all for the children
Region 15 Children's Advocacy Center to open soon
Wanda English Burnett, Editor
Would you like to see a baby bunny?
Innocent words spoken from a man a nine-year-old girl knew and
trusted explicitly, led to a calamity that changed her life forever.
Even though the woman, Diane Kvapil is now 77, an accomplished
actress, professor, and award winning screenplay writer - her
story is a true one. It is a story of innocence lost at the hands
of a respected businessman.
Dianes story dates back to the early 1940s. The stage
is set with World War II being the focal point. Those who hadnt
gone off to fight in the war were feeling the effects at home.
Dianes family was no different. Her father and mother both
worked long days at jobs that accelerated the war effort.
During this time, gas was rationed as were many other items. During
the war, the focus wasnt on children, Diane remembered.
She was left to her own devices and since she wasnt a michevious
child, this worked well for all involved.
Her family lived in the suburbs of Washington D.C. where a little
yard afforded her the love of her life, some chickens. These were
her Easter chicks, who guess what? They grew up to
be chickens, all 12 of them! Her family had a victory
garden, as did most people in those days, and the chickens were
all part of the process, therefore her parents didnt kick
about having them.
Diane took full responsibility for those fowl, feeding and caring
for them daily. She even rode her bicycle to the feed store, about
20 minutes away, to purchase the grain they needed.
She described her neighborhood as one where you would see a brand
new home and a block away cows were grazing. Such was the Bethesda,
Maryland area at that time. It was a place of suburbia contentment,
as much as could be had considering the circumstances.
On this particular day that changed the course of Dianes
life forever, she set out as she had many times before - to get
her chickens some feed.
Diane arrived at the feed and grain store just ahead of what she
called a brewing storm. Once inside, she could hear
the rain pounding on the tin roof and knew it would be a while
before she went back home.
The owner of the store, a man Diane described as a beardless
Santa in bib overalls always kept little animals in the
back store room. She said he had perfected a personality that
appealed to children and she liked and trusted him completely.
When he offered to show her a baby bunny, she was excited. Her
excitement would quickly change to fear, and then anger and hopelessness
before it could be revealed.
There in the back store room, he sexually assaulted this child
who said, ,I froze. I didnt know exactly what he was
doing, but I knew it was very ugly.
Diane was literally saved by the bell as the tinkling
sound of a customer coming in the front stopped this monster in
his tracks. He told her to wait right where she was, hed
be right back.
Although she was terrified and could barely move, she knew she
had one chance. I walked straight through the store,
she told The Versailles Republican. Her strength was the only
thing that kept him from completely destroying her innocence.
I rode my bike hard and fast in the heavy rainstorm,
she recalled. Diane went to a recreation center where children
were known to frequent where she said, I cried and cried
She thought she couldnt tell anyone. I was so ashamed.
And, although she had done absolutely nothing wrong, as many child
victims do, she suffered in silence.
She knew she could never go back to that store. Therefore, she
made one of the most heart wrenching decision of her young life
- to get rid of her beloved pets. I couldnt get the
food, I couldnt tell my parents, they (the chickens) just
had to go. At this point of the interview, Diane was sobbing.
Her love for her pets broke her heart.
Through the process, her parents were so busy they never questioned
her odd behavior. Why was she riding her bike in a rain storm?
Why didnt she bring the chicken feed home? And why would
she insist on getting rid of these beloved pets?
No one noticed.
The thing that amazed me the most, was how much I changed
after that, Diane told The Versailles Republican. I
was an angry little girl.
She remembered having a BB gun that she practiced with until she
became a real dead eye. She took wire clothes hangers
and made a rack and hung that gun over her bed. My parents
never noticed, she commented.
Diane became a tomboy, a loner, an athlete. None of
the things she was before the incident. She surrounded herself
with friends who were boys (for protection should she need it).
For an entire year Diane carried the burden an adult had willfully
placed on her.
But, vindication did come. About a year after the incident that
changed Dianes life occurred, she said she had been playing
softball in a vacant lot when her mother was sitting on a neighbors
porch with a strange man. They summoned Diane to the porch and
he turned out to be an investigator. The situation was more grim
than anyone could have imagined. Lots of children had been molested
by this same store keeper, even a teenage girl was pregnant by
The secret shame of a well-preserved neighborhood was about to
boil over. There were more problems. None of the parents
wanted to go to court, Diane recalled. You have to
remember, this was the 40s - sex was not talked about -
period, she noted.
But, she was willing and so was her fiesty mother,
who was hopping mad.
I remember walking into court and seeing all these scared little
girls with their upset mothers, recalled Diane. She said the kind
officer who she had initially told her story to just bent down
and said, keep on telling the truth. And, so she did.
That man was glaring at me, but I told the truth.
The storekeeper was convicted on Dianes testimony alone.
He was given the maximum sentence at that time - only six months
in jail, which infuriated Dianes mother.
Knowing the trauma of the whole ordeal first hand and then having
to see her perpertrator face-to-face makes the idea of the Region
15 Child Advocacy Center such an important issue for Diane.
Here, the children will be safe, she noted. The concept
of the CAC is to interview children who have been allegedly abused
or molested in a safe setting by an expert forensic interviewer.
This interview is videotaped and often eliminates the children
from having to face their perpertrator in court. You dont
know what its like until youve done it, Diane
She has another motivator with the new CAC. Her daughter, Sarah
Brichto, is the executive director.
Between Dianes hectic life of still instructing acting classes
in Cincinnati, she has made time to help completely redecorate
the facility at Dillsboro making it kid-friendly.
The facility, a regional one, is the first in the state of Indiana.
Excitement mounts as Diane helps put the finishing touches on
the center located just two blocks off US 50 in Dillsboro on Rullman
Drive. The facility used to be the law office of Kim Schmaltz
and has two floors with 2500 square feet to work in.
Ive dealt with it so its not hard to talk about,
Diane told The Versailles Republican, saying the incident of her
childhood made her stronger.
However as years went by she realized society still wasnt
dealing with the issue of abused and molested children. She worked
on a screenplay that eventually won an award in New York City
for being the first TV show ever to deal with child molestation.
It was an NBC Young Peoples Special entitled, The
Horrible Secret. Diane plays herself in the special under
the screen name of Diane Danzi.
Diane shares her story for one simple reason - to save a child
from the horrors she suffered. She advises parents to look for
radical changes in their children.
Diane has no time for self pity. She closes the chapter with a
positive spin that can help others. She admits bringing her artistic
flair to the new CAC is a way to help other children. But, its
also an opportunity to spend time with her own daughter, Sarah.
An open house for agencies, law enforcement and donors will be
held at the center on September 24. A public open house will be
announced at a later date, according to Brichto.
The support of the community will make a difference in the lives
of future generations and make a stronger community.
WANDA ENGLISH BURNETT
Whether Diane Kvapil, seated right,
is sifting through color swatches with her daughter, Sarah
Brichto, left, who is the executive director of the new
Region 15 Child Advocacy Center located in Dillsboro,
or telling her compelling childhood personal story about
abuse, Kvapil captivates an audience with her quiet story
of despair turned into triumph. She has helped decorate
the new Region 15 Child Advocacy Center while still teaching
acting at the University of Cincinnati.