The clean-cut, all-American looking 16-year-old talking to Oprah on yesterday’s show killed a man on January 22, 2010. Daniel Kovarbasich said he “snapped” after being molested for over 3 years by 56-year-old Duane Hurley and he stabbed him 55 times. He’s serving 5 years probation and sitting in prison until he can get proper counseling; a judge let him out to be on the Oprah show to send a message to other children and families.
In this case…as in most…Daniel was sexually abused by someone he knew…a family friend. He was first approached by Duane when he was just 12 and Duane offered to pay him to help him take care of his dog. Daniel’s parents took precautions: they looked up Duane’s name online to see if he was listed as a sex offender (he wasn’t) and they went with Daniel to Duane’s house each time for an entire year.
Duane not only groomed Daniel, but he groomed the whole family and let them do odd jobs in exchange for much needed money or he’d buy them needed household items. They all thought that Duane was a great guy, began to trust him, and even considered him a friend who was welcome in their home; finally the parents started letting Daniel go over to Duane’s house alone.
The grooming progressed when Daniel wanted to drive Duane’s sedan and Duane told Daniel he’d have to show him his penis. When Daniel wanted to drive Duane’s corvette, Duane said “bigger toys, bigger things” and insisted that Daniel let him touch his penis. The grooming continued and the abuse escalated to anal sex. Daniel hated it, but was afraid to tell his parents due to the shame he felt. He also couldn’t get away from Duane, who would track him down if he didn’t come over.
All this time, Daniel had a girlfriend and wanted to plan something special for their one year anniversary of dating. Duane asked him how much money he needed for that and Daniel said $80. Duane let him know that would cost him; i.e., he’d have to have sex with Duane. That was when Daniel snapped.
There were several messages this family…which also included Daniel’s older brother wanted to convey:
- If a child’s behavior changes, something could be terribly wrong. Daniel’s brother noticed that Daniel was acting totally out of character…smoking, acting out, etc.
- It is usually a “friend” or relative that abuses a child. They are able to win the child’s and his/her parent’s trust and gain access to the child. Daniel’s parents were shocked that this man won their trust, was their “friend,” and all the while was sexually abusing their son.
- Smart child abusers groom children. They win the child’s confidence…and that of their parents…over time. They will do things like offer the child special things the parents wouldn’t…like alcohol or driving a car when the child (as in Daniel’s case) doesn’t have a license. This is a red flag.
- Daniel urged children who might now be in a situation like he was in to TELL SOMEONE. The abuse will only progress…it doesn’t get less shameful. Get some help. Get out. TELL.
Oprah is herself a survivor of multiple instances of childhood sexual abuse. I applaud her for continuing to get the story out and to hammer home the fact that it is usually someone the child knows who abuses them.
This is a tragic story…as are all stories about sexual abuse. It all started with the selfish, narcissistic actions of a man who didn’t care what the consequences of his actions were. His actions did have consequences and one of them was that he lost his life. An innocent boy was traumatized and made to perform sexual acts for over three years by a child molester he thought was his friend and his family’s friend. That innocent boy became a murderer because of the abuse and a secret he felt was too shameful to tell. The whole family is suffering and their entire lives will be forevermore impacted.
If you are being sexually abused now or have been in the past, but have never admitted it, tell someone. Get help. Don’t suffer in silence and risk having the abuse continue or your reaction to it spiral out of control. It isn’t and wasn’t your fault and you are not the one who bears the shame. That belongs only to the person who committed the abuse.