Clinton Keller was 10 years old when he decided to kill himself.

"I had it all planned out. I was going to go to my favorite place to think. I was going to go up onto the high place. This place was at least 2 feet high and had a big rock going out like a high dive. I was going to jump right into the cement ground," he wrote four years later."But then I stopped and thought what would my parents do if I was gone? My feelings at this time were how could someone do something like this to another human being and also that my parents would throw a party after I was gone.

"When I look back on this, I am surprised that I lived through all this."

The "something like this" was repeated sexual and physical abuse, perpetrated on Clinton by his baby sitter, Mark, when Clinton was 8 years old.

Mark had also abused the boy's sister, Theresa, who was 12 the year Clinton wanted to die. Theresa had been in therapy for a while. But Clinton kept his secret to himself for almost four years, and in that time he developed serious emotional and behavioral problems. He didn't do well in school. He didn't sleep well. He was angry and aggressive with other children, belligerent with adults.

By 1991, he clearly needed counseling, too. But how to pay for it? And his family still didn't know whether they had the strength to go through another trial, to once again face down the creature who had stolen the innocence of an 8-year-old boy and a 10-year-old girl.

They weighed their choices with the prosecutor. And they finally decided that they hadn't gotten a conviction based on Theresa's injuries, so clearly documented by X-rays, because so much time had passed. And that was only a year. There would be no justice for Clinton, either, since it had taken him almost four years to tell his parents what Mark had done to him.

A thoroughly disenchanted Keller family withdrew to examine the shattered remains of their lives.

Today, they can talk about what happened - even to a reporter who is a stranger. Back then, they didn't like to discuss it with each other.

Not that it was easy to tell a stranger. During a first meeting, Theresa said almost nothing. Clinton tried to be friendly but was clearly nervous. When talk got too personal, he curled up in a corner with his hands wrapped over his ears, isolating himself from the talk around - and about - him. At one point, the 15-year-old boy curled up on the couch and leaned in tight against his mother, who stroked his hair as she talked.

(The Keller family had decided to talk to a reporter because they didn't want others, grappling with a nightmare like theirs, to feel quite as lost and unsure as they had.)

Still, they've made significant progress. Two years ago, their home life most resembled an armed encampment. No one was shooting anyone, but they were all treading very softly indeed.

Theresa and Clinton were getting limited therapy. Susan was toying with the idea that she might need help, herself.

And John had withdrawn completely. He was adamant. He would not see a counselor. Instead, he buried himself in his work. He was brusque at home and spent long hours away, which suited his family. He was hard to be around, although he didn't realize it. Sometimes he had rages.

"We tiptoed around on eggshells," Susan remembers. "It was a very bad time for all of us."

She wasn't doing much better. "I was crying a lot and throwing things. That's how I got my frustration out. John told me, `Don't fall apart on me now.' It seemed like I was the one holding the family together. I thought I would lose my mind."

Brent Wainwright, clinical director of the Intermountain Specialised Abuse Treatment center said their survival as a couple and a family unit is in itself a small miracle. Most families don't hold it together - or put it back together when their lives fall apart after sexual abuse.

Susan wasn't sure they'd be able to, either.

In early 1993, the Kellers decided they needed to get a clean start. So they loaded up their belongings and returned to their native Utah.

Susan and John found low-paying jobs and a tiny one-bedroom apartment in Utah County. It was so small that they jumped at a chance for the children to live with a close family friend, "Uncle Jerry," and his wife in Davis County for a few months until they got their living situation squared away.

Clinton stayed with Jerry for the school year, seeing his parents and sister often.

Theresa was too homesick. After a few days, she moved back to Utah County.

It was while Clinton lived in Davis County that the Intermountain Specialised Abuse Treatment Center (ISAT, formerly the Intermountain Sexual Abuse Treatment Center) came into their lives.

Jerry knew enough about the long-term effects of sexual abuse to see that the kids needed help desperately. He was familiar with the work done at ISAT.

He also recognized something that the Keller family hadn't: The person in perhaps the most need of counseling at this point was the father, John. His rage and guilt had been bottled up for so long that he was in real danger of exploding. Getting John to go, though, was another matter.

Finally, Jerry "talked turkey" to John. If you can't see what's happening and if you don't do something about it, he told him, your family is going to walk away from you. You'll never get past this.

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"It's like living in a swamp full of alligators and not admitting that they are there," said C.Y. Roby, the clinical psychologist who directs ISAT. "Well, no matter how careful you are when you walk through that swamp, the alligators are still there. You have to decide what to do and take action. Maybe you'd better drain the swamp. Some alligators might survive, but you've improved your chances of getting away."

Counseling is expensive, even when it's offered on a sliding-fee scale based on income. Because no one was convicted of the crime, the Keller children didn't qualify for assistance from victims' funds.

Jerry set out to raise money specifically to get counseling for the Kellers.

A scholarship of the heart, if you will.

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