NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — “I feel somewhat OK. I don’t know what a normal OK is supposed to feel like.”
Surrounded by calm on a comfortable afternoon, Lenae remembers a time when chaos consumed her life.
” I didn’t know what sexual abuse was. I’d never heard about molestation. I didn’t even know that what he was doing was a crime,” recalled Lenae.
Especially since the alleged abuser was a trusted family friend.
“He was a very loved man in the church and many people looked up to him,” said Lenae.
Now targeted, young Lenae became the object of desire
“I was groomed for a period of several years and I know that for certain because after his first attack, he told me. It was sorta like he was bragging about it, about all the effort that he went into from the time I was about 13 years old,” remembered Lenae.
For three years, he lured the teen.
“He created scavenger hunts through the church building with little candies in the end. I asked him ‘why? why are you doing this?’ He said ‘I know as a young person coming to church, you can get burnt out sometimes and I’m trying to encourage you,” said Lenae.
She explained the seemingly innocent encouragement turned criminal on a day the hunt lead to an isolated area.
“When I walked into the gym, I saw him peek around the corner, so I knew he was there,” recalled Lenae.
She found a note.
“He said if you want me to kiss you and take things from there, turn off the light. I remember standing up there as a 17-year-old girl and how we were alone and how no one would hear me. I was not fast enough to run in church shoes. I was in a dress. I was supposed to be in submission, obedient and never questioning, so I walked down the stairs and I turned out the light because I didn’t know what else to do,” said Lenae.
Like so many children, Lenae faced more physiological trauma.
” I remember him telling me that, when he was done, that I could never tell anyone, that he would make everyone hate me.”
Predators are often master manipulators and play an important role in their victim’s lives.
“It’s a position of authority and it’s a person that your child has been groomed to love and respect. so there is that conflicting emotion of ‘do I ruin this person’s life?’ especially when they’re crying and begging your not to after they assault you,” explained Lenae.
Lenae said her experiences have shaped the way she parents her children.
“My children know their body parts from a very young age. I hope they know they can always talk to us about things.”
Above all, she said it’s important for parents to believe them and protect them.
“Listen very closely if a child tries to tell you that they feel like somebody is too close or makes them feel uncomfortable with hugs or whatever. It’s very, very rare that a child would make up something. Do something.”
News 2 investigates the alarming crime trend now coming to light in Middle Tennessee after the COVID-19 pandemic. In a special report, Darkest Secret, learn more about the fight to stop child pornography and what it truly entails – Click here for our special reports.