It is not easy for individuals to share stories of trauma, let alone in a room of more than 100 people.
Whitney Threatt, a former Midlothian resident, took the stage Saturday evening at the Starry Night Gala, which celebrated 20 years of the Ellis County Children’s Advocacy Center.
Images of a younger version of herself played on a slide show while she disclosed the disturbing life events that introduced her to the ECCAC.
Threatt painted a picture of her grey-brick home in Midlothian where she grew up with her sister. She noted all the luxuries experienced in her upper-middle-class family with vacations and even the deluxe Barbie Dream House.
At the age of four, her parents divorced and her father soon remarried.
“My sister and I were introduced to our step-family that included my step-uncle,” Threatt said.
Taking a look back, Threatt realized her step-uncle was a skilled groomer of children and adults as he distracted them with his wealth. Fishing trips, jet skies, pet bunnies and an unbelievably large playground “came at an unimaginable price.”
“I tried to avoid being left alone with him, but he was an experienced predator,” Threatt said. “He knew exactly when to strike. I was just four years old when he stole my innocence.”
She recalled clenching her legs as tight as she could and wanting nothing but to scream for help. Paralyzed with confusion, she could not utter one word.
For the following four years, Threatt said she was in a fight for control of her own body. She suffered in silence too petrified to say, “no,” and too ashamed to tell anyone.
Threatt directed the audience’s attention to the slide show of family photos as she admitted to the pain, guilt and shame behind every smile.
Eventually, Threatt revealed the heinous acts to her mother, who promptly informed the police. The next morning, Threatt had her first encounter with the ECCAC.
As Threatt recounted her story, the interviewer helped her feel safe and ensured none of this was her fault.
“That interview was the first time I found my voice to speak out against the predator who hurt me," Threatt advocated. "I didn’t know it then, but that would be the fire I needed to ignite to survivor status.”
A lengthy legal battle established a support team that encouraged her to use her voice at the age of nine. One of those individuals was Ellis County District Attorney Patrick Wilson, who formerly served as the prosecutor for her case.
Last year, Threatt wrote Wilson a letter where she thanked him. Wilson currently has the message hung in his office along with her college graduation card.
The room filled with applause after Threatt said the perpetrator had been sentenced 20 years in prison.
Even though the offender was secured away, the dealings with the traumatic experience continued. Her mother used methamphetamine to cope with the sexual abuse experienced by her daughter.
Threatt remembers the water shutting off, bouncing from hotels and eventually losing everything including the storage unit that held everything she ever owned.
“I found my mother face down on the ground unconscious," she recalled. "A blood clot burst in her brain, and she was rushed into emergency surgery. The next day, at the ages of 13 and 17, was told that our mom would never wake up.”
The sisters were daunted with the burden of deciding whether or not to take their mother off life support. As they waited another week, her mother woke up but was not the same.
“She was blind, paralyzed and had the mental capacity of a young child," Threatt detailed. "Seeing my hero, my protector, my mother in that state, has forever changed me.”
Her mother died a year later in hospice care.
Threatt then moved into her father’s home, as he had since divorced the wife and the family he married into previously.
“He had his own sense of guilt from the abuse because he unknowingly gave the predator access to his youngest daughter," Threatt said. "My dad’s way of coping with his guilt was with alcohol. And let me tell you, living with an alcoholic is its own kind of hell.”
Threatt compared her life to a merry-go-round of chaos and explained she made the conscious decision to focus the one thing in her control — school.
Threatt can vividly recall browsing the ECCAC website reading the titles of the professionals wondering what education is required to help others who’ve experienced the same trauma. Now she serves as the site coordinator at Communities in Schools of the Dallas region.
“I would not be where I am today without Ellis County CAC helping me get the justice, hope and healing every child deserves,” Threatt proudly on stage.
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Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 469-517-1450