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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Sisters honored for courage in speaking out

BY HURST LAVIANA
The Wichita Eagle

More than 150 people attended a fundraising dinner Friday to honor the Henderson sisters for their courage in coming forward as victims of sexual abuse.

The three sisters talked about the case on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in February in the hopes of encouraging other victims to come forward to authorities.

Twins Kellie and Kathie Henderson revealed in a December Wichita Eagle story series, "Promise Not to Tell," that they had been sexually abused by their Wichita family for 10 years until neighbors and police rescued them.

The Child Advocacy Center of Sedgwick County hosted the event at the Wichita Marriott hotel.

Among those in attendance were Jim and Shelly Vasey, the neighbors who turned in the abusers, and several law enforcement officers who helped rescue Kellie, Kathie and their younger sister.

State Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services investigators said the Hendersons' story prompted several sexual-abuse victims to report the abuse to police.

During the dinner, several speakers described the Hendersons as heroes for publicly sharing their story.

"I really do thank everybody, but the true heroes were not just us," Kathy Henderson told the group. "It took a whole team."

Among the speakers was Wichita Eagle reporter Roy Wenzl, who wrote the "Promise Not to Tell" series.

Wenzl said he came across the case while working with the Wichita-Sedgwick County Exploited and Missing Child Unit on broader story about child abuse.

He said when he first talked to Kellie Henderson about writing a story about her case, he explained that the newspaper does not typically use the names of sexual-abuse victims.

"She said, 'Well, why not?' " Wenzl said.

He said the twins never considered not using their names in the story.

"All along the girls kept insisting that the only way to get this out and help people is for somebody to have the guts to step forward," Wenzl said.

The Child Advocacy Center serves about 2,500 victims of serious physical abuse, sexual abuse, Internet crimes and human trafficking, as well as runaways, each year.

Reach Hurst Laviana at 316-268-6499 or hlaviana@wichitaeagle.com.

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