Darren L. Paden is a father, as well as a former volunteer fire chief and deployed member of the military. He’s also a confessed child molester who sexually assaulted a girl for over six years, raping her between 200-300 times starting when she was a toddler. But even though he’s admitted to his crimes, not all the people who reside in the small town of Dearborn, Missouri are condemning him; many are speaking out against his victim because she’s ruining a good man’s life.
The Kansas City Star reports that the unnamed victim, now 18, has been fighting a battle for the past two years that’s gone better in court than in the town at large.
“I know there are a lot of people who support me,” she said this week in a personal interview in Platte City. But what she has experienced most is the chill from “the people who refuse to believe me…”
“I called a lady about a house she was renting,” the victim continued, “and I told her my name, and she said, ‘What’s your name again?’ and I told her and she said ‘I don’t want to rent to you’ and then hung up on me.”
Paden’s friends and family wrote the court letters of support previous to Paden’s sentencing, citing Paden’s wife and children’s wellbeing and listing off his good deeds—his work helping in hospitals overseas, his status as a junior deacon in the local church. A trustee at Paden’s church sent in a letter saying that “only God, Darren, and the victim know what happened.”
Dixie Wilson, Paden’s great-aunt, told reporters she doesn’t believe the victim but says she’s “sorry for the girl if it happened.” If it happened, though, doesn’t seem to be an accurate way to look at it: According to Paden himself, he sexually assaulted the victim once or twice a month for a period of at least six years starting in the mid-2000s.
The amount of support Paden has received despite his crimes has been troubling not just to the victim but also frustrating to the prosecutor on the case, who told those assembled for Paden’s trial that he was “deeply troubled” by the fact that the perpetrator was receiving support while his victim was being shunned.
The tenacity of Paden’s supporters show how difficult to process sexual crime can be in a small town. It’s difficult for people to admit that one of their own—someone they considered a paragon of piety—would do something like this. It’s hard to admit that child molesters aren’t strangers who show up in the middle of the night but previously trusted adults with children of their own and a record of valor a mile long.
The victim, who went to authorities after she saw a school presentation on sexual abuse, read a statement to the court at Paden’s sentencing decrying the treatment she’d received from the town as well as the support that Paden’s garnered.
“To say you support someone who had done this sort of thing makes me wonder how some would react if a son/daughter told you they were a victim of these behaviors,” she said. “Would you sign a petition then? Would you write letters of support?”
Paden’s adult son, Anthony, has also been charged with sodomizing the victim. His case is currently pending.
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