One brave teenager shared her experience as a victim as the guest speaker during last week’s 2016 Crime Victim’s Awareness Ceremony, put together by the Women’s Eastern Reception, Diagnostic & Correctional Center (WERDCC). The event was held at the Vandalia First Baptist Church Multi-Purpose Building.
Ellie Hagen, age 15, told those in attendance about how she survived sexual abuse from a family friend when she was 7 years old.
She remembered the day she told her mom and how glad she was that her mom believed her.
“Because of my mom, I now started the healing process,” she added.
She shared the challenge of meeting with law enforcement personnel for help though the perpetrator was a firefighter.
Hagen said she blamed herself for the reaction of family members crying and how her coming forward affected their lives.
Hagen explained the scary process of meeting with detectives and the confusion with unfamiliar words and no one willing to explain their titles and what their role would be in her case.
Ellie’s perpetrator was sentenced in both state and federal court. He will spend 15 years in prison.
Thanks to Ellie’s courage, he can no longer violate her or the other children he violated who were too scared to speak up. But this is not where the story ends…..it is where it begins.
Since her perpetrator’s sentencing, in August of 2010, Ellie has carried out her mission of sharing her story and encouraging others to speak up. She has spoken at colleges, universities, public schools, prisons, various youth organizations, and churches. She also has spoken at Fort Leonard Wood Military Base for their CID (Criminal Investigations Division) training and made a training video that is now being used on Army bases all over the world.
In 2011, Ellie was named an “Everyday Hero” by the American Red Cross for her work. Ellie’s mission is to encourage kids to put a stop to their abuse by letting them know they have the power to make it stop – they just need to tell someone who will believe them.
The event began with the WERDCC Honor Guard presenting the colors and CCMII Kirk McBride being the Master of Ceremonies.
A Welcome was given by Deputy Warden Tom Dunn followed by a prayer from CCMII Ron Kulkulka.
Along with Hagen, Webster County Prosecuting Attorney Victim Advocate Lori Letterman and Audrain County Prosecuting Attorney Victim Advocate Leigh Thomas also spoke. A Restorative Justice Presentation was then made by CCM II and Restorative Justice Coordinator Patricia Stathem.
Tina Gish, Victim Advocate for the Audrain County Crisis Intervention Service, was the recipient.
CCMII/ICVC Coordinator Paula Fletcher also made a presentation.
(photos from the event are available on The Vandalia Leader’s Facebook page.)