March 16, 2013

Young victim key to child molestation case

Rachel Brown

— Amanda Salyer hung a portion of a Bible verse in her 9-year-old daughter’s room as a  reminder of the girl’s decision to do the right thing.

“Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent,” the passage from Acts 18:9 reads.

For Salyer and her family, the verse is a daily dose of encouragement that one of the hardest decisions of their lives — telling authorities the girl was molested by a relative — was indeed the right one.

The girl didn’t want to tell. When her mother began to notice things were wrong, the child first denied it. The man who was convicted of molesting her — former Dalton State College professor Monte Gale Salyer — was someone she loved and cared for. The family was at his home several times a week. He showered the girl with gifts and attention, and she loved him back. Then he molested her, a Whitfield County jury decided.

It was the same thing he had done years earlier to two other girls as he escalated to repeatedly molesting and raping them for several years, the jury decided upon the conviction.

Only those girls had been too scared to talk until after Amanda Salyer’s daughter came forward.

Amanda Salyer isn’t kidding herself. She knows her daughter didn’t want to talk about it, and she knows she probably would have kept the dark secret to herself had she not persisted in asking her what happened, had she not supported her. Parents shouldn’t be afraid to talk to their kids, she said. Tell them what is appropriate and what isn’t, be age-appropriate but direct, and ask them what’s going on, Amanda Salyer said.

“I talk to my kids and I ask them point blank,” she said. “I don’t beat around the bush.”

The other two victims testified they were too scared, ashamed and embarrassed to tell anyone what had happened. They were afraid of what their families and others would think of them. They still carry those fears and pain.

Amanda Salyer said she, the girl’s father and others tried to support their child after she spoke about being molested.

“I hugged her, and I took her to the cops,” she said. “That’s what you have to do.”

That act of courage resulted in a child molester receiving a sentence — life in prison without parole for at least 30 years.

Fortunately for suspected child victims, there is no requirement they talk directly to a police officer. Per law enforcement protocol, Amanda Salyer’s daughter talked in a private room with a woman trained to interview children in a non-leading, non-threatening manner. A detective with the Whitfield County Sheriff’s Office watched the interview being taped from another room at The GreenHouse and relayed any questions.

Brenda Hoffmeyer, victim services director for the district attorney’s office, said The GreenHouse “Is a neutral place where child victims of physical and sexual abuse are interviewed, videotaped and counseled. It is a child-friendly refurbished home trimmed in green and decorated around a rainforest theme.”

Hoffmeyer said that in cases where the alleged perpetrator is prosecuted, an advocate will work with children and their families to walk them through the court process and answer any questions they have. Amanda Salyer said her daughter told her no amount of jail time could ever make up for what was done to her, but she also didn’t want any other children to be hurt by the man who stole her innocence.

“There were three victims in this case, but there were also three survivors,” Assistant District Attorney Ben Kenemer told the court as Judge Cindy Morris considered the sentence for the Monte Salyer. “The only reason this case is before your honor is because of (Amanda Salyer’s daughter).”