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Madison never thought she would look forward to her future. She saw no reason to create goals or have dreams. She knew that, like her mother before her, she would probably get pregnant, drop out of high school, work a low-paying job and that would be her life.

Madison’s story started off not that different from most of the children we serve at The Children’s Advocacy Project.

She and her siblings had been in and out of foster care from an early age. Her mom’s boyfriends were often violent, and it wasn’t unusual to find drugs and alcohol in the home. Time after time, Madison’s mom would work a successful reunification plan by staying clean and sober, taking classes, getting a job and finding stable housing only to “mess up” by getting together with the wrong guy. “She was never happy unless there was a guy in our lives. I don’t know why our love couldn’t be enough, but it never was.”

School, when they attended, was often Madison’s only safe place. “I knew at school no one was going to mess with me, and that my brother and sister were safe.” Even though grades didn’t come easy, she wanted to please so she worked extra hard in math and science and asked for help when she needed it. Everything got harder when Madison reached middle school. A thoughtful teacher encouraged her to work with a “much smarter” peer, Emily, who became her tutor. “With Emily’s help, I even made the Dean’s list. My mom didn’t care much but I knew it was a big deal.”

Madison and Emily became friends, then best friends. “We did everything together, and we didn’t have any secrets.” When Madison want to be the best version of myself When I grow up I needed a place to stay, Emily’s parents took her in. For the first time in her life, Madison felt like she had a family. “I had my own room. They said if I was going to live there, I had to have chores, so I helped with the dogs, washed dishes, did my own laundry. Things were going great.” Then, like they usually did in Madison’s life, something bad happened and she was asked to leave.

She tried to find someplace else to take her in. Ultimately, Madison had no choice but to move back in with her mom, her mom’s boyfriend, Eric, and Madison’s younger brother and sister in a tiny, two-bedroom trailer. Madison slept on the floor in her sibling’s room or else on the couch in the living room. Her mom and Eric drank and used drugs. It wasn’t long before Madison was smoking marijuana and drinking with them. Her grades dropped and she began having trouble with other kids at school. “There really wasn’t much keeping me in school. I didn’t feel like I had any hope of ever really getting my life straightened out.”

Sometimes, Eric would encourage “his girls” to snuggle up to him on the couch. He would often touch Madison inappropriately, but she felt it was okay because “it didn’t ever go very far.” Sometimes she felt like she deserved to be mistreated “like I was a bad person or something.” One night, after her mom passed out on the couch, Eric enticed Madison into the bedroom where he forced her to have sex with him. Madison told her mom the next morning.

Madison’s mom stated she was “hung over” when Madison told her Eric had raped her and “may have jumped to the wrong conclusion.” She and Madison got into a fight, waking up Eric who denied everything. Madison stormed out of the house. Her mom reported her as a runaway and Madison was picked up and sent to YCC. While at YCC, she reported the rape. Madison was interviewed by a DFS investigator and a Casper Police Department Detective. “They were both really nice, but not too nice. I never felt like they pitied me or thought I was some sort of victim. They asked me questions about where I lived and what my life was like. Then they told me they were going to have me talk to someone else.”

“At first, I was really nervous. I’d already told them practically everything and now they wanted me to talk to another stranger?! I thought they were crazy, but I was afraid they were going to send me home, so I agreed. The next day, I went to The Children’s Advocacy Project for a forensic interview.” At CAP, Madison was asked nonleading, non-suggestive questions about the drugs and alcohol use, as well as the sexual assault. During the safety portion of the interview, Madison also revealed a history of physical abuse and domestic violence.

“After the interview, the same DFS lady and detective who talked to me in the beginning told me that I would be placed in foster care. They asked if there was anyone I felt safe with. I told them about Emily and her family.” Emily’s family reluctantly agreed to take Madison in until suitable housing could be found. Although it was difficult at first, Emily’s family and Madison slowly rebuilt a trusting relationship. Madison participated in trauma counseling at The Children’s Advocacy Project. She worked to bring her grades up and “somehow” managed to pass her classes. “My grades were like a bloodbath of D’s and F’s. I didn’t think I could possibly keep from flunking out; but I did.”

Two years later, Madison is preparing for her senior year. Although she won’t qualify for the full Hathaway scholarship, she has turned her academic horror story into one of success. Madison plans to shadow a prosecuting attorney when she can job shadow next year. Although her own case did not go to trial, she believes that justice was served and wants to be able to help other girls with stories like hers.

“The CAP team was there for me when I didn’t think anybody really cared. I want other girls to know that someone will always have their backs and that they can do even more than they can imagine because of it. The sky’s the limit when you feel safe!”