If what court documents say is true, a school-age girl endured years of sexual abuse from a man who took her in when she had nowhere else to go.
The girl – now a young woman – told a Tacoma police detective earlier this month that Terapon Dang Adhahn raped her more times than she could count from the time she was 12 or 13 until she turned 16 or so and ran away.
She said the alleged attacks occurred in a house she shared with Adhahn on Spanaway Loop Road South, not far from the eastern perimeter of McChord Air Force Base.
She was often left bleeding, crying and scared, according to court records.
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“She estimates that the events occurred once or twice a week, and she estimates she was raped 150 to 200 times,” a detective wrote in a police report.
Yet the girl had friends, went to school, drove a car.
So why didn’t she leave sooner, or tell someone what was going on?
Those are not easy questions to answer, advocates for sexual assault victims said Friday, but victims have their reasons.
“Often, it’s about survival,” said Lucy Berliner, director of the sexual assault center at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.
The girl, now 19 and living in Wichita, Kan., told Tacoma police she moved in with Adhahn when she was 12 and a seventh-grader at Spanaway Junior High. Her mother, she said, “was having trouble,” according to court documents.
The girl said she and Adhahn lived together for about a year without incident. The trouble, she said, started shortly after they moved to the house on Spanaway Loop Road.
One day, Adhahn walked up to her as she was washing dishes. He fondled her at the sink before taking her to his bedroom, holding her down and raping her, the court records state.
It was her first sexual experience, she said.
Many more followed, she told investigators.
“The defendant told her not to tell anyone,” a detective wrote in an affidavit supporting seven charges of rape against Adhahn, who’s pleaded not guilty.
Until this month, she apparently didn’t.
FRIENDS SAW NO SIGN OF TROUBLE
O’Brian Mitchell considered the girl a good friend. They went to the same school and often got together to hang out, Mitchell said this week.
Mitchell, now 18, called Adhahn “Uncle T” and described him as “really nice.”
“I went over there every day,” she said.
Mitchell said the girl never indicated she was in trouble, and that she saw no evidence of abuse.
Kenneth Richmond, 52, gave a similar assessment.
Richmond met Adhahn seven or eight years ago, and the two became friends.
In 2003, Adhahn gave Richmond a Buddhist necklace after the older man broke his neck at work.
“He said, ‘I want you to have this because I want it to protect you,’” said Richmond, who then produced a photograph that shows him standing beside Adhahn.
At some point, Richmond and his family began inviting Adhahn and the girl – who Richmond said Adhahn claimed was his daughter – to their home in Lakewood for holiday dinners. They’d often all go out bowling, he said. The girl once baby-sat his granddaughters at Adhahn’s home, Richmond added.
Adhahn – now a suspect also in the kidnapping and killing of Tacoma 12-year-old Zina Linnik – said the girl’s mother had died, he said.
“I’d see them three or four times a week,” Richmond said. “She didn’t look like someone who was scared. They seemed like father-daughter.”
But Mitchell said she found it strange that the girl never was allowed to come over to her house to hang out and that she wasn’t allowed to date boys.
There was something else, Richmond said.
“I never heard her call him, ‘Dad,’” he said.
VICTIMS FEAR NO ONE WILL BELIEVE THEM
Penni Maples, education director for the Pierce County Sexual Assault Center, said the scenario painted by the court documents and the accounts of Mitchell and Richmond aren’t atypical.
Victims of sexual assault or other abuse, especially children, often believe they are in intractable situations.
“She was already abandoned by her family,” Maples said. “Where is she going to go? Who is she going to trust? They’re scared to death that nobody is going to believe them.”
Harborview’s Berliner agreed.
“They often worry about what will happen: Will I be blamed? Will I lose my home? Will I hurt this offender?” she said. “It just goes on and on.”
Maples mentioned the case of Shawn Hornbeck, whose rescue from the apartment of a Missouri man who held him hostage for four years made national headlines earlier this year.
The boy was allowed to ride his bike in the neighborhood, surf the Web, even make phone calls during his ordeal. He never tried to run away or call for help.
Compounding the difficulty is the coercion and persuasion of the abuser, who often threatens the life of a victim one day and gives gifts the next, the advocates said.
In the Adhahn case, the girl told a detective that Adhahn threatened her with a gun at least once and that she feared he would come looking for her after she left, according to court documents.
People who lived near Adhahn and the girl told The News Tribune the man bought her a car, a computer and other things.
“She didn’t go without,” Richmond said. “He fooled us real good.”
Said Maples: “That’s what perpetrators, especially psychopaths, will do.”
WHERE TO GET HELP
People who are victims of sexual abuse, or those who believe they know someone who is, can get help 24 hours a day by calling:
• The Pierce County Sexual Assault Center at 253-474-7273 or 1-800-756-7273.
• The King County Sexual Assault Resource Line at 1-888-998-6423.
Adam Lynn: 253-597-8644