DENVER - The mother of a courageous girl who survived a kidnapping and sexual assault shared her story Thursday.
"It hurts so much what my daughter has gone through," the mother said.
The mother - who isn't using her name - says what hurts most is not always knowing how to help. She and her 8-year-old daughter were introduced to the Denver Children's Advocacy Center after the crime.
The Mom is sharing their story to thank the place she says has helped give them strength through it all.
"She didn't tell me what happened to her when she was kidnapped. It was more than horrible," she said.
It was June 2, 2011. A little girl and a friend were walking a dog in the alley when a man asked for help, then forced her into a van. Her friend ran for help.
Denver police searched and parents were sick with worry for hours. Then, a girl walked to the counter of a gas station and said, "Help. I was kidnapped." The man had sexually assaulted her in a detached garage of his home then dropped the girl off at the gas station.
"I can't explain how she was so brave. She amazes me," the girl's mom said.
After the girl was reunited with her mom, she went to DCAC. Surrounded by things that represent innocence, like stuffed animals and children's books, she described actions that steal it.
Jodi Byrns, director of forensic interviews, interviewed the young victim that June day.
"My job is talking to kids about things that they've heard, things that they've seen, and things that have happened to them," Byrns said.
The detail from that time together helped police make a sketch of the man. The girl talked about a tattoo on his arm and the color of his eyes. She helped describe things the public would not learn but things that helped police identify and later find Bret Thompson.
"Our role is to let a child talk so justice can be served," Byrns said.
Just 21 months later, video of that conversation inside the old Victorian house on Federal Boulevard was played for a jury.
Therapy at the center helped prepare a now 5th grader to take the stand. She still had tears in her eyes as she pointed to her attacker. Her bravery to detail things too terrible to repeat impressed veteran prosecutors.
"Everyone in court was surprised that she was so brave," her mom said.
She said the support from DCAC made that possible.
Thompson faces life in prison.
The child he hurt faces a life working to overcome what brought her to the center. Her family is thankful she doesn't have to do it alone.
"Some days she can smile," her mom said. "Many days she is still so sad. She cannot trust. But we are getting better."
"We are grateful." She said. "They've helped my daughter and myself a lot."
DCAC has worked with thousands of children traumatized by sexual abuse and violence. It also helps children who are considered high risk through prevention programs, education, and direct services. To find out more: www.denvercac.org
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