[thangk-fuhl] - feeling or expressing gratitude; appreciative.

I'm so thankful this holiday season (and always) for those supportive family members & friends of mine, for my life & voice, and all of the wonderful opportunities that are coming my way to share my story and spread awareness. Let me share some of my most recent experiences with you:

TAASA - (Texas Association Against Sexual Assault) extended the invitation for me to attend a luncheon in San Antonio and share my story of survival. The luncheon was honoring The Steen's, a couple who are very big supporters of TAASA, and have raised a tremendous amount of money for the Association. Governor (of Texas) Rick Perry would be introducing me, and there would be over 300 in attendance.

So, on Monday, October 25th, I arrived in San Antonio after a 3 1/2 hour drive from Houston, and stopped at my bff's house in Live Oak to visit her and my sweet godbabies, Bryce & Braedynn. On the drive up, all I could think about honestly...was eating Thai food. It's become a ritual for Tiff and I, so once I arrived we headed over to the restaurant, and as we pulled up, we noticed it was awfully dark inside...only to find out the restaurant is CLOSED on Mondays! Most people wouldn't consider this a big deal, but I was so sad. Literally, this is the best and most authentic Thai restaurant we've found to date, and we ended up having to settle for another Thai restaurant a few miles down the road, and it was alright, but just wasn't the same. Anyway, I won't whine about that anymore, there's more important things to blog about other than my food drama. We had an enjoyable lunch together, as usual, and after filling our bellies with many cheese rolls and spicy foods, I headed over to the beautiful Westin on the Riverwalk, where I checked-in & met with my lovely lady friends from TAASA. We had dinner a couple of hours later at Casa Rio, the oldest Mexican restaurant on the Riverwalk...and then I attempted to get some much needed rest. I was restless all night long. Thai food was no longer on my mind. Instead, all I could think about was the crowd of people I'd be speaking infront of, what they'd be thinking, and hoping I wouldn't cry during the speech. And, of course I was nervous as heck because I'd be introduced by The Governor of Texas, Rick Perry.

Before I knew it, the Tuesday morning sunbeams were shining brightly through the big windows of my hotel room on the 15th floor, and I was still a nervous wreck, so I decided I might as well just get up and get moving. If I would've had boots on, at this point it would be safe to say I would've been shakin' in 'em! I went downstairs and scarfed down a muffin and some milk, and then met the ladies from TAASA, in the lobby. The 3 of us headed over to the WOAI San Antonio (Ch.4) News station, where I appeared on "San Antonio Living," a morning show where I shared an overview of my story alongside Annette from TAASA. I'm so grateful for any opportunity, long or short, to be able to speak out and encourage others. San Antonio has one of the BEST Rape Crisis Centers in the Nation, and it was a privelege to be in town and appear on the show. We headed back to the hotel parking lot to get my car after the interview, and then, it was time for the big event honoring the Steen's at the San Antonio Country Club.

The event at the SACC was beyond beautiful. There were gorgeous Fall flower arrangements on all of the tables, extremely kind-hearted people & wonderful food! I stood infront of Author Marcus Luttrell, as he signed a copy of his book, Lone Survivor, for me. I looked at him, and saw he and I, although we've been through completely different circumstances, have one main thing in common...we have taken the negative and turned it into a positive. I was happy I was able to meet him and have the opportunity to read his book. I walked into the dining room and immediately spotted David "The Admiral" Robinson, it was hard to miss him as he towered above everyone else. I weaved in and out of the crowd and across the dining room to get a picture with him. I knew it would make Jonathan jealous. :)

We were all seated, and began to eat our "San Antonio Country Club Salad" and Cromie and I chatted and were introduced to other guests at our table. We were seated with First Lady of Texas, Anita Perry, and her son, too. I was just starting to feel comfortable in my setting, and First Lady Anita Perry made her way up on stage and gave her welcome speech. I could feel my palms starting to sweat and my heart racing. Yep, the usual feelings of an oncoming anxiety attack. Call me a hypochondriac, call me what you want...but I was freaking out. I turned to Tiff and told her and Josh how nervous I was. Thank God they were there, and Detective Cromie was, too....or Lord only knows what I would've done. I probably would've puked. This was the biggest crowd I'd ever spoken infront of, and my heart was
p-o-u-n-d-i-n-g! I tried to calm myself, but it wasn't happening. Governor Perry walked on stage after being introduced by his wife, and he was so kind. He spoke such nice words, gave an overview of my attack and then introduced me to the audience. I walked on stage, and he whispered in my ear, "Knock 'em dead, girl!" That made me want to laugh, but I think my nerves had definitely gotten the best of me at this point. I wanted to squeeze his hand and pull him right back up onto that stage and force him to stand next to me as I spoke, but that would've just made me look ridiculous, so I refrained.

I looked out into the crowd (okay, more like sea) of men and women, and the room grew eerily silent. I started to weep almost immediately. Everyone waited as I gained my composure, and then I psyched myself up enough to begin to speak. It's not talking about my story that chokes me up, it's speaking infront of so many people! Anyway, I pulled myself together pretty quickly and as I spoke and cried, I saw others grab their napkins and dry their eyes or others smile back at me. It means alot to me when I can see that my story really touches others, and that I am making a difference. I finished my speech, and watched as the room rose to their feet, and gave me a standing ovation. I couldn't have had a prouder moment, and I'm truly honored that I was able to be a part of such an amazing event, honoring The Steen's and their work, supporting TAASA...and I feel so silly (now) looking back, that I let my nerves get the best of me at the beginning of my speech. This wonderful day and the selfless, kind people I met...made me proud to be a Texan.

Kalin's Center - a Texas Advocacy Center serving Houston and Trinity Counties, was hosting their 3rd Annual "Styles for Smiles" fundraiser with the help of area businesses, to raise money for the center. I was invited to be the main speaker at the event in Lovelady on October 30th. I got up early Saturday morning and drove to Lovelady, which, let me just tell you...is very tiny and seems as though it's in the middle of nowhere. I didn't really know what to expect as I arrived at "The Old Lovelady Gym", but I'll say...when I walked in the doors, I was speechless. This "gym" seemed quite the opposite. There were drapes, and lights, and beautiful table settings. And, for such a small town, the turnout was incredible! I believe there were more people in attendance at this event than the one in San Antonio, and I was beaming on the inside seeing so many had taken the time to come out and support the center and donate money to such a wonderful cause! Kalin's Center is named after a girl, now all grown up, who has an incredible story of survival. Kalin was sexually abused as a child by her step-father, while her mother watched and did nothing to stop it. When Kalin saw that her step-father was beginning to abuse her sisters, she made an outcry for help, and I applaude her for being so strong and speaking out, because in using her voice, she not only saved herself and sisters, but potentially saved countless others. Kalin's stepfather received a plea deal of 50 years, and her mother received life. The "Styles for Smiles" fashion show went very well. Men, Women, and even children volunteered to walk in the style show and wear clothing from The Pink Dot, Hearts Desire, and The Mule Barn, who all premiered their Fall Collections. There were door prizes and raffle items galore, and thousands of dollars were raised! When I went up on stage to give my speech, I was much more confident this time. I really enjoyed my day in Lovelady, and was shown much LOVE from everyone who attended. After the show, I had several people take the time to come up and share their own stories with me. These are the moments I love the most...when I know I've made a difference. One lady inparticular really touched me, as she held me tight and started to sob and said, "I know how you feel, my grandfather raped me as a child, and I have never told anyone." This woman was a grandmother now, herself. She shared with me that when she was a child, sexual abuse was something that you just weren't to speak about. It was "brushed under the rug" and you were to basically forget about it. When she told, the Sheriff in town said it was a "family matter" and did nothing. Thank the Lord times have CHANGED!

"I Survived" Television Show - reached out to me a few months back, after my interview with Jeff Rossen on NBC's Today Show, and asked if I'd share my story. I jumped on the opportunity, and had a great experience. First a pre-interview was held over the phone, for about an hour...just me openly speaking about the night of my attack. A few weeks later, a member of the team flew into Houston and came to my house where we taped an informal interview, again, of me simply just speaking openly about what happened, and answering some questions he had. Then, Jonathan and I headed to Dallas a couple of weeks later,and taped the final interview in a studio. We had a really good time. The drive to Dallas is long and boring, but Woody's Smokehouse is on the way...which makes the drive totally worth it! Half-way through our 4-5 hour roadtrip, we stocked up on beef jerky, beef sticks and sweet tea, and then got back on the road. We checked into our hotel, and went out for a steak dinner...can 't beat that! The next day, the interview was short & sweet, we hit up Woody's again, and I was about to be in tears as the ride home was beyond dreaded...and so long! My legs literally ached, and my ass hurt from sitting for so long. Home.Sweet.Home! Stay tuned...my story is tentatively airing in April on the Bio. Channel.
Thank you to all of you who continue to follow me on this journey, it's become a beautiful one. I'm beyond blessed that I'm here, and using my voice!
Happy Holidays!


Jonathan and I have been itching to get away for a couple of days, so we decided to head out on a roadtrip Tuesday. We pretty much packed the car the night before so that Tuesday morning, all we had to do was get ourselves ready and drop our pups off at their grandma & grandpa's house for a couple of days. Thank goodness Jonathan's parents were willing to watch their grand-dogs! We hardly ever get to go on a trip together, because one of us usually stays home with the pups since we don't trust just anybody with them.
(Our dogs don't even know they are dogs, I'm convinced they think they're human, and since we can't have babies at the moment, our girls are our World....and they're very spoiled.) After saying a tearful goodbye to our two lovebugs, Jonathan & I hit the road!

- First stop: McDonalds.
(Afterall, who wants to be in the car with a hungry driver?)

- Second stop: Dennis Bradford's grave.
I found out the location of Bradford's funeral and burial site from one of his previous co-workers who posted a nice comment on my guestbook back in May, and said I should go to the funeral for closure. I wasn't prepared to attend his funeral, and didn't want to show up and put his family through anymore grief than they were already experiencing, so I just waited and contacted the funeral home about a week or so later, and they were kind enough to tell me exactly where he was laid to rest. My reasoning for contacting the funeral home and asking where he was buried is because I knew that come August 10th, I'd want to sit at his gravesite and read my victim impact statement, since I wasn't going to have the opportunity to do so in a courtroom like I'd always hoped for. As we drove towards the town where Bradford is buried, we came to a red light. There was an old homeless man walking along the side of the road in the grass. I looked at the temperature, and I believe it said 104 degrees. Jonathan told me to roll down my window and give the man one of our cold sodas we had, so I did, and it broke my heart as I watched him touch his heart over and over as if saying "thank you" and then chug the orange soda down like he hadn't had anything cold to drink in days. I rolled my window down again and gave him my last two $1 bills, and told him to go get something to eat. In a raspy and seemingly painful voice, he attempted to say "thank you" and touch his heart again. It felt great to do a good deed that day, and I still can't stop thinking about that old man. I often wonder how a person can have no family that cares, nowhere to sleep, nothing to eat or drink, only the clothes on their back, and how stressful it must be to live every day not knowing when your next meal will be or where you'll be sleeping. Soon after, we were pulling into the cemetery where Dennis Bradford is buried, and my heart started to beat so hard, it felt as though it was going to rip through my chest. Finally, the moment I'd been waiting for was here, and this was my chance to say everything I'd wanted to say for 20 long years. As I walked to the gravesite, I got a painful, stabbing feeling in my heel, then my toe, and then, my leg. I looked down to see an ant was biting me, and 2 sticker-burrs were stuck in my foot. Of course, reading my statement wouldn't come easy...what was I thinking. I killed the ant, hobbled back to the car, jumped in with one leg, got tweezers out of my make-up bag, and worked on pulling the sticker-burrs out of my heel and rest of my foot (they were in deep), and then said to myself "let's try this again." I hopped out, walked down the gravel road and then up to the grave, sat down on the dried grass, and took a deep breath. I started to cry as I read his name out loud. DENNIS BRADFORD. Whew, I had waited to hear that name for a long time. The hardest thing about my journey was the unknown...not knowing who had done this to me. I now had a name, and I was now sitting with this person...if that makes sense. Not the environment or way I wanted, but this was my chance. I could feel Jonathan standing to the left side of me as I read on for about ten more minutes, and he helped me up when I was finished. We stood there, together, staring at Bradford's grave, and then Jonathan said, "Do you have anything else to say?" I said, "No, that was it." And he said, "Well, this time, he had no choice but to listen to you." I smiled, he grabbed my hand, and then we got back into the car and continued on our roadtrip.

Feeling a little spontaneous, we then decided to drive to Wimberley and stop at Blue Hole for some swimming. My aunt told me about this place a couple of years ago, and being it was on the way to San Antonio, we thought we'd check it out. I had previously watched a short video about Blue Hole on the internet, but many times things aren't what they seem, so I didn't really know what to expect. We pulled off onto Blue Hole road... which quickly turned into a gravel parking lot, and we got out. There were two teenage guys sitting in lawn chairs, and they insisted on us not paying full price to get in because they'd only be open another hour and a half. We weren't going to argue! We handed them ten bucks, and walked in. The dusty gravel quickly turned into thick, green grass surrounded by lush trees and chirping wildlife. Adults and children were swinging off of a metal ring and falling into the water, and some were jumping off of a higher part of a tree. A woman near us was sprawled out on her beach towel reading and soaking up the sun. This looked like a neat place, until I saw the fish in the water, and started to question jumping in. (Apparently, I watched one too many episodes of "Shark Week" last week.) I started to back away, while telling Jonathan there was NO WAY I'd be getting in there. Now, of course I knew there weren't any sharks, but I started to think about alligators and then something grabbing my foot, and how freaked out I'd be. After alot of convincing, I inched my way into the cool water of Blue Hole...and it was great, until the strings of the lifejacket I stole off of a tree (to float with) brushed up against my leg. I started swimming fast to get the hell out of there and back onto land..and then Jonathan reminded me the strings of the life jacket were hanging down and that nothing was really after me in the water. I could breathe again. If you ask me, Jonathan was a little too excited to be in this water. Anyone who knows him, knows he's an overgrown child, and soon he was forcing me to stay in the water alone and watch him jump off of a tree. I watched as he excitedly stood in line with all of the CHILDREN (ha ha) and then climbed up the side of a tree and did a back-flip off of it...he's such a show- off sometimes. ;) Blue Hole ended up being a really neat place, fish and all, and I'd definitely like to go back again someday...preferrably more prepared with a float so my feet aren't dangling freely in the water for something to eat me.
As we drove to our final destination of San Antonio, we stopped off at my bff's house (smelly, and hair still wet from the water of Blue Hole) for a short-but-sweet visit and to also see my godson and sweet new goddaughter. I'm always excited to catch up with my bff and visit with her little family when the opportunity arises, and this was one of those opportunities, so I didn't care that I looked (and smelled) like I'd been swimming with fish...and I knew she wouldn't care, either. When we left there, we ate at a drive-thru Taqueria, and then went to the hotel to hit the hay and get ready to conquer the Market the next day. I have so many wonderful memories I cherish of going to San Antonio as a child with my grandparents, and I am in love with that place. I swear I'll move there someday...the culture amazes me, and the environment is relaxing.

Day two of our trip began mid-morning, and being in San Antonio, I was hungry for Mexican food yet again, so we ate at a restaurant in The Market, and then spent hours shopping! I'm re-decorating our kitchen and dining areas, and was on a mission to find ristras of jalapenos, garlic, onions, etc., and I hit the jackpot! Jonathan, however, was not worried about finding ceramic jalapenos, and paper-mache avocados...he was busy trying to figure out which "day of the dead" Michael Jackson doll he wanted to buy. What can I say...I love him! A riverwalk boat-ride, dinner at Fogo de Chao, a few Mexican pastries, alot of pictures, and a pecan pancake breakfast later, it was time to say a very-dreaded goodbye to SA, and head home to Houston.

On a happier note, this trip allowed me to accomplish yet another one of my goals. Eventhough Bradford wasn't physically sitting infront of me, I KNOW he heard everything I had to say (I was talking pretty loud) - it's just a feeling I had, and you know...God works in mysterious ways. :)

It's A Celebration!

August 10, 2010.

Twenty years ago, this day could have very well been my last one on Earth; however, a little bit of strength, a lot of prayers, and a children's game of hide-and-go-seek twelve to fourteen hours later, I was found and survived what continues to be the most traumatic and horrible experience of my life.

There are some who don't understand why I find it so important to spread my message, and who have expressed what happened to me was so long ago that I should just move on with life and leave the past...in the past. But, thankfully, there are also those who know my passion and see my drive in continuing to share my story, and know that my heart hasn't fully allowed me to move on from this experience...and truthfully, never will. After being so blessed to have lived through an abduction, rape and attempted murder, I feel that I have a responsibility to encourage other victims to use their voices, and it's something I'll continue to do, loudly and proudly, all the rest of the days of my life. No one can ever persuade me to do otherwise, as I'm following my heart, and doing what I know is not only the right thing to do, but what I'm destined to do. THIS IS MY PURPOSE!

Every year on this day, I have tried to do something special in celebrating my life, and have tried to make it a joyous occasion, but every day of the last nineteen years, I've also had one lingering question that has "eaten" at me, and that was simply "who?" Who could have committed these awful acts toward me? Now, twenty years later, to the day, I've got a smile on my face, and my heart is beaming a bright light...as I have no need to question any longer. This year, I am not ONLY celebrating life, but also, a victory!

To my two heroes, Detective Tim Cromie, and SA Richard Rennison:

I know I've said it at least a hundred times, and I'll say it a hundred more, THANK YOU! If it weren't for you two, using your knowledge and experience in doing what you both felt was appropriate for my case and me, this would have been another anniversary where I'd be sitting here wondering who did this, who else had been a victim at the hands of this person, and when the time would come for me to get answers. Thankfully, this year, I've got all of the answers, and together, we've potentially saved the lives of others and together we've been able to make a difference in the lives of thousands of victims all around the World...I cannot express to you enough how much you both mean to me, and the pride I feel just knowing you two. I hope that others involved in law enforcement will learn from your mannerisms and work, because you are both the perfect example of what those in law enforcement should be. You both work not only because they are your jobs, but because you really and truly care, and want to make a difference. Thank you over and over, not only for giving me answers, but for putting your hearts into my case, and changing my life forever. This gift of peace you've both given me, has been the greatest gift I've ever received.

Peace this August 10th. No longer do I go to bed at night wondering who, or worrying about this person attacking others, as now we all know Dennis Earl Bradford was arrested October 13, 2009. On that day, nineteen years of prayers were answered. I would like to also take a moment to tell everyone, incase I've never said it, that I am still brought to tears at the many self-less acts of those who prayed and continue to keep me in their prayers, those who helped search for me and distribute fliers when I went missing, the cards and flowers I received in the hospital in 1990, and last year on the day of the arrest, the fundraisers that members of the community put together for medical expenses all of those years ago, the work of the officers that responded to the scene back in 1990 and everyone involved; including the officers and investigators at Dickinson PD, Galveston Co. Sheriff's OFfice, FBI, and the Texas Rangers. And, a special thank you to those at the North Little Rock PD who helped prepare with Cromie and Rennison and aided in the arrest of Bradford. Also, thank you to those supportive family members, friends, and my Jonathan, who have all guided me along at different points throughout the last twenty years...thank you for listening to me talk endlessly and openly about my experience, thank you for having open hearts and minds, and thank you for allowing me to smile, cry, and at times, yell if needed...all without judging me, and knowing how important this was to me to keep seeking an answer until an arrest was made.

I say that my heart will not ever allow me to fully move on, because there are countless victims out there, afraid to come forward, so I will forever use my experience as motivation to do what I am incredibly passionate about, and that is sharing my story and fighting to make a difference in this sometimes-cruel World we all live in. I have seen the need to share my story even more in the last year, as I've received many e-mails and phone calls from different organizations and advocacy centers, locally and out-of-state, asking me to share my story with their communities and help them in getting support, because there are still those that do not like hearing about or changing the horrible things going on within their community. I've received e-mails from victims in different countries, telling me either that they don't know how to go about telling someone what's happened to them, or asking if it's too late to speak out, or about their unfortunate and unfair experiences with law enforcement when trying to report the crime.

Rape is REAL! It's happening, unfortunately, all over the World. Every hour, of every day. It's something that no one should ever have to experience, but sadly, many experience it repeatedly. It is never too late to speak out! I will do whatever I can to help save others from having this happen to them, and encourage those it has happened to in using their voices to speak out against it.

Today, while I should be preparing myself for going to trial this Fall, and Bradford being sentenced, I will instead be sitting at Dennis Bradford's grave, reading my victim impact statement. Eventhough he is no longer here, I have to do this, it's something I've wanted to do for twenty years now, although I didn't plan to do it in this manner. If you are a victim of a crime, or know someone who is, please let my story be a reminder that we are all really not victims, but victorious! Please continue to use your voices to speak out, you never know the difference you may make in the life of someone who may just need to hear your story.

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you for your support!!

Now, off to celebrate: life, love, happiness, peace, and above all, VICTORY!

Setting The Record Straight!

First of all, it's been a crazy week (to say the LEAST!) I'd like to thank everyone who has taken the time to send me e-mails or sign my guestbook...I've been inundated since last Wednesday, and apologize that I cannot respond to each and every one. I do want you all to know that I have been reading through each e-mail and guestbook entry myself (it may take me another week or so to get through all of them)....and the messages of encouragement have been very comforting, thank you!

There are a couple of things that I didn't elaborate enough on in my Today Show interview
that people have been commenting about, through guestbook entries and e-mails, so I'd like to just "set the record straight" and clear up some of the confusion:

1) Infertility.

I've had probably over 150 heartfelt e-mails from women all around the United States offering to be my surrogate. The infertility issues I have do not require me needing a surrogate, but I feel very blessed to have had so many offers! I can still carry a baby, I just have to rely on in vitro fertilization to get pregnant. There is a 70% chance that it will work, but I know several women who have tried it time after time with no luck. The fertility doctor I have been working with has great success rates, though...so when Jonathan and I get ready to have children, we will cross our fingers (and toes) and see what happens! Whether the in vitro works or not, we still plan to adopt sometime in the future.

As a child, I watched many, many foster children come in and out of my grandmother's home, and it really inspired me to adopt children sometime in my lifetime. I feel very fortunate to have seen the endless love my grandmother always had for any children that came into her home, and hope to show my children the same, as I truly believe my grandmother loved all of her foster children just as much as she loves us grandkids. I also have family members who are adopted, and can't imagine our family without them!

2) Dennis Bradford's Death.

I have found in my journey, that people are very opinionated, and I have learned to accept people's feelings for what they are, and not let them upset me, because everyone IS entitled to feel or voice their own opinions. BUT, I will say...that no one can ever fully understand what a person has been through UNLESS they have experienced it themselves, and even then sometimes people's opinions/feelings will be different.

With that said, there have been comments and messages from several people not able to understand WHY I'd be upset that Dennis Bradford hung himself. The opinion of most is that "it saves tax-payers dollars." Indeed, it does...BUT I wanted my time in court with him first. After searching for almost 20 years, all I asked for was 5 minutes with him in a court room face-to-face, and it was devastating to me that I did not get the chance to do that. With rock-solid DNA evidence, a 4 hour confession on tape, and 2 or 3 other times he confessed over the last 7 months in jail that were documented, I know Bradford would have been given a life sentence. Yes, with the chance of parole after 30 years, but I'm sure he wouldn't have lasted 30 years in prison, anyway. Call me selfish, but I felt like after all of these years of searching for him, he OWED me my 5 minutes, to hear what I had to say (whether he would have listened or not), and I am entitled to feel "cheated" out of that opportunity.

It is not in my nature to have an angry heart, I just never have. I have never sat and cried and asked questions of "why me?" or been in despair over what happened to me. I've never played the "victim" but have played the role of "Victorious!" and tried to make a positive out of this negative experience I had as a child. I forgave Dennis Bradford for what he did to me years and years ago, but was worried about all of the others that could fall victim to him, and wanted to get him off of the streets, as I've said many times before..so he could not harm anyone else. I feel SO BLESSED to have conquered that goal and potentially saved others!

3) Victim Impact Statement.

I wrote my VIS not for Dennis Bradford, not to get any reaction out of Dennis Bradford, not to get an apology out of Dennis Bradford....but wrote it for myself for closure, and to be the voice of other victims everywhere.

When I did my interview with Jeff Rossen from NBC, and talked about missing out on my moment in court to read it, I mentioned wanting to face Bradford in court to:

"Show him (Bradford) that he didn't win. And, that I'm a strong survivor, and to show other victims no matter what obstacles you come across, or how long you have to wait, as long as you're strong and determined, you can get the justice that you want."

..and by that, I meant that for myself AND for others, I wanted to sit face-to-face with him and read my 3 page long Victim Impact Statement that I had been preparing for years, whether my words meant anything to him or not, I did not care. I wanted to do this to show not only Bradford, but others that prey on children and adults that we WILL fight for justice and conquer crime!

4.) What now?

Was me facing Bradford in court necessary for me to heal? NO. I had feelings of disappointment, but I DO have closure, and I am moving on with my life, continuing to USE MY VOICE to speak out and encouraging others to do the same! My "Meme" (Grandma) always told me..."Jenny, you can make all the plans in the World, but you can't plan the outcome." Now more than ever do I realize just how true that statement is.

I am going back to college June 8th, and finishing up my Bachelor's degree in Criminology hopefully within the next year and a half. I look forward to writing a book in the near future, starting a family within the next couple of years, and working in an area of law enforcement after obtaining my degree that will allow me to continue to grow as a survivor and in helping others to use their voices and conquer crime...one VOICE at a time!

Victorious in Jesus,



Today has been one of the most difficult days of my life. For almost twenty years, I knew Dennis Bradford was out there, somewhere. In my heart, I knew in due time, I'd find him. People would often tell me after all of these years, my attacker would probably be dead, or that I would never know who had attacked me...I could, at times, even see the doubt in others faces when I'd say I would find him one day. But, I kept on. I knew he was alive, and I knew I'd one day find and face the man that so cold-heartedly attempted to murder me. I made it my goal to find him no matter what obstacles came my way. I've had good days, and I've had bad..but this day is by far the WORST. I've said from the very beginning that I've never had an angry heart about what happened to me as a child. Obviously, a person capable of thinking up a plan and going through with it... such as taking an innocent 8 year old from her bed, raping her, and then cutting her throat and leaving her to die... is sick in the head. Even though my heart was never angry with Bradford, I did always want him to be punished for his actions in the court room, and taken off of the streets so that he could not ever hurt an innocent child again. After him being captured last October, I wanted him to spend every single day of the rest of his life in a jail cell, thinking about what he had done to me. But, today...he took his own life in that cell. Knowing I will never be face to face with Bradford in a court of law, reading aloud my victim impact statement, that I've spent months writing, countless late nights perfecting for my moment in court.. is extremely hard for me to forgive and accept. I have beenleft feeling as though I've been cheated out of an opportunity for ultimate closure. Please try to understand that I have worked so hard for almost 20 years for the moment of facing him and showing him what I've become, and letting him know how what he did to me affected my life, and I'm heartbroken and disappointed that my opportunity to do so has crumbled right before my eyes, and will never come.

On a happier note, I couldn't be more grateful for Tim Cromie of Dickinson Police Dept., and Special Agent Richard Rennison with the FBI for all of their hard work and dedication. Both of those men looked me in the eyes two years ago and promised they would catch my attacker and never give up, no matter how long it took...and they followed through on their promise to me. I am forever indebted to these two men, and couldn't have asked for a more diligent, hard working team to put their ALL into my case. I am working hard to keep positive thoughts, and keep reminding myself of how far I've come in my journey..eventhough I didn't get the full justice or outcome I wanted. Ultimately, I am able to rejoice in knowing I've potentially saved the lives of children and encouraged many to speak out, which does give me an overwhelming sense of comfort.

I made a promise to myself years ago that I would never quit using my voice to speak out, and never stop encouraging others to use their voices to tell their stories...no matter the outcome. With that said, I WILL continue on, doing what I've been doing, and hope that I can continue to show others the strength they may gain from sharing their own stories. I know there have been many of you that have prayed for me over the years and I ask that you please continue to do so, as I take some time to try and make sense of and accept what happened yesterday and then continue on my journey in life. No amount of words could ever express how thankful I am for each and every supporter, card, flowers, e-mail, text message, or phone call I've received. Knowing there are so many that care about my well being is an unexplainable feeling...thank you.

A Hand For Hailey

I can barely sit and write this blog, I'm full of so many different emotions, because I am just so overjoyed and proud of a brave little girl, named Hailey.

Hailey first wrote me on October 20, 2009, just a week after the arrest of Dennis Bradford. I was so elated with the news of his arrest that I had been unable to sleep, and it felt like I was in some zombie-like state as I was inundated with phone calls, text messages, and e-mails. I had literally received thousands of e-mails from all over the World, people congratulating me, sending encouraging and supportive messages, and also I had received letters from crime victims, sharing their stories. I had been staying up late every night, unable to sleep, and I took that time to make sure I read every single message, whether it was one word, or 5,000 words, I wanted to read them all. I came across and clicked on Hailey's message, and finished reading it, I couldn't help but sit and stare at the computer screen, with tears streaming down my face, and felt compelled to write her back. I had to know more, and I had to know how I could help this little girl, and let her know how amazing she is for sharing her story.
I won't share the whole message, but I will tell you that at the time she wrote me, Hailey was 15, and living in California, a small-town girl, with big dreams and a big, beautiful smile. As she said to me, in her own words, as she began her message, "I have what seems to look like your average teen girls life, but from my past, it's not." All I could think about was how often this is the case. Everything seemed perfect on the outside, but on the inside, behind closed doors, there were things going on in Hailey's life that I wouldn't wish on anyone...she was living in Hell. Hailey went on to share with me that she was raped most of her childhood (age 3 to 12) by her birth mom's boyfriend (who was already a registered sex offender). Feeling scared and threatened by him, she was too frightened to tell anyone, (as is the case, more often than not, of those preyed on by these sick creeps) and the abuse continued for years. After gathering up the courage to confide in her aunt at age 12 about what had been going on, Hailey was taken out of the home, and then adopted by her aunt and uncle, and the process of convicting this monster began. As she ended her message, she wrote "I heard about your story, and it made me think." "Thank you for helping me and every other girl out there...you saved us."

I had the chills. I wrote Hailey back and we began to communicate, back and forth. She has grown so much over the last six months, and has really opened up and shared many private details with me about her horrible experiences, which are ones I wouldn't wish on anyone. Just last week, her attacker was sentenced to 14 more years in prison by a judge, because after being released from jail on other charges, he was required by a judge to wear a mandatory GPS tracking device, and began to stalk Hailey, calling her, driving by her new home and school, telling her he knew where her bedroom was, and that he watched her run track at school. Hailey USED HER VOICE and told the police he had been calling her, and told them what he had said. After pulling the records from his GPS tracking device, it was shown he had infact been within 500 ft of her home and school.

Hailey, I hope you know that you are truly an inspiration to me, and I am so proud of you and honored to know you. I know you have had an extremely hard time dealing with the attacks and unfortunate memories of your past, but you are safe now and have amazing strength and courage and will make it through. You have impacted my life, forever. As I always tell you, no one can tell you how to feel, or make you be silent. You have a right to USE YOUR VOICE and speak out, and the chance to help so many others along the way. You deserve nothing but the best in life, and just know that I am thinking about you and praying for you, as I know in just short of two weeks, you will have another difficult day in court, as you get to read your Victim Impact Statement. Stay strong, little Hailey, lift up your voice, and don't be afraid to say all that you've been feeling. Thank YOU, Hailey, for writing me and reminding me of why I continue to share my story, and Thank YOU for helping every other child out there....YOU have SAVED lives by Using Your Voice!

It is now my mission to try and change the laws in Texas to have all repeat and high-risk repeat sex offenders wear a mandatory GPS tracking device ankle bracelet, upon release from jail. I know this will take alot of time and effort, but I am willing to fight to protect the children in our state. In my opinion, sex offenders already get light sentences to begin with, and we need to make their lives hell just as much as they make ours. I believe these GPS tracking devices will prevent further victimization, and the fact that they record whereabouts of the individual helps in court with convicting them of being in areas they are not allowed to be. Stayed tuned. Petition in progress!


Crime Victims' Rights Week 2010 brought me the honor of meeting families of crime victims by sharing my story during two seperate ceremonies this week. Last Sunday, I was invited to speak during the Texas City Crime Victims Candlelight Vigil & Bench Dedication Ceremony. There was a great turn-out of families who came to honor their loved ones, eventhough the weather wasn't necessarily on our side that day. It started to rain, so the ceremony got moved inside the police department. I don't know why, but I was fine until I was called up to the podium to give my speech..and then completely broke down. I didn't want to cry, but I was just overwhelmed, I think. Jonathan came up to comfort me, and that was good, because from then on, I was able to compose myself and complete my speech. During open mic, families shared their stories with the crowd, and it just saddened me to hear them talk about the senseless murders of their loved ones. There were many tears in that lobby that day, but also an overwhelming sense of unity. Once the weather cleared, we all (about a group of 100) moved outside and each got a balloon, which we wrote whatever we wanted on, and released. It was an amazing sight! The pastor lead us in a prayer as we stood with our candles lit, and then there was the bench dedication. I'm so thankful that I was able to spread my message of "Use Your Voice!" to this group, and hope I may have inspired those who still, after all of these years do not have suspects brought to justice..to never give up. Thank you to all of my wonderful friends who were able to make it out and show support! I love and thank all of you from the bottom of my heart!
Click this link to watch portions of the ceremony: www.youtube.com/watch?v=zrnSrMT8I5w&feature=player_embedded

On Tuesday, I attended and spoke at a Brick Dedication Ceremony at Dickinson PD, and I did much better giving my speech there, and didn't even cry this time. I also got a standing ovation, which was very unexpected and nice! I couldn't help but think of how just 6 months ago, I stood at the very same podium, in the very same room, giving a statement just hours after Dennis Bradford was arrested in Arkansas. These past six months have really flown by, and it's just amazing to me all that has happened within that short period of time. At the ceremony in Dickinson, I met a little girl who is 9 years old, and at the age of 2, both of her parents were murdered. She is being raised by her grandmother, and was crying during the ceremony as her grandmother spoke up and told the story. It was very emotional, as they still have not caught who murdered this little girl's parents. It was heart-wrenching, to say the least. Afterward, I talked with her, and she drew me this picture: This is the reason I continue to share my story. If I could, I would bring her mom and dad back...but that isn't something I'm capable of, so at the very least, I was able to use my voice in sharing my story and showing support.. comforting her and giving her and her grandmother hope that day. As we congregated outside and enjoyed the beautiful weather, with our lit candle roses, Chief Morales unveiled a brick on the walkway of the police department, dedicated to Crime Victims.

Saturday morning, Jonathan and I got up early and headed to Galveston Island for the Crime Victims' Rights 5K Walk/Run along the Seawall. We were both excited to participate, as neither of us had ever done anything like this before, and now look forward to participating every year! Over 200 people showed up for this event, and God is so good. The weather was supposed to be awful, with over a 60% chance of rain...and honestly, we couldn't have asked for a more beautiful day for the run! It was 84 degrees, full of sunshine, mixed with a cool breeze, and we finished our walk in about 45 minutes. This was HUGE for me since I do not like to sweat, and I don't even walk to my own mailbox, lol. I ran into many supporters along the Galveston Seawall who were wearing their "Use Your Voice!" t-shirts, and I was just elated to see everyone out there and see so many familiar faces!! At my half-way point, there was an especially familiar face giving out water :) Thanks, Cromie - for all that you do to support crime victims!

April 13th marked the six-month Captureversary of the arrest of Dennis Bradford in my case, and it was definitely a day to celebrate! Jonathan and I spent the day up in Austin, because my friends at AMW were there filming for another case and invited us up to visit! "The Yogurt Shop Murders" is an awful cold-case out of Austin in which four teenage girls were murdered inside the "I Can't Believe It's Yogurt!" yogurt shop back in 1991. I was honored to have the chance to have met the families of the girls, and also meet with John Walsh for a second time, and see all of the wonderful people on the AMW crew. My thanks AMW & John Walsh, for yet another day to remember! I believe that America's Most Wanted will capture those responsible for the deaths of those 4 beautiful, young girls.

National Crime Victims Rights Week is coming up, April 18-24th. The theme this year is "Fairness. Dignity. Respect." I couldn't think of a better theme, and I'm proud that I'll be speaking at two events during National Crime Victims Rights Week. I'm Using My Voice, what I am set out and destined to do, and ecstatic about it. I hope that I can make a difference and give victims and families hope and inspire them to never give up. Here's to conquering CRIME, one VOICE at a time...

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