Hinckley mom gives children with disabilities a voice after sexual assault

by Jennifer Taggart

Nicole Moehring, founder of Voices of Change 2018, never thought it would happen to her and her family.

Both of her children—Evan, who has autism and fragile x syndrome, and Maci, who is neurotypical—were sexually molested by different perpetrators whom they knew and trusted.

“I honestly thought it would never happen to a child with a disability,” Moehring, a Hinckley Township resident, said.  “I had no idea what the statistics were and that a child with a disability is in a more vulnerable situation, because nobody talks about it. Specialists don’t talk about it. Pediatricians don’t talk about it, so I had no idea. I was completely thrown off guard.”

Evan first disclosed his sexual assault as an 11-year-old in 2016, when his mother was giving him a bath and reminding him to not let anyone touch him where a bathing suit covers.

After Evan met with forensic interviewers at a children’s advocacy center, his case was found to be unsubstantiated.

“I knew in my heart of hearts that he was telling the truth,” Moehring said. “Kids don’t lie when they disclose this kind of stuff, they don’t lie. My gut told me that something was wrong and to keep pursuing things.”

Over the next year, Evan suffered from meltdowns from PTSD from continued sexual abuse. While the family did what they could to limit Evan’s interactions with the perpetrator, they could not legally prevent the perpetrator from seeing him because his first case was unsubstantiated. Evan was threatened by the perpetrator to keep the continued abuse a secret.

In June 2018, Maci, who was 15 at the time, was molested at a graduation party by a 19-year-old the family knew. She immediately told her mother.

The family noticed a stark difference between how Maci and her brother Evan’s cases were handled.

“She received justice, they cared about her,” Moehring said. “From the minute she walked in the doors, they cared about her. They cared about what happened to her. They cared about the outcome. She was treated with respect and dignity – completely different than how my son was treated. My son was discriminated against and treated like a number. They didn’t care about him. “

Around the same time, Evan disclosed that his perpetrator was asking him to undress and pose in various positions to take pictures to post on the internet. The case was substantiated with enough evidence to convict, but not to prove unreasonable doubt.

“My nightmare started in 2016 and the nightmare just became worse,” Moehring said.

She searched for resources and support for her family but could not find anything that was readily accessible. That’s when she and Maci began brainstorming about the resources and information needed to help other families. The two elected to create Facebook and Instagram pages.

One night, a young woman who was contemplating suicide after being sexually assaulted reached out to Voices of Change 2018. Moehring spent hours talking to the woman over the phone until she was certain the woman was safe and could find help. The next morning, the woman called Moehring to thank her for saving her life.

“That was my moment of, ‘This is my purpose’ and ‘there’s a bigger plan for me in place’ and ‘this is where I was needed,’” Moehring said.

The Moehrings established Voices of Change 2018 as a nonprofit in summer 2019. Currently, the organization provides support and resources to those who have been victimized and continues to make available educational resources for parents, children with disabilities, medical professionals and law enforcement.

Voices of Change 2018 is now a national organization piloting its programs in Ohio. The organization is looking for people to join its board of directors, as well as volunteers to help with fundraising, grant writing and donations. For more information, visit https://www.voicesofchange2018.org/.

For Moehring and her daughter, it is all about about helping other families facing the same difficult trauma they are facing.

“To this day, my son has still not received justice, I’m still fighting,” Moehring said. ∞