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Man found guilty of sex abuse

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PROVO — Brandon Christen, the man convicted of breaking into a home and molesting a girl in her bedroom, says he is a product of violence and abuse himself.

In a chilling 20-page essay on "the fear victims feel," Christen recounts his own traumatic childhood as well as the sex offender's views on fear — particularly of women. One child sex abuse expert says the essay offers a rare but disturbing glimpse into the mind of a perpetrator who was obsessed with violence.

The 25-year-old was found guilty by a jury of five men and three women Friday evening of first-degree felony aggravated sex abuse of a child and second-degree burglary. Prosecutors allege that Christen, who already had a record for

lewdness involving a child, entered a Pleasant Grove home late the night of April 24 and sexually molested an 8-year-old girl in her bedroom.

In testimony during the three-day trial, the victim said she awoke to find someone taking off her clothes and touching her. At first she thought it was her grandmother, but to her horror it was a strange man standing in the darkness. "He just kept saying, 'Be quiet, be quiet,' " the girl said.

When she screamed, the man was seen running out the back door of the house. Neighbors a few blocks away testified that they saw a man get into a car but managed to get a license plate number. That plate number led police to Christen's mother's Orem home, where he was found and arrested.

Residents in both Pleasant Grove and Orem say they are breathing a sigh of relief that a man whom they consider a predator of children is finally being put behind bars. When sentenced March 5, Christen faces a mandatory five years in prison and could face up to life.

Parents in the Orem neighborhood where Christen lived say they are relieved. Paul Stewart said he and other fathers had organized a special neighborhood watch for Christen.

"It's a great relief to me, but just to see the relief that that little girl and others feel, knowing that he will be put away," Stewart said, is priceless.

Police in Orem said they have long suspected that Christen may have been involved in several similar home entries, targeting young girls.

In 1999, Christen was convicted of lewdness involving a child after he entered an Orem home and exposed himself to a girl in her bedroom. Christen, according to police, then went down the hallway to where a woman slept and removed the sheets to her bed. Christen was placed on probation but was never placed on the state's sex offender registry, as required of anyone convicted of lewdness involving a child.

State officials admitted that it was an oversight and that Christen had fallen through the system's cracks. Instead of jail, an Orem judge ordered Christen to write an essay on "the fear victims feel."

"Fear is an awful thing but can also be a good thing," Christen wrote. "But fear of a victim is not a good thing. It seems everybody out there are victims and have fear, especially women."

The essay then describes how fear is a natural part of humans and that it serves a purpose that many choose to overlook.

Shawn Winger is a therapist in Utah County that has several years' experience treating not only victims of child sexual abuse but also adolescent sex offenders.

"My opinion, just based on what I've read, I would say his thought content is obsessively violent," Winger said. "I think he's a really smart guy, but I don't think he's got any capacity of empathy, in my opinion, or empathy for his victim."

Christen gives disturbing references to brutal murders, adding that everyone has the potential to commit such acts.

"Before I was (13), I saw a man shot. I saw another beaten (and) kicked to unconsciousness. I saw a friend struck near death in the face and head with a steel rod," Christen wrote. "I saw my father become a heroin addict. I saw my sister beaten and I was myself a veteran of beatings that had been going on for more than half my life."

"There have been some studies coming out lately that child victims of physical abuse are more likely to come out as sexual offenders," Winger said, "even more so than victims of sex abuse."

In court Friday, Christen offered little reaction to the jury's verdict.

Friends of the victim's family say the neighborhood is eager to get back to their lives and move on.

"He is a serious offender, and it's a relief to know that he won't be in the community for a really long time," said Utah County Deputy Attorney Sherry Ragan.

Christen's attorney, Mike Esplin, said he has yet to discuss the possibility of an appeal but may address the issue at sentencing.


E-mail: gfattah@desnews.com