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Our Story

The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places
~Ernest Hemingway

In late 2011, the news of the horrific sexual abuse of children at the hands of Jerry Sandusky made front page headlines across the nation. Many people were angry and horrified by the details and found themselves asking the question “How could this have happen?”

For many survivors of Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) however, the events surrounding the Jerry Sandusky scandal did not come as a surprise. In fact, the alleged failure of Penn State Administrators to protect vulnerable children paralleled their own experiences. Reading of the atrocities and the subsequent cover-up brought back painful memories… memories of teachers, parents, medical professionals, and other trusted adults who knew or suspected that they themselves were being abused but failed to act. For CSA survivors, the answer to the question of “how?” seemed obvious. The victims of Jerry Sandusky were seemingly also victims of the same culture of silence and shame that had allowed their own abuse to occur.

Among those affected by the story were two different women, from very different walks of life-united by a shared secret. And for both of these women, Jerry Sandusky was the catalyst that finally broke their silence.


Roxine Behrens, age 5

“I didn’t have a voice before, but I do now.  And because I’ve found my voice, I will speak for those who cannot and for those who have yet to find their voice. CSA cannot exist in the light of day – it is only in the silence and secrets that pedophiles exist”

Roxine Behrens was a small business owner, a wife and a mother when the Jerry Sandusky Scandal broke. For decades she had been living with the secret of horrific sexual abuse at the hands of her grandfather. When Roxine heard about the child sexual abuse and alleged cover-up she was so outraged that she decided to take a bold step-she spoke out, publicly. She made two appearances on Dr. Laura’s radio program, and became a very public face and voice of Childhood Sexual abuse.


Rebecca Berry, Age 7

Rebecca Berry was a nurse and a single mother when the Jerry Sandusky scandal broke. In response to the media circus surrounding Joe Paterno’s passing, she became angry and disturbed by how the victims were being ignored.  Fearing that the lessons of Jerry Sandusky were going unlearned, and that the victims were being forgotten, she decided to finally break her silence. She wrote a post on the website Daily Kos- and spoke out for the first time about the abuse she suffered at the hands of the father of her childhood friend. The post quickly became one of the most debated and discussed articles on Daily Kos, and generated tens of thousands of shares on social networks. In response, Rebecca set up an email address for other survivors to reach out to her. Within 24 hours, she had received over 300 emails from other survivors telling their own stories.

One of those emails was from Roxine Behrens.

Tree Climbers is Born

Roxine and Rebecca first formed their partnership in creating a tribute diary for survivors of CSA- using the stories that were sent to Rebecca’s email address. The post that was created from their efforts was No One Spoke for Us: For The Children Who Had No Voice, and For Those Finally Finding Theirs, and it helped to raise over $3,000 for RAINN in their honor.

But the stories didn’t stop coming in. There were so many of them-so many people who were suffering in silence with no one to tell- that they decided that they had to keep going. Tree Climbers first started as a recurring community diary series at Daily Kos, but Rebecca and Roxine decided that they wanted it to become even more. They decided to dedicate their careers and lives to helping other CSA survivors, and preventing children from suffering their same fate. From the ashes of a scandal that horrified the nation, and their own broken childhoods, TREE Climbers was born.

Comments & Responses

One Response so far.

  1. PAIGE WALKER says:

    Hi, I am a mother of an abused child living in New Zealand. After our ordeal I felt the need to address the pain mothers go through from such a disclosure.
    My Book THE BROKEN ROAD IS NOW AVAILABLE and I hope other mothers will find a measure of comfort knowing they are not alone.
    THE BROKEN ROAD by Paige Walker is a moving story of a mother’s strength and courage as she dealt with the betrayal, anger and trauma from the sexual abuse of her daughter at the hands of her best friend’s husband. It moves through the emotional journey of her need to seek revenge and justice but instead found acceptance and forgiveness of her daughter’s perpetrator.

    Includes a detailed list of organisations affiliated with child sexual abuse for easy access and help.


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