Alexus Main and Lauren Elsie
Two friends inspire hope and promote healing
By Glenda Graves | Photos by Meredith Mashburn
Content Warning: This article contains sensitive content related to child abuse and sexual assault, which may be triggering for some readers.
Our profile is usually reserved for stories of positivity, and though there is certainly a positive ending to this one, the beginning and middle are filled with adversity and pain.
April is Child Abuse Awareness Month, and child abuse is not an easy subject to discuss. Those who have endured it often want just to move past it and never look back. It takes an immense amount of courage to tell the story of one’s abuse. We were lucky enough to have two brave women share their stories with us this month in the hopes that their experiences will help others who are struggling.
“I came from a very broken family,” says Alexus Main. “My abuse began when I was only 4 years old at the hands of my mother’s boyfriend. I was so young and didn’t know that it was wrong. I didn’t know it was something I should tell someone about. So, when I was 7, I finally told my mother. She did kick him out of the house, but it was never reported.”
Her mother began dating the same man again when Alexus was just 10 years old. By this point, she had realized that his behavior was not OK. Later, when she was 14 and at a skatepark with friends, the girls received the attention of some older boys. She decided to return home, but soon one of the boys from the skatepark knocked on her door and asked to come in.
She said no, but went to get him a glass of water and when she did, he came in and attacked her. She says, “I didn’t know if I was going to die. I felt so hurt and I did fight back, but he was much bigger than me. It was the most painful and terrifying moment of my life. But my past life experiences made me think that I deserved it. I didn’t tell anyone. I had told things before, but no one helped me.”
She ended up telling her boyfriend about the attack two weeks later. He told his mother, who later called Alexus’ mom. “I remember my mother saying that I had better be telling the truth,” Alexus recalls, “because if I wasn’t, I was going to jail. They called the police and then took me to the Children’s Safety Center.”
Alexus’ attacker never went to jail, and his friends continued to harass her throughout high school. She adds that, “Although the Children’s Safety Center didn’t offer as much therapy then as they do now, they offered so much that helped me get through that time. I remember volunteers coming to pick me up from school and taking me to Sonic. They would tell me I could come [to the Children’s Safety Center] anytime I wanted. I remember putting my handprint on the wall and I saw all the others there and thought, if they can get through this, then I can, too.”
Alexus struggled for several years before her good friend Lauren experienced something similar. Their shared trauma bonded them in a way that can never be broken. It was that union that allowed them to come together this past summer to speak at the Children’s Safety Center about their abuse, and then to continue to speak out and raise money for sexual abuse victims. Because of the experience Alexus had, she was able to be there for Lauren in her darkest moments.
Lauren Elsie says that while her story may sound familiar, no two survivors’ stories are ever the same. Lauren was 17 years old when she experienced being “groomed” by a volunteer track coach. She says, “It started out as a coach-athlete relationship. He had my phone number. Then, it started to be something more. He was promising me things like a house and a college education. Being 17, that sounded great. Even though I had loving parents, I was helping to raise my siblings because my parents worked so much.”
So, she fell into the trap that was set. She recalls, “The night it happened, I called Alexus and asked her to come pick me up. I couldn’t wrap my head around what had happened. I thought I was such a bad person. Alexus comforted me and told me that I was not a bad person. At the time I didn’t even know about her former experiences. I tried to just sweep it all under the rug – which now I know is a perfectly normal response to trauma.”
A few weeks later, Lauren confided in her boyfriend who made the choice to go to the school principal without discussing it with Lauren. She says, “I felt like I was being put through the wringer even more after everyone knew. My parents made me fill out a police report. I kept thinking I was ruining this guy’s life. Then I was taken to the Children’s Safety Center and everything changed. Everything began moving at my pace. My mom was flustered. She had never been taught what to do in this situation.”
Lauren explains that, without the Children’s Safety Center, she would not have had a support system. “It was the most comforting thing that could have happened to me at that time. I wish I had been taken there first. My boyfriend reported it around 9 a.m. that day and by 6 p.m. it was on the local news.” With the help of CSC, she was able to attend weekly therapy. And with Alexus at her side, she says she eventually began to recover.
Both women say that even in high school they made the decision that they got to choose whether or not they were OK. Part of that came from the help they received from the Children’s Safety Center, but mostly because they are incredibly brave women. They say there are bad days, and that’s OK. But how they are doing and how they are feeling about anything on any given day, it is their choice and their reality.
Alexus and Lauren have truly come so far in 10 years and credit much of it to the positive experiences they had at the Children’s Safety Center. Today Alexus works as a real estate agent and is writing a book that is set to publish later this year. She is married and has two daughters and two sons. She and her husband also own a flooring company. She has plans to own a farm that her kids can learn and grow with. Lauren currently has a textile business that she is able to manage from home, while being a mom to her two young daughters, a preschooler and a kindergartener. She has an amazing and supportive partner and plans to grow her business and eventually relocate to “any warm and sunny beach!”
Both women continue to educate the community about child abuse and the resources that are available to them, including the Children’s Safety Center. Each day they make the choice to be OK. Each day they move forward, working with others and creating a strong community of survivors who can inspire hope and promote healing.
If you or a loved one is currently or has experienced abuse, there are resources available to help. You are not alone.
Arkansas Child Abuse Hotline 24/7 Hotline: (844) SAVE-A-CHILD
Vantage Point NWA 24/7 Hotline: (855) 278-4619
NWA Center for Sexual Assault 24/7 Hotline: (800) 794-4175
NWA Peace at Home Family Shelter 24/7 Hotline: (877) 442-9811
National Sexual Assault Hotline 24/7 Hotline: (800) 656-HOPE
National Domestic Violence Hotline 24/7 Hotline: (800) 799-7233