Monday, February 12, 2018
Uncle Howard Nevison was a well-known member of the largest Jewish synagogue in America and his congregation so believed in his innocence they raised enough money to buy him four defense attorneys who tried to discredit Neulinger and succeeded in dragging the trial on for years....
When Sasha Joseph Neulinger was raped by two of his uncles and his cousin as a child, he didn’t have a Child Advocacy Center to turn to.
Neulinger told his story as supporters of the Onslow County Child Advocacy Center (CAC) ate lunch and listened with rapt attention, watching home movies of Neulinger as a child from a video he put together.
When he was facing the toughest time of his life, Neulinger said he had no CAC to back him up, and he praised the work the Onslow County CAC is doing.
An abused child
Neulinger felt he couldn’t tell anyone what was going on. One uncle promised death if he breathed a word about the abuse, and the then-4-year-old little boy felt alienated.
Years passed, and the abuse continued. Neulinger said he thought the abuse was his fault.
“A part of me was starting to believe I deserved the pain,” Neulinger said.
But that was before, at the age of 7, he found his 4-year-old little sister walking out of his cousin’s room sobbing, tears streaking down her blotchy red face.
As he told the gathered Child Advocacy Center supporters his story Friday afternoon, they gasped at the realization of just how far the abuse went – and indeed it went even further still with one of Neulinger’s uncles sodomizing several people within his family, he said.
“I couldn’t understand how or why anyone could hurt her,” Neulinger said of his little sister. “I knew she didn’t deserve to be hurt.”
Seeing his sister facing the same fate he was, Neulinger said he found courage through his love for her, and he realized how wrong the abuse was. His sister drew photos when words wouldn’t come, and he found the voice to tell his story.
As a child Neulinger was an insomniac and so suicidal that he thought jumping from a moving car was preferable to the death his rapist promised waited for him if he spoke – so he jumped.
He then went to therapy and started with drawings, then used his words to explain his traumatic experiences and he told his story over and over and over again.
Neulinger spent the next nine years of his life in and out of courtrooms testifying against his abusers and spoke about the incredible support system he had behind him, including his parents, his sister, and the law enforcement officer on his case.
While one uncle and his cousin were convicted, Uncle Howard Nevison was a well-known member of the largest Jewish synagogue in America and his congregation so believed in his innocence they raised enough money to buy him four defense attorneys who tried to discredit Neulinger and succeeded in dragging the trial on for years.
Eventually, at the age of 17, Neulinger agreed for his uncle to plead guilty to misdemeanors, taking all of the felony charges off the table in order for him to finally be able to move on.
Neulinger said he was emotionally exhausted from reliving his abuse through every retelling. He spoke of visiting law enforcement and the prosecutor to talk about one incident or another and how the defense used that to their advantage in court, catching a slip as little as Neulinger mixing up the color of his abuser’s shirt on a specific occasion.
That trauma has been erased for children in Onslow County thanks to the CAC.
Neulinger pulled up photos of a waiting room with a tree painted in the wall’s corner and notes from other children left behind to make newcomers feel safe. Some of them were left at the tables for those at the luncheon to read, including one from a 13-year-old girl who wrote, “Don’t be scared!
Everybody is nice. These people help you get through tough times!”
Kids leave the CAC with a stuffed animal and handmade quilt, a reminder that they are safe and loved, and Neulinger explained that in Onslow County, a child tells their story once, to one person.
“It only takes that one person,” said Dawn Rochelle, the executive director of the Onslow County Partnership for Children.
The child is taken into a room for the interview where they’re videoed, and down the hall the prosecutor and others watch it live and give directions to the interviewer if necessary.
That video can then be used in the courtroom, said Assistant District Attorney Kaelyn Avery, who added that it was her “great honor and privilege” to prosecute sexual abuse cases.
Child sexual abuse should be a topic that’s brought up more often due to how much it occurs, Avery said.
We all pay when we don’t get things right with children, Rochelle said.
“Child abuse is 100 percent preventable,” Rochelle said. “That’s our call to action.”
Reporter Amanda Thames can be reached at 910-219-8467 or Amanda.Thames@JDNews.com