Reporting Rachel Slavik
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A loophole in Minnesota law kept a mother from finding out about her son’s sexual abuse, and now his story could help bring about a change in that law.
Jacob Gould was molested as a young boy. The abuser was convicted, but Jacob’s mother had no idea until years later.
While playing video games at his home in Clara City, Jacob Gould seems the typical 12-year-old. But he has experienced enough pain to last a lifetime.
When he was 6, an 11-year-old molested him several times while Gould visited his father’s home in Cottonwood. He kept the secret from both parents.
“I was confused, because I didn’t know what was going on,” he said. “I was scared just because one time he said if I told anyone he’d slit my throat.”
The Lyon County Sheriff’s Office was already investigating. Another boy had come forward with his own abuse accusations against that same 11-year-old.
During that time, two deputies took separate reports naming Gould as another victim of sexual assault. However, his mother didn’t find out until four years later. Furthermore, the news didn’t come from investigators.
Gould would be the one to tell his mother, Sarah Guggisberg, a G-rated version of the abuse.
“I love him. It’s my job to protect him, and I didn’t because I didn’t know,” said Guggisberg.
She reported the incident, but found out investigators had already talked to Gould’s father back in 2005. As the primary caregiver, Guggisberg says she should have been notified. But Minnesota law does not state that both parents need to be told of abuse.
“I’m disappointed with the ways the laws are written that don’t mandate they call me,” said Guggisberg.
She says she still hadn’t heard the full extent of the abuse, and wouldn’t until April of this year when Gould tried to take his own life.
“I tried taking pills. I tried hanging myself over a bed thing,” said Gould.
“He couldn’t handle it. It was too much for his little brain to handle,” said Guggisberg.
The whole family is now in therapy, but some of the healing happens at home. Through Facebook, they are pushing for a law requiring both parents be notified if abuse is reported, regardless of who has custody.
“I have friend requests every day,” said Guggisberg as she looked at a Jacob’s Law Facebook page. “This can’t be the first time something like this has happened. I refuse to believe that.”
Years after the abuse and Gould can see now that his pain has resulted in something good for others.
“It’s great they’re trying to help me and keep me going,” said Gould.
The family is working with Minnesota Rep. Bruce Vogel to introduce the law which, in addition to expanding notification requirements, would also provide services for victims of abuse.
Guggisberg is also trying to address this issue on a national level. She created a petition. If 25,000 people sign it by Nov. 7, the petition will be sent to the President.
To learn more on Gould’s story, there is also a Facebook page.
Jacob’s father said he was not aware of the extent of the abuse and would have pressed charges had he known.