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His mother, his teachers, his sisters knew something was different. The son, the eighth grader, the brother was different. Why? What was wrong?
Why did this good boy, so full of energy and life, suddenly seem so withdrawn and removed? Was it his parent’s divorce? Or, was it something hidden from the world?
Only two people in the world knew what was happening—Matt and his uncle. This precious child, this innocent young boy, was being sexually molested by his uncle. Matt Morgan was a victim of child sex abuse.
Frightened by the lies his uncle told him, imprisoned by the fear his uncle instilled in him, Matt was silent. In his mind, he was alone, responsible for dealing with the damage being done to him.
How does a 13-year-old boy deal with silent shame, blame and guilt? Matt withdrew. He began using alcohol and drugs and dropped out of high school after ninth grade. He took all his hurt, trauma and hopelessness and locked it up within his subconscious.
In order to escape his uncle-the-abuser Matt left home, left the state and found a safe place with other relatives. Though he continued to self-medicate with alcohol, Matt proved to be resilient. He learned the building trade and eventually made his way back home to Idaho Falls.
Fast-forward 35 years. A successful businessman, founder of a large commercial construction company, surrounded by a loving wife and three children, something began to happen to Matt. Dreams. Flashbacks. Disconnected images.
Matt slowly began to remember. He knew, his family knew, something was wrong. Alcohol seemed the obvious answer. So, Matt went to rehab.
It was there, under the care of watchful counselors that the truth emerged. Alcohol masked the real problem. Matt Morgan suffered from dissociative amnesia. For 35 years he had blocked out the memories of his trauma. Slowly, he began to recover his painful childhood memories.
Now, Matt wanted answers. Who had the answers about his abuse? His abuser. Matt confronted his uncle, years after the criminal statute of limitations had passed, and his uncle refused to answer.
Hungry for understanding and wanting justice, Matt ended up in civil court. The resilient child had become a resilient man. Matt’s story would soon become the Building Hope Today story.
Watch The Founder’s StoryWatch Matt’s Mom Remembers
Matt was committed to not living his life like a victim. After 30 years, he was able to prove that his uncle had groomed him and then used the position to sexually abuse him. A unanimous jury verdict in his favor had changed his life and, for the first in history, a sexual abuse case had won on the grounds of fraud within the legal system.
Matt and his wife, Lynne, knew they couldn’t let this victory stop with just them. There were other victims who deserved to be heard and receive justice over their abusers. The couple wasn’t sure what the next step would be.
During his trial, a lifelong friend, Pat McKenna, had been called to testify about the timeline of Matt’s abuse as he had a clear recollection of dates. After the trial Pat, a respected law enforcement officer, was working on a sexual abuse case for three girls who had been violated (Idaho v. Dunn). He began to make the connection from Matt’s case to their case as the same grooming behavior was present.
Pat took his thoughts to prosecutor, Danny Clark, who was prosecuting the case. Mr. Dunn had previously been convicted of a child sexual abuse charge and received a life sentence which had been reversed on a technicality. Danny was in the midst of retrying the case and on the verge of seeing the defendant walk, when Pat explained to him that grooming could be proven. From that point, Danny called in Tom Tueller, who had initially helped Matt deal with his trauma and is an expert in the stages and investigative practices of sexual grooming. The men presented the evidence of grooming to the jury. This information was enough to convict Dunn of the sexual abuse charges.
Pat realized what was going on; Danny understood the implications; Tom had educated the jury. This ripple effect provided investigators, prosecutors and victim advocates a clear path to seek justice for victims of childhood sexual abuse.
Not by accident, Matt had started connecting with men and women from across the country who were trained experts and shared the common goal of putting an end to childhood sexual abuse. After his court win, he and Lynne had traveled around looking for a way to help prevent the silent epidemic of childhood sexual abuse. Little did they know the answer was right under their noses. No matter how long a child waits to disclose their abuse, prosecutors can prove that sexual abuse occurred when the stages of grooming are present.
When Matt decided to found Building Hope Today, this team of incredibly talented people who he met on his travels were already gathered to get this organization started. Building Hope Today is here to help victims of childhood sexual abuse, support law enforcement and prosecutors who bear the burden of investigation and prosecution and to prevent other children from experiencing child sexual abuse by educating those who care for children.
WHERE WE ARE TODAY WITH INVESTIGATIONS AND PROSECUTIONS STATISTICS
To date, statistics tell us that only around six percent of child sex crimes end in conviction. We have to do better. In the years / decades / generations to come, we believe that we can increase convictions to forty percent—and beyond—with our leading-edge training on grooming. Our training gives members of law enforcement, prosecution, the justice system, families and victims an understanding of what grooming is, how to identify it, and how to apply it to mitigate childhood sexual abuse.
Child Sexual Abuse Investigation and Prosecution
Learn the Power of Multi-Disciplinary Team Collaboration
Training Sessions Include:
- Grooming and Delayed Disclosure in Child Sexual Abuse Investigations
- The Stages of Grooming and Grooming Testimony
- The Power of Multi-Disciplinary Team Investigations and Prosecution
- Strengthen Investigations and Successful Prosecutions