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MEET ELIZA, AGE 14

Like many high school freshmen, Eliza* is focused on school and her friends. So when Eliza’s grades began to fall, her parents knew something had changed. But it wasn’t until her parents got a phone call from the concerned mother of one of Eliza’s friends that they learned why; their daughter had an older boyfriend – one who not only did not go to their daughter’s school, but who was 20 years older than her. Shocked, they confronted Eliza and reported the man to police. A few days later, they brought a reluctant Eliza to the Center for Child Protection for a recorded forensic interview.

When it came time for the forensic interview, Eliza was annoyed at having to be at the Center. In an effort to build rapport with the typically-angsty teen, the interviewer introduced herself, and even made a few self-deprecating jokes to get Eliza to crack a smile. Once Eliza became more comfortable, she admitted that she knew why she was at the Center. Slowly, she opened up about her boyfriend, Kyle. After a high school crush of hers had begun dating a friend, Eliza was upset and voiced her unhappiness on Twitter. Kyle responded to her tweet, and they began messaging back and forth. Kyle was seemingly sweet and made Eliza feel pretty and special. After she gave Kyle her phone number, they began texting and sending photos of each other back and forth, and soon after, they met in person. It became apparent to the forensic interviewer that Kyle was grooming Eliza, telling her she was smart and beautiful, buying her trinkets and gifts, and feigning interest in her stories of high school drama. But in Eliza’s mind, he was the perfect boyfriend.


Over time, he used Eliza’s feelings to manipulate her into having a physical relationship with him, and eventually into having sex with him. However, throughout the interview, Eliza reiterated that she and Kyle were in love, unable or unwilling to see the manipulation she was describing. After the interview was completed, the Child Protection Team met with Eliza’s parents and confirmed their fears. The Team consoled Eliza’s parents and helped them understand the unique circumstances of Eliza’s victimization.

With the Team’s guidance, Eliza’s parents created a safety plan to limit their daughter’s internet and phone access, and agreed that the three of them would participate in therapy services at the Center. In the coming months, while law enforcement pursues charges against Kyle, Eliza will slowly begin addressing her sexual abuse through individual therapy and her parents will attend a Protective Parenting Group to learn how to support and protect their daughter.

At the Center for Child Protection, our staff and Child Protection Team members are specially trained to work with teenagers and their families in a way that helps them navigate the unique challenges of adolescence. While Eliza and her parents have a long road ahead of them to rebuild trust in each other, the Center will be with them every step of the way.

*Names and other identifying circumstances have been changed to protect the privacy of children and families.

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