Newspapers rarely print long stories about sexual abuse of children, especially stories naming the victims. The horror that readers feel about those subjects would stop most readers at the headline.
But this story is different. It's the story of a rescue by a Christian couple and detectives of three young girls. Police, judges, prosecutors and social workers all said that the secrecy surrounding the crime of incest is what allows it to exist.
Every time we publish a brief mention of a prosecution, someone else finds the courage to come forward. We want these stories to be a call to action for the community and a roadmap for other victims on how to get help. The stories by Roy Wenzl address a horrific public problem: how widespread sex abuse is and what can be done about it.
Twin sisters Kathie and Kellie Henderson decided they wanted to publicly challenge not only the hundreds of sex abusers who hurt children in Wichita every year, but also our revulsion at facing the problem. We are using their names and their photographs because they told us that the best way to challenge the problem of sexual abuse is to tell their story.
"I am not ashamed," Kellie said. "I want to shout our story from the rooftops."
At Kansas.com and in Tuesday's Eagle you will find a letter that Kellie wrote to other victims. We could not have done this story without the help of Jim and Shelly Vasey and Jennifer Walker Martinez, who all vowed to rescue the girls when they learned what was going on.
The Vaseys not only rescued the girls, they stayed in contact with family members to help them put their lives back together. In writing this story, Wenzl said he hoped it would be something that could be discussed in adult Sunday school classes.
Wenzl also had the help of the Exploited and Missing Child Unit detectives who rescued the girls. They talked on the record because the Henderson twins wanted them to.
Because some parts of this story reconstructed scenes and conversations occurring long ago, Wenzl fact-checked parts of the story with the Hendersons, the Vaseys, Jennifer Martinez and the detectives. We also could not have done some parts of this story without the help of one person who is not looking forward to reading it.
Lisa Henderson, the girls' mother, talked with Wenzl though she knows it would point out how she failed to stop the abuse. She helped us because she wants her daughters to tell their story without any implied constraints from her.
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