Victims Amanda, Jasmine and Ally say Pompa used to be a father figure to them. "He was always there. He watched after us. He would sometimes run relay races in the front yard," says Jasmine, who was 12 or 13 at the time of the attacks. "He was like another father to me, and he was just such a sweet person to us that we never thought anything about anything like that."
Ally, who was 14, says she doesn't remember being molested, but Jasmine says she remembers scenes. "I would wake up a little groggy thinking I was dreaming or, you know, I thought I felt something. I told the girls the next morning, and they were, like, 'Oh, it might have been the cat, you know, just touching you,'" she says. "I would just think, 'Oh, it's just me imagining,' because he was always such a touchy-feely kind of person."
If the girls woke to find Pompa in the room, they say he would claim to be checking on them. Amanda, who was 11 when the incidents started, says she can be a heavy sleeper, but she would wake up constantly while staying at Pompa's house. "He'd just be standing in the doorway or standing in the corner of the room, and it was kind of just not right," she says. "It felt very creepy and just awkward and uncomfortable."
The girls say Pompa was also insistent on giving them drinks. Ally says he always had a drink ready for them at bedtime. One night, Amanda says she couldn't sleep, and Pompa told her that drinking water would help her. "I didn't understand why water was going to make me fall asleep," she says. "So I dumped it out behind the bed."
One night at Pompa's house, Jasmine says she wanted to go home because she didn't feel well. "He said, 'No, you need to drink your iced tea and you'll feel better,'" she says. "I just wanted to get into my own house because I was scared." After telling Pompa she got sick in the bathroom, Jasmine ran home and told her grandmother that something was wrong. "He didn't want me to go home. And I didn't know what to do because I was so young and it was just so confusing to me."
When the girls and their parents found out the neighbor they trusted was a child molester, Amanda's mother, Kelly, says she was in total shock. "I remember just dropping to the floor on my knees," she says. Although Amanda was also in disbelief at first, she says her emotions soon turned to anger. "I was just angry at the world, depressed and in total disarray."
When Jasmine learned about the videos, she says she broke down and feared her sisters could be on the tapes as well. "I didn't know how to handle anything anymore," she says. "I didn't think this could actually happen, because they told us throughout the years, 'Watch out for people like this.' It never occurred to me that he could have done something like that."
Ally's father, Tom, says he never would have suspected the man who sat next to him at his daughter's basketball games, volleyball games and other school functions could be a child molester. When Pompa went on trial, Tom says he went to court every day. "I told my daughter, Alice, that I was going to be there and would sit there in that courtroom and make sure that he didn't hurt anybody anymore," he says. "But these girls are so strong, they sat in that courtroom and they looked him right in the eye and stared him down. They got their power back."
Flint says time and time again he sees child predators grooming children and their parents to trust them. Jasmine's mother, Vanessa, never thought she had a reason to suspect her next-door neighbor, a close family friend. "When we said don't leave the yard, we meant don't leave our yard or the Pompas' yard. It was an open-door policy," she says. "They were family."
Now, Vanessa realizes the importance of making sure a close relationship never masks a dangerous situation. "I think parents sometimes have to move outside of their comfort zone," she says. "If your child comes to you and tells you, 'I'm uncomfortable with the way this person's looking at me or the comments this person's making to me'—no matter how entwined you are with their lives, if they're family or they're friends that you feel as family—you need to remove your child from that situation."
Jasmine has a message for kids who feel that something isn't right but don't know what to do. "If you think something is wrong, go find someone. Tell someone," she says. "If they don't believe you, if you have to, tell a police officer, anybody you can trust. Because if you hold it inside, it just kills you. It breaks you down."
If you are enraged, disgusted and fed up with child predators slipping through the cracks, there is something you can do right now. Camille Cooper works with PROTECT, a group working to pass better laws to build protection for children, and says there is an important bill going before the Senate this month.
Senate Bill 1738, the PROTECT Our Children Act, will provide valuable funding for child protection task forces. "If you don't put the money behind law enforcement and fund them and have more cops that are dedicated to going after these guys and protecting our children, we won't rescue these children," Camille says.Click here to find more information on how to contact your senators and urge them to vote yes on Senate Bill 1738.
Camille stresses that it is important to contact your senators immediately and put pressure on the Senate before Congress recesses on September 26. "It passed the U.S. House almost unanimously. We have to get it out of the Senate. We need to go rescue these children."
"This is not about politics," Oprah says. "It's about our children. It's a bipartisan bill supported by both Republicans and Democrats. I believe that it really is up to us to tell the Senate not to go home until you pass that bill."
Great news! Nearly a half-million of you made your voices heard...and it worked! Read more about the passage of the PROTECT Our Children Act.
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