With help, girl is gradually healing from years of abuse

MUKILTEO — She is 13 now. She wears lip gloss and runs track for her middle school. She poses for pictures with her hand on her hip and a smile that reaches her brown eyes.

The girl endured a year of being tortured, starved and degraded at the hands of her adoptive brother and his former girlfriend. She was rescued in 2011 from their Mukilteo home after two store clerks called Child Protective Services.

Doctors said her condition resembled that seen among survivors of Nazi concentration camps.

Today, she lives with a couple who plan to adopt her and call her their daughter. They are trying to give her back a stolen childhood.

It isn’t easy. The damage from years of abuse runs deep.

The girl was forced to relive the trauma at two criminal trials, spread out over two years. She needed treatment at a psychiatric hospital after testifying in the first defendant’s trial in 2012.

“She is amazing. She has this attitude. I think a lot of kids would have been broken,” said Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Lisa Paul, who put the abusers in prison for decades.

Her foster parents told a judge about the girl’s new life during her adoptive brother’s sentencing earlier this month.

The girl adores her two dogs, Jack and Rosie, who are good snugglers, patient enough to play dress-up.

She helped pick out their food. She told her foster mother which ones tasted better. There was a time when the girl ate dog food to survive.

She is proud that her new grandpa taught her how to safely operate a motorboat.

In recent months, she has also learned to sleep in her own bed. Scared and anxious, she begged to be as close to her foster parents’ bed as possible. Night after night, she inched her way into her bedroom.

She and her neighborhood buddies spend afternoons riding bicycles and skateboards. She learned to ski, paddleboard and snorkel. She plays clarinet and enjoys her piano lessons more when she’s working on a song she likes.

The sound of barking dogs used to draw her to the window. She was scared that her brother had sent someone for her. After he was convicted, she asked her foster parents to drive by the jail. She wanted to make sure he was locked up.

She ran her first 5K race this summer. After the girl crossed the finish line, she ran back into the race to encourage the other runners to push on. She is a buddy to a student at school with learning disabilities. The girl donates her clothes and toys to other children.

“She’s honest. She’s kind. She’s a joy,” her foster father said.

Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; hefley@heraldnet.com.

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