“Sure, I’ll take the lead with Ol’ Maude” she said, then switched dogs and positions. Sally admired the way Ol’ Maude just moseyed along, smelling everything there was to smell when she noticed a big scar on her hind leg, “What’s that Julia?” she asked pointing to the scar.
“That’s an old battle wound Maude carries with her. She was abused and beaten pretty bad before we found her.”
Sally stared at the scar that ran from the top of the left hip all the way down to her knee, “Who would ever hurt a dog like Ol’ Maude?”
“I don’t know,” Julia said vehemently. “But they sure as heck wouldn’t if I was around.” She looked over to Sally then off to the side and threw out a swift round kick at some imagined dog abuser and shouted out simultaneously, “UHAAUUH!!!”
Sally then imitated Julia’s kick with one of her own, “My name is Ol’ Maude, and you will not hurt me! Uhaauh!”
Ol’ Maude turned her head around to see who called her name and what the ruckus was about, then turned back again, and resumed leading her pack.