South Seattle Person of the Year: 11-year old Anahlia Cowherd

South Seattle Person of the Year: 11-year old Anahlia Cowherd

This year, the Rainier Valley Post is launching its own Person of the Year column with a look at a courageous young woman who police believe was killed to prevent her from revealing years of sexual abuse by a family member.

Anahlia Chandris Cowherd, 11, was a fifth-grader at Aki Kurose Middle School in the Rainier Valley. In October, she and her 39-year old mother Christine Dela Isla were shot to death by her grandfather – Honorario Yango – after they confronted him about the alleged sexual abuse of Anahlia. Yango, 78, then turned the gun on himself.

Anahlia’s younger brother survived the attack and told police what occurred that night in his family’s home.

But that’s not why we selected Anahlia as the Rainier Valley’s Post first ever Person of the Year, we chose her because – prior to her terrible and untimely death – she proved herself to be one of the bravest people in our community.

“I’m Anahlia Chandris Cowherd, 11 years old, in 5th grade, and I’m gonna bring justice to all girls who have been touched,” she wrote on her blog nearly a year before she and her mom were killed.

At a time when most adolescents are obsessed with fitting in and eschewing embarrassing things like parents, Anahlia boldly spoke out about a crime that is so taboo, most victims — even adults — stay silent.

“Anahlia Cowherd was an incredible young woman whose life was cut way too short,” wrote Aki Kurose PTSA President Tracy Saunders-Prim on a fundraising site sponsored by the school on behalf of Anahlia’s younger brother. “She was a straight A student with a penchant for writing.”

Indeed, Anahlia used her full name on the Wattpad blog that has since been disabled in which she wrote about wanting someone to confide in and her desire to report the abuse to her grandmother.

“So, this touching thing has been going on for a long time,” she wrote in her blog. “…This is the time when my grandma finds out. He says sorry but I don’t forgive him.”

Sadly, the sexual abuse Anahlia suffered wasn’t the only family trauma our young neighbor had to face. According to court records, Anahlia’s mother and her son and daughter moved into her parents’ house on South Fountain Street in Rainier Beach five years ago after fleeing a physically abusive relationship with the children’s father.

In September 2009, Dela Isla accused her husband of punching her in the head, grabbing her by the hair, pushing her and throwing things at her, oftentimes in front of their children, according to court records.

“I never received any medical treatment. I was too afraid to ask for help because I was scared of losing my kids,” Dela Isla wrote. “I would like for myself and my children to start having a better life without me being afraid of him … I have been afraid of this man for too long.”

Dela Isla was granted a domestic-violence-protection order against the children’s father who was ordered to attend a domestic-violence-treatment program, parenting classes, and alcohol and drug treatment in order to have supervised visits with his children.

According to Anahlia’s blog, her grandfather’s abuse started shortly thereafter. She was only six years old.

Her last post, written just hours before she was killed, shows just how much she feared the man her family trusted to provide them with shelter and safety.

“He threatened me … He actually threatened to KILL my family … I’m so scared,” she wrote.

According to the King County Medical Examiner’s Office, Anahlia died from multiple gunshot wounds and Dela Isla and Yango died from gunshot wounds to the head.

Yango does not appear to have had a criminal history.

According to the National Center for Victims of Crime, the prevalence of child sexual abuse is difficult to determine because it is often not reported, and experts agree that the incidence is far greater than what is reported to authorities. That said, statistical estimates show that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused before the age of 16, and most by someone they know well.

Anahlia Cowherd. Photo/Aki Kurose Middle School Academy

 

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