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  • Writer's pictureAlicia Kozak

Alicia Kozakiewicz Speaks Out on Abigail Hernandez Recovery

For Many Child Abuse Victims, "Disclosure is a Process" By Daymond Steer

CONWAY – The media has been buzzing about the revelation that it took Abby Hernandez about a week to come forward with the name of her alleged kidnapper, but experts told The Conway Daily Sun that coming forward is a "process" that can be hard for people to understand. Police believe Hernandez, now 16, of Conway, was kidnapped by Nathaniel Kibby, 34, of Gorham, on Oct. 9, of 2013. Hernandez returned home on July 20, 2014, and Kibby was arrested about a week later. According to Kibby's arrest warrant, Hernandez waited seven days to tell police Kibby's name. The warrant says she got his name from a cook book he gave her while in captivity. The warrant says Hernandez waited seven days to tell her mother and police and that she identified Kibby from a photo lineup. The Child Advocacy Center executive director Elizabeth Kelley said at her agency there is a phrase that says, "Disclosure is a process." The Child Advocacy Center helps investigate child abuse cases and also offers support to children and non-offending family members. One of the ways the center helps with investigations is by conducting forensic interviews of child victims. Kelley says in terms of general child abuse cases, it would be unusual for a victim to share everything that happened immediately after the traumatic event.

"It's more normal that there would be a delayed disclosure," said Kelley adding children generally need to feel safe before they talk. Kelley said her agency handles about 100 cases in Carroll County per year. The Conway Daily Sun asked University of New Hampshire Professor David Finkelhor, of the Crimes Against Children Research Center, about the lag time and what it might mean.

"This could be because she was afraid or because she wanted to protect him, but I am inclined to think the first is more plausible," said Finkelhor. "There are lots of reasons why the police may be withholding information, and many of them could be quite justified." When asked about the media focus on the seven-day period, police Lt. Chris Mattei said it's hard for people to understand what a victim is going through if they haven't been in the victim's position before. He said while responding to any crime, officers try to treat the victim as they would want to be treated if the crime happened to them. Alicia Kozakiewicz is a child safety advocate who was abducted in Pennsylvania and brought to Virginia by an Internet predator in 2002 when she was 13 years old. Kozakiewicz was held for four days. As a child safety advocate, Kozakiewicz made a video about Hernandez last year for Investigation Discovery's Crime. Kozakiewicz is thrilled with Hernandez's return home and called it a "miracle." She said Hernandez deserves time and space to recover. She said traumatic events can sometimes cause memory loss. She said there are a number of possible reasons why Hernandez didn't give the name right away and those include her being afraid, forming a trauma-bond, or needing time to decompress and ground herself. "It's extremely difficult to talk about what you've gone through," said Kozakiewicz adding media coverage and public speculation can make recovery even harder for victims. Kozakiewicz said no one should dictate how Hernandez should feel or deal with her situation. 

"It's her story," said Kozakiewicz.


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