Girl, 15: alleged rapist 'treated me like a daughter' - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Girl, 15: alleged rapist 'treated me like a daughter'

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By Gordon Boyd
Eyewitness News Reporter

RINGGOLD, CATOOSA COUNTY, GA (WRCB) -- 'Jill' (not her real name) says 63-year-old Jerry Gilstrap always treated her like a daughter when she'd drop by 'Sunny's', the convenience store only a couple of blocks from her home in East Ridge.

"(He) would get on to me if i did something wrong," she says.

Aside from the occasional odd comment, or the stare held a little too long, 'Jill' says she and her mother had grown to trust Gilstrap the past two years; so much so that her mother allowed her to earn money by cleaning his house across the Georgia state line in Rossville.

'Jill's' second cleaning job there, would be her last.

"He (Gilstrap) grabbed me by the arm and dragged me into his bedroom," she says. "He told me to take my clothes off, and I told him no."

"He got into his drawer and grabbed a gun out. And he showed it to me and said take em off or I'll use 'em."

'Jill's' mother, 'S.E.', reported the alleged incident to Catoosa County Sheriff's detectives January 26. Gilstrap is in jail without bond, facing

charges ranging from aggravated child molestation, to rape, sodomy, sexual battery, and use of a firearm in furtherance of a felony.

"These adults often look for children who have problems," says Farlie Chastain, a licensed clinical social worker with Parkridge Health Systems in Chattanooga.

Chastain works with children and teenagers alleged to be victims of sexual abuse. 'Jill' is not one of his clients, but he says her story follows a familiar pattern.

"Adults who are preparing to groom a child to hurt them will begin with simple things like 'you appear to be very pretty, you appear to me very smart,'" Chastain says.

"He (Gilstrap) told me he liked me better than the other girls. and that I was really pretty," 'Jill' says, "And he just wanted to see what I was like."

She says Gilstrap threatened to come after her if she told anybody, but she told her mother after he asked her to come work for him again.

"If I'd thought about it at the time, I would have known that something was going on," her mother, 'S.E.' says.

In retrospect, 'S.E.' tells Eyewitness News, Gilstrap was too generous. But he also knew that her family had money problems, and preyed on that weaknesses.

Chastain says that acknowledging your children's vulnerabilities is critical to protecting them.

"For the parent, to be able to have a line of communication," Chastain says, "So if the child says--this is happening--this seems a little weird--the adult would listen and hear what the child is really saying."

'Jill' maintains that fear never will control her.

"If they (other girls) are in the same situation as me, and they're scared to come out--just go ahead," she says, "It'll do them some good and they (police) can get it out so they can get the guy who did it."

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