They sound like fairy tales to Lee Pimentel: the news accounts that describe a 7-year-old girl who was sexually assaulted at the age of 3 as now "safe and healthy."
Pimentel doesn't quite believe it, because she's been there. Her nightmares stretch 24-7, she can't have normal relationships with men, and she engages in self-destructive behavior, she said at her Las Vegas residence as she clutched copies of the indictments that charge her stepfather with repeatedly abusing her sexually as a child.
"I pray that little girl doesn't remember what happened," Pimentel said of the videotaped attack that has resulted in a nationwide manhunt for 37-year-old Chester "Chet" Stiles.
"If she does, she's going to have a hell of a life. It will be hard for her to not be really screwed up. The closest relationship I'll ever have is with my dog. I can't trust a guy," Pimentel, 40, said at her kitchen table in the cramped apartment she shares with her mother off West Charleston Boulevard.
She has hung photographs of her long-haired Chihuahua, Baby, on nearly every wall of her home.
Pimentel has followed closely the story of the young girl seen being sexually assaulted on a videotape turned over to Nye County authorities last month.
"I just feel so badly for her," she said of the abused girl.
In a prepared statement issued Tuesday through attorney Jerry Donohue, the girl's mother said, "My daughter is safe and healthy."
On Thursday, Donohue told the Review-Journal the mother reports her daughter has not exhibited any abnormal behavior from the abuse. The child has been seen by medical experts, he said.
Whether an assault took place once or on several occasions has not been determined by authorities.
The tape, which police describe as "horrifying," was turned over to Pahrump law enforcement officials on Sept. 8.
Though they're encouraged that the child appears normal to the mother, victims of sexual abuse and therapists caution that memories of the trauma she endured can remain buried for years.
Therapists generally believe traumatic memories are often repressed, but how the mind does that and why memories are unearthed in some people and not in others remains largely a mystery.
"I have worked with women who had been fine for years, and then one day memories started coming back," said Sally Raiford, a therapist who is treating Pimentel at Family and Child Treatment of Southern Nevada. "It might be a smell or a song. Something will trigger the memory, and it just comes back as a flood."
Even though a woman who has been sexually abused might be married to a fine, loving man, Raiford said, a marriage can fall apart because the woman who suddenly remembers her past can't differentiate between that and her current reality.
"It is very hard for a victim of sexual abuse to trust," Raiford said.
But Dr. Ole Thienhaus, chairman of the psychiatry department at the University of Nevada School of Medicine, said it is possible that the child may not feel a sense of mental anguish in the future because of the assault.
"We don't know the outcome," he said, stressing that psychiatrists only see those people who have problems.
"If we are lucky with this child, she will not remember."
Thienhaus noted that studies of soldiers who have experienced the horrors of war show that some are able to cope while others suffer the worst effects of post-traumatic stress syndrome.
"The mind is difficult to explain," he said.
Thienhaus pointed out that in the '90s a conroversy erupted among scientists regarding the veracity of repressed memories.
Some experts argue that those who claim to be victims have been persuaded, often by unethical therapists, to adopt a reasonable explanation for their emotional pain. Among highly suggestible people -- which certainly could include people wanting to explain their psychological suffering -- it is not beyond the pale, Thienhaus said, that vivid memories are developed of incidents that never happened.
It is critical that therapists not lead patients to a conclusion, Thienhaus said.
"That is the standard to follow," he said, stressing that innocent people can be grievously hurt by so-called flashbacks of events that never happened.
Research from Johns Hopkins University shows that 12 percent of girls in grades 7 through 12 have suffered some form of sexual abuse.
Las Vegas therapists say although some of those victims may never be able to have any kind of a relationship, others may become promiscuous because they feel they're not worthy of respect. It is also common for victims of sexual molestation to abuse drugs and alcohol, to suffer from depression and to exhibit a lack of anger control.
Child psychiatrist Saleha Baig said it is difficult to keep up with the number of sex abuse cases in Las Vegas.
"I could work seven days a week, 24 hours a day and still not be able to help everyone who comes to me for help," Baig said. "It's almost impossible for somebody who's been abused not to be affected."
Children often work through their feelings in "play therapy," where puppets are used to allow the children to express feelings and concerns under the guidance of medical professionals, Raiford said.
Pimentel also suffers from multiple epiphyseal dysplasia, a painful physical disorder of the bones that has already resulted in her having two hips, a right shoulder and right knee replaced. When the attacks occurred, Pimentel said, she wasn't even sure whether the sex acts she was performing were wrong.
"You have to remember I was four when it started and at first I thought that was just the way life was," she said, nodding at her mother who sat nearby in a wheelchair as she took oxygen through a nose piece for a lung condition. "When I was a little older, I wanted to tell my mother; but I didn't because my stepfather told me he'd kill her and my brother if I did. I finally told my mother when I ran away from home when I was 17. She divorced him right away."
In 2006 a grand jury in Nashua, N.H., indicted Pimentel's stepfather, Donald Tyler, 79, of West Virginia, on 13 charges of rape and other sexual offenses that authorities say took place throughout the 1970s. Tyler has pleaded not guilty in the case, which has been continued several times.
Because Tyler moved out of New Hampshire, the normal statute of limitations on the charges brought by Pimentel did not apply.
Pimentel has used dope and alcohol and undergone repeated tattooing in an attempt to either forget the trauma or feel better about herself. She receives disability checks for support.
Her mother, Lorraine Tyler, had urged her daughter to file the charges against her stepfather.
"For the way he's ruined my daughter's life, he should be hung by the balls," Lorraine Tyler said.
Though Pimentel could never forget what happened to her, novelist and former Harvard professor Carolivia Herron, a frequent visitor to Las Vegas, didn't remember her torment until she was in her 40s. She had unknowingly developed multiple personalties in an effort to deal with her horror.
As she wrote her critically acclaimed novel, "Thereafter Johnnie," with its theme of incest, long-repressed memories of abuse came back.
"I had repressed it very deeply," said Herron, whose brother, Smitty, is a musician living in Las Vegas.
"I was a very melancholy child. My problems really started surfacing in my 20s. I became mentally ill with sadness and grief that couldn't be explained."
It was another traumatic event, an earthquake in Mexico City, that brought her repressed feelings back.
"I remember feeling some animal had been following me and jumped on me that day," she said, adding that the same sensation would occur when she gave a lecture at Harvard.
Only after 11 hospitalizations and more than 10 years and $100,000 in pyschotherapy treatment was she able to live a relatively normal life.
Marriage is out of the question, however. "I tried that for two years, and I just couldn't function normally," Herron said.
Herron said her rich intellectual life has filled that void.
During her psychotherapy, she remembered that beginning at age 3 she had been repeatedly raped by an uncle.
Herron is expected in Las Vegas this winter to promote her books, including her new release, "Always An Olivia." She said the victim caught on videotape in Las Vegas is actually fortunate in a way.
"It's on videotape so she doesn't have to prove to anyone what happened," she said. "Basically, it takes a nation to rape a child. One reason they don't get help is nobody will believe it happens."
Las Vegas therapist Karen Cruey said within the therapeutic community there has been discussion about what happened to the 3-year-old in the video, particularly in light of the huge international child pornography industry.
"We have wondered whether the child could have been sedated in some way for the video," she said.
As Pimentel still tries to deal with abuse that ended 25 years ago, she wishes an elementary schoolteacher could have seen a video of what her stepfather made her do.
"I told her what my stepfather and I were doing, and she told me I shouldn't talk that way in school," Pimentel said, closing her eyes as she hugged her dog. "Maybe if she believed me, I wouldn't still be in counseling today."
Pimentel wishes medical science would come up with a pill to take away memory.
"I still see my stepfather coming for me," she said. "I'll be back hiding under my brother's bed or in the closet, and he'll lift me out. Can you imagine that I was 3-feet tall having intercourse with this big white-haired guy? It's so sick. I want him to go to prison so those men there will do what he did to me."
Contact reporter Paul Harasim at firstname.lastname@example.org or (702) 387-2908.