Child Abuse Survivor Speaks to Teachers, New Law named after Her
Elmore County teachers and staff attended a professional development day ahead of the school year beginning Wednesday. The speaker was actually a former student, 18-year-old Jessi Kearley.
“I would ask people for food a lot. There was an obvious lack of self care and hygiene,” said Kearley.
Teachers, staff, and administrators listened intently to Jessi give her emotional story for the first time.
She talked of the unthinkable abuse and what she went through as a child, pleading with them to pay attention to their students.
“As they come through the doors and sit down at their desks and prepare for a new year, I want you to know that for some of them, school is the only place that they feel safe,” said Kearley.
Jessi was raped by her biological father and became pregnant at the age of 12-years-old.
School counselor Jerie Lewis was the one that intervened.
“It took several weeks. There were several weeks. There were several things going on with her, and you know there was something. She wanted to go to the nurse a lot. She wanted to come to me a lot,” said Lewis.
Jessi was in and out of the court system with her biological parents as they battled for their rights to keep her.
“My biological parents still had rights to me even though they raped and molested me as a child, and no child should have to go through that. I never want a child to go through what I have been through,” said Kearley.
That’s when the need for a new law in Alabama became evident to her.
With the help of Secretary of State John Merrill, a proposal made it to the Alabama Legislature.
And recently Governor Kay Ivey signed what is now known as “Jessi’s Law,” which denies the rights of parents to a child they have sexually assaulted.
The good news is… the lead investigator on her case and his wife decided to adopt Jessi.
And things have been looking up ever since.
Now Jessi is on a mission to let others know her story. And to help other children to never have to experience what she did.
“I want people to feel like they belong in the world and they are loved and they are cared for,” said Kearley.
Jessi’s Law goes into effect September 1st.