Sex abuse victim finds courage to speak out
By REBECCA CHAISSON
Daily News Editor
When Hathaway native Todd Hine lost his stepson to cancer in 2008, he agreed to attend counseling with his wife, Dionne, to try and cope with the pain.
But during the couple’s second counseling session with Father Whitney Miller, the Catholic priest and licensed professional counselor sensed a pain that Hine had been hiding for more than 30 years.
“He asked me if something had ever happened to me,” Hine explained. “I guess he could sense some things. All I could tell him was ‘yes’.”
Prior to that meeting with Father Whitney, Hine had only told one other person that he had been molested when he was just 12 years old by a member of his church. Until then, only Hine’s wife knew the shameful secret that he had been keeping from the rest of the world.
“After admitting that to Father Whitney, I had a project in New Orleans. I cried the whole drive there,” Hine remembered. “All of these thoughts started coming to me.”
Those same thoughts haunted him for decades; robbed him of his childhood; made him insecure around friends; made him uncomfortable around his own grandchildren. The thoughts made him ashamed, afraid and alone in his own mind. And yet, he was never alone in his own mind.
Elmer Doucet was always there, a shadow in some deep, dark corner.
The alleged offender was a friend of the family, as both families faithfully attended the same church.
“Mr. Elmer asked Mom if I would help him with his yard work. I was 12 the first time I went. We didn’t do any yard work,” Hine remembered.
“He put on a porno – he had the Playboy station on his satellite,” Hine continued. “Then he just started watching it. He came and sat by me and then he started rubbing on me. I started fighting. I fought and fought. But I was 12 and he was 47. He did things no one should ever experience.”
Hine said that after the first molestation, he returned home humiliated and scared. He was scared his friends would find out in such a small, close-knit community, and would think that he did something wrong. He, himself, thought that maybe he had done something wrong.
The 12-year-old boy didn’t have long to wrestle with these thoughts before his perpetrator called on him again.
“The next time he asked me to go help him with yard work, I spent the night at a friend’s house instead. I was hoping he would forget,” Hine explained. “But he showed up at my house anyway, and Mom came and got me from my friend’s house. She spoke to me about responsibilities and how I should keep my word.”
Words escaped him for the next year and a half, as the molestation continued: “The first of four times involved the defendant using the defendant’s hands to touch the genitals of the victim (in the defendant’s living room); the second time, the defendant made the victim touch the defendant’s genitals using the hands of the victim (in the defendant’s movie room with a reel to reel projector); the third time, the defendant touched the victim’s genitals, and the defendant had the victim touch the defendant’s genitals (in the defendant’s master bedroom); and the fourth time, the defendant made the victim touch the victim’s genitals while viewing a pornographic magazine (in the defendant’s vehicle)”, according to court records.
The young boy couldn’t find the courage to tell anyone about the ongoing abuse.
“I kept trying to figure out how I could get out of it,” Hine said of his obligation to “help a friend in need.” “The entire time this was happening, I had to face that man in church. He sat in the pew directly in front of me, and every week at the beginning of service, the minister would say, ‘Stand up, turn around and shake hands with your friends and neighbors and tell them that you are glad they are here.’”
According to the police records, Hine “recalls (Doucet) telling him that the reason he was doing this to Todd was because no one properly taught him how to masturbate, so he wanted to teach Todd how to masturbate.”
Those “lessons” finally ended when Hine started working on the farm one year later.
“That’s how I was eventually able to get out of it,” Hine said.
As it turns out, escaping his perpetrator was the easy part; escaping memories of him is the impossible one.
But after a few more visits with Father Whitney, Hine was finally able to confess everything – an act of confession for a sin he never committed.
Then in December of 2009, after approximately six months of counseling, Hine found the courage to confide in his own brother.
“I told one of my brothers what happened to me, and he just stood there and shook his head,” Hine recalled. “He let me finish talking, and then he said, ‘I know, Todd. He did the same thing to me.’ That’s when I knew I had support.”
Hine finally told his mother, as well.
“She told me two things,” Hine said. “First, she said that church isn’t a place just for good people – that’s how we knew Mr. Elmer is from church. Then, she said church is a sacred place – a peaceful place – and I needed to keep it that way. In other words, I shouldn’t go to a church service and tell them what happened to me. Besides, Mr. Elmer is related to people in the church.”
So Hine used his voice in other ways instead.
With Father Whitney by his side, Hine attended a National Safe Environment Conference in New Orleans in March of 2010. The conference was hosted by a Christian organization that helps counselors find ways to reach out to abused children.
It was there that Hine found his true voice – and his purpose in a broken life.
“I want to help kids,” he said when asked why he decided to share his painful story. “This is one way to do that. To let it be known. Let’s move forward.”
Before that could happen, Hine realized that there was one particular 12-year-old he needed to help first.
“I had a dream that Mr. Elmer was at the pulpit trying to justify what he did to me,” Hine said. “I was sitting there, as a grown man and not as a 12-year-old little boy. After I told Father Whitney about the dream, he told me to close my eyes and picture that 12-year-old boy sitting next to me in church.”
Hine paused his story and started to cry, a grown man still trying to confront the worst kind of bad dream – the kind that is real.
“Father Whitney told me that the 12-year-old boy sitting next to me was the first kid I needed to help,” Hine said, wiping away a tear.
On Feb. 3, 2011, Hine reported the 30-year-old crime to the Jeff Davis Parish Sheriff’s Office. He didn’t pursue charges at the time of the complaint, but did ask police to investigate. Meanwhile, Hine told police that he would also “attempt to handle the matter through the church.”
“The church sent a letter to Mr. Elmer that they were aware of some serious accusations that had been brought against him and the person accusing him wanted to have a meeting,” Hine explained. “They said that if he didn’t show up to the meeting, they would consider it an admission of guilt. He never showed up.”
The meeting was set for Aug. 17, 2011. When his abuser didn’t show up, that’s when Hine decided to move forward with the charges.
In October of 2011, police executed a search warrant at Doucet’s residence and seized computers, a projector screen, film canisters with film, 103 VCR tapes, two bottles of lubricant, 15 assorted pornographic images and three compact discs, according to the search warrant. Also, an arrest was made.
“He didn’t even spend one night in jail,” Hine said, as Doucet was able to post his $50,000 bond and return home. The case went in front of a grand jury, and after 10 minutes of deliberation, the jurors unanimously returned a “true bill” against the accused, meaning they felt there was enough evidence to bring the case to trial on four counts of molestation of a juvenile.
One week later, the suspect was arrested again after yet another victim found the courage to come forward. He was 13 years old when he, too, was molested by the perpetrator.
Again, the suspect didn’t stay behind bars for very long.
Unfortunately, Hine said, it looks like justice will never be served in his case.
Hine was made a “victim” once again – this time, a victim of the judicial system.
One month before his June 2012 trial, Hine was told that the law wasn’t on his side because he waited too long to report the crime.
At the time the alleged sexual abuse occurred in Hine’s case, the law stated that a defendant could only be prosecuted within four years of the victim’s 17th birthday. The law later changed again to allow victims to come forward within 10 years of his or her 18th birthday. In 2005, the state law changed again, allowing a sexual abuse victim to come forward within 30 years of his or her 18th birthday to seek prosecution.
“The law is not retroactive,” Hine said. “My time had prescribed. We had waited too late. It was very frustrating. For a victim, the judicial system is very frustrating.”
Once again, Hine was made to feel like he did something wrong – he didn’t speak out in time.
“But I haven’t done anything wrong,” Hine said. “It took me a year and nine months of counseling to realize I hadn’t done anything wrong. There’s nothing wrong with me. And I know there are other victims. For 30 years, I didn’t say anything. Now, I’m saying it. It’s not an easy process to go through. For something to be done to Mr. Elmer, it’s going to take someone within the statute of limitations to report it. Someone else will have to press charges against him. The other victims in this case, so far, are older than I am, so there’s nothing they can do either.”
Hine said sometimes, he still dreams about his struggles.
“I also dreamed I went to a hotel and when I went into the room, Mr. Elmer was there. He had everything set up and stuff. I turned around and left. Father Whitney said that was my mind telling me that I don’t have to put up with it anymore,” Hine said.
Hine has not made contact with his abuser again. He also hasn’t been back to the Hathaway church. Neither has his mother.
“He still goes,” Hine said, visualizing the last time the two of them shook hands there.
When asked what he would say if he had the opportunity to confront his molester, Hine just shrugged his shoulders.
“I don’t know,” he said. “We played out different scenarios in counseling. What if Mr. Elmer walks out? What if he denies it? I don’t know what I would tell him. I don’t know if I would tell him anything. His day is coming. The legal system, I went that route and it didn’t work, but I’m not the one who has his final judgment. His judgment day will come.”
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