Horses that heal

Marley's Mission: A mother's fight to help sexually abused children

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The FBI says childhood sexual abuse is one of the most under reported crimes in the United States. The reporting rate is under 8 percent at best. Offenders know they have a 1-in-20 chance of getting away with it, but the child may have to live with the trauma for the rest of his or her life.

Now, one mother is on a mission to help the smallest victims, and she uses a little help from horses.

"I'm a mom on a mission and hell bent on changing every single law that I'm told about," said April, founder and program director of Marley's Mission.

The tragedy that set this mom on a mission: her 5-year-old was attacked by an intruder in her own bedroom.

"It's not locked, it's never locked; she knows not to lock the door. So I began pounding the door and calling her name. Finally I hear her little voice say, ‘I'm trying, I'm trying.' I'm spinning in a circle in her room and all of a sudden from underneath the bed I see a hand come out and I screamed, ‘There is a man in her room!'" remembers April.

A friend prevented the man from escaping, blocking him in the room until police arrived. April tried traditional therapy for her little girl, but hit a dead end. That's when she found equine therapy, also known as horse assisted psychotherapy.

April explains, "We saw her come back in a way we never thought possible again."

That's when Marley's Mission began, a non-profit located on this farm in Pennsylvania. April and her team of therapists have provided alternative psychotherapy to more than 200 children.

"What's happening is you're giving them an activity that's directed towards the treatment plan and they are literally working it out with the horses," explains Equine Specialist and Therapist Alishia Allegrucci.

This mother says every child should have the chance to survive a tragedy and still smile.

"There she is a five-year-old girl, maybe 70 pounds and she just kind of lays back and the horse leans in with her nose to nose and she's not scared," says April.

"Once I see it happen, it's indescribable," says Allegrucci.

Helping give confidence and control back to children who need it the most.

Marley's Mission is free to any child who needs help. Due to increased media attention on cases involving child sexual abuse, there has been a push for more laws protecting children.

Additional Information:

Most people would agree that hurting a child is unthinkable, but unfortunately child abuse occurs every day in the United States. The abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional, or sometimes the child is neglected. Neglect is the most common form of abuse and is a factor in 78.3% of all child abuse cases. In 2010, more than five children died each day as a result of abuse, with 80% of the children who died being younger than four years old. (Source:

Consequences of Abuse: Any type of child abuse can have long term effects on the child and sometimes these problems will follow them well into adulthood. In fact, abused and neglected children are 25% more likely to experience a teen pregnancy and 59% more likely to be arrested during their juvenile years. These children also have an increased risk of developing a psychological disorder in their adult years or abusing their own children. (Source:

Signs: Children will often keep their abuse secret from others, so it is important to recognize the signs and get the child help as soon as possible. Some possible indicators that abuse has occurred include:

  • Sudden Behavioral Changes
  • Becomes Very Passive or Withdrawn
  • Becomes Watchful and Anxious
  • Concentration or Learning Problems without Reason

Depending on the type of abuse the child experienced, the warning signs may vary. (Source:

What to Do: It is not unusual for abuse victims to have a difficult time talking about the abuse, so people should remember to reassure the child that they are not at fault and avoid interrogating them. If abuse is suspected, it is important to seek out professional help, especially in situations where an individual is in immediate danger. The National Child Abuse Hotline is: 1-800-4-A-CHILD
(1-800-422-4453). (Source:

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