The 15-year-old boy’s stomach pain was so incapacitating that it sent him to an Atlanta, Georgia, hospital in December 2016.
But the diagnosis likely shocked his family — and it didn’t come from a doctor, but from the teen himself: A relative had sexually abused the boy at the family’s home about eight months earlier, the boy confided in his sister while he was at the hospital.
At his sister’s urging, the boy told his parents about the abuse the very next day, and then revealed the abuse to medical staff at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, where he was being treated, according to the Douglas County District Attorney’s Office. It turned out his abuse-induced anxiety was severe enough to trigger the horrible stomach pains.
The boy’s abuser — Fernando Valentine, 35 — was sentenced to 30 years in prison May 26 after a jury found him guilty of aggravated child molestation charges during a four-day trial, District Attorney Ryan Leonard announced Friday. Prosecutors said Valentine is a serial abuser, and other victims testified as much at Valentine’s trial.
Prosecutors had requested the judge impose a 30-year sentence, citing other victims’ accounts of Valentine’s abuse and Valentine’s “lack of remorse.”
Medical staff from the hospital testified at the trial as well. That expert testimony helped confirm that “stomach pains in children can often be related to anxiety over stressors in a child’s life,” prosecutors said.
The victim himself spoke in court, too, detailing the traumatic April 2016 sexual abuse that left him so fearful he invested in a can of pepper spray. The boy’s Amazon receipt for the purchase was brought up during the trial, according to the district attorney.
“It takes a great amount of courage for a teenager to testify about sexual abuse in a courtroom full of strangers,” Assistant District Attorney Sam Newman, who prosecuted the case, said in a statement. Newman said that Valentine “has been stopped as a result of the bravery of these witnesses.”
The boy wasn’t the only victim in the family, prosecutors said.
Once he’d come forward with the allegations, two more victims — including the boy’s own sister — revealed they had been sexually abused at Valentine’s hands as well. Those two additional victims spoke during the trial as well, prosecutors said.
“I found all three victims’ testimony credible and believable,” Superior Court Judge William H. McClain said during Valentine’s sentencing, according to the district attorney.
McClain told Valentine in court that “the victim is scarred for life as a result of your actions.”
District Attorney Ryan Leonard said the sentencing meant Valentine won’t be able to harm more victims. In addition to 30 years behind bars, Valentine faces life on parole, prosecutors said.
“Offenders who prey on our children are offenders who are deserving of the harshest penalties,” Leonard said.