Angela Confronts Her Past

Investigation Exposes History Of Sexual Abuse

After hearing from so many other Angela Sheltons, Angela knew that it was time for her to take the first step in confronting her fears. Her first stop? Her stepbrother, Stephen's house. She'd barely seen him for 10 years.

Angela's father had also abused Stephen, and as a young boy, Stephen had actually taken part in the abuse. For three years, he had molested Angela and his own sister, Lisa.

"Why I decided to come forward was I didn't want to contribute to the culture of silence that surrounds this because no one wants to talk about it…No one wants to come forward and say, "This happened to me or I did it,'" says Stephen.

"We were playing sexual games that children should have no idea how to play … On some level, you know, what we were doing wasn't right. We played doctor just like any kids played doctor. We had just come from an environment where we had a Ph.D. on how to do it."

Angela says Stephen apologized for what he did: "It's not his fault at all. We were all sexual together. I don't hold him in any sort of spotlight of blame."
However, there is one person she's never stopped blaming: her father. "Abuse like this lasts forever," says Angela. "It always shows up. Like you're just trying to fill the void."

Angela was finally on her way to confront her father, but she was worried she might not have the strength. Then, she met a woman who convinced her beyond any doubt to go ahead with it.

It was a woman in Charleston, S.C., named Angela Shelton. This Angela, like so many of the others, had been a victim of assault. When Angela found her, she was a college student writing her thesis on tracking sex offenders.

Amazingly, she lived just five miles from Angela's father.

"That's like synchronicity, serendipity, the universe, God, whatever you wanna call it. That's just weird," says Angela. "I was gonna have to go see my dad."

She decided to visit him on Father's Day, and the other Angela offered to go along for the ride.

"I was in the RV…and another crew member and I were peeking through the blinds," says Angela from South Carolina. "Angela went up to the front door and knocked. And her father opened the door! I about had a heart attack."

"Happy Father's Day," says Angela to her father. She hadn't spoken to him for 12 years.

"What in the world? How are you? Can we talk," said her father. "Give me a hug."

"I'm traveling around seeing every Angela Shelton, and for me, personally, all roads lead to you," says Angela.

"All right," her father responds. "But honey, some of the stuff that you wrote in that letter – some of that – a lot of it was not true. I never ever, ever, ever laid a hand on you."

"I was scared to be there, because I thought there's going to be this confrontation that you are not gonna believe," says Angela, who told her father she was filming, and actually convinced him to come out onto the porch as the camera rolled.

"I did not do it. I did not do it," says her father.
At the time, what was Angela feeling? "Oh, that I really want a hug from my dad," she says. "It's really hard when you're faced with your parent, who you know, is your idol in a lot of ways as a child. And they've done this to you. It's so hard to comprehend."

The scene had played in her head for years. But when the time came, Angela seemed passive, almost paralyzed.

"He is scrambling," recalls Angela during the interview, when her father denied that he had abused her. "He is scrambling. He is grabbing at straws."

"He was denying it, but you knew he had done it because he kept confirming the things that she was saying," adds Angela from South Carolina.

Remember: The judge had found that Angela and her step-siblings were "abused juveniles" and took custody away from Angela's father.

Dad: …I made stupid mistakes about the nudist colony and the running around with your clothes off…But I know but I didn't do any of that other s---.

Angela: You lie.

Dad: I'm not a manipulator as such.

Angela: You are. You have always been a salesman of some…

Dad: Well, yeah…I didn't do any of that stuff…

Angela: You're driving me crazy.

Dad: Well, it's driving me crazy!

Angela: How come everyone would be lying then? … All I wanted was some closure with you and to talk about it with you….

Dad: And that's what I'm trying to do. But it's not true. And I am not gonna sit here, just to try to 'make you happy' and admit that I did something I didn't do! I didn't do it!

Could Angela have pressed her father any more?

"Oh, my God, yeah," she says. "I resorted to being a little kid. I mean, I watched that footage and I'm a little girl, sitting next to my daddy, who wants him to be that daddy that he would have been."

"She was looking for some kind of closure and he didn't give it to her," says Angela from South Carolina. "I would have just friggin' clubbed him …It just left her hanging, and I think all that pent-up frustration and anger just had nowhere to go but out."

"It's hard to accept that you come from a monster," says Angela, who exploded in anger in the RV. "I don't know what to do. And he sat there and just denied everything! Everything!"

"I think she needed to go there and confront him as step one in closing this chapter of her life," says Angela from South Carolina.

And as Angela began to find her voice again, she knew she had come to a fork in the road: fear in one direction, forgiveness in the other.

"I think he should be in jail for what he did," says Angela, crying. "My destination is forgiveness."
After two months on the road, Angela knew it was time to end one incredible journey – and time to begin another.

There's also a new man in her life, Abe Ingersol, and he's given her a very special gift. He's set up the Angela Shelton Foundation.

"It's dedicated to providing education and charitable assistance to those who seek to recover from sexual abuse, established on my birthday," says Angela.

Even the Web site she started to promote her movie has become a place where abuse victims regularly email her for advice. "'Tell your Story' is a whole forum I created to give a place where survivors can talk to each other, and talk to all the Angela Sheltons," says Angela. "There are 78 people on here already."

She told her story on TV, on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," and she has a new job as a TV character called Safe Side Super Chick.

"I'm playing this superhero called Safe Side Super Chick, and it's right in line with my whole goal in life," says Angela. "I get to teach kids how to have boundaries, and I'm helping kids be safe. I'm so excited!"
But of all that's happened, Angela says it was her effect on the other Angelas that has touched her the most.

"When I was sitting in that RV, listening to Angela speak to her father, I thought, there has got to be something in this world that I can do, to make sure this doesn't happen to other people," says Angela of South Carolina.

She's now training to be a cop, and she's the only woman in her class at the police academy. "I think meeting Angela Shelton influenced my decision heavily. I think you can't meet her and not want to do something. I found part of myself by meeting her."

Angela Shelton in Virginia says meeting the filmmaker made a lasting impression: "I think she actually helped my self-esteem … The impact she's made on me has made me just a little more open."

Interestingly, most of the Angela Sheltons have never met each other. So 48 Hours decided to bring together as many as it could, for an "Angela Shelton Convention."

"These are women I hadn't known until then," says Angela. "I feel like I've known them forever."

All the Angelas say that breaking their silence forever changed them.

"There were things about the abuse that I really didn't remember until she came," says Angela from Detroit.

"She made me even stronger than I was before," says Angela from Missouri. "We are all women, and, even for women that we don't know, we carry a bond -- just for the fact that we're female."

"Don't hold back. Let your voice be heard," says Angela to all at her convention. "When you have unity, you have power."

48 Hours tried repeatedly to meet with Angela's father. But he refused to give an interview. In the end, Angela says she did what many people could never imagine doing. She forgave him.

How could she forgive her father, who has not apologized or admitted to what he did to her as a child?

"Honestly, because it has nothing to do with him. It has everything to do with me. You know? And I have to forgive in order not to hold that rage. Cause that rage and that sadness, like, inhibits me in my life," says Angela, who's now lifting the curtain on a new life.

Part I: Searching For Angela Shelton





  • Rebecca Leung

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