Sentencing of couple for abusing daughter hailed

Date: 2010-03-15

By Chang Jun

San Francisco - American families with adopted Chinese children have hailed the recent conviction of a couple from Washington State who had sexually abused their adopted Chinese daughter, even as they expressed concern about the likely negative impact of the incident on future adoptions of children from China.

Last Thursday, Donna Marie Whisenhunt, of Lacey, Washington State, was sentenced to 16 years in prison for raping her 8-year-old adopted daughter. The Pierce County Superior Court in Tacoma gave the ruling after the 47-year-old woman pleaded guilty to child rape as part of a plea deal.

Her husband, Eddy Tony Whisenhunt, 51, had also pleaded guilty and was sentenced last month to 18 years in prison.

The couple was arrested in May last year after their daughter talked to a school counselor about the sexual abuse. She had been adopted shortly after she was born in China. Police said the abuse occurred over a four-year period.

"The story of this little girl is tragic and what the parents did (to her) was unforgivable," Peggy Scott, president of Families with Children from China (FCC) - Northern California, told China Daily USA.

"Sexual abuse of children is an inexcusable crime, and it happens all over the world. The only thing we can say about all abusers is that they are horrible people. Our social welfare systems are supposed to guard against this ever happening to children who were adopted; that's why the home study is so important," said Scott.

"I wish the Whisenhunt couple would never get out of jail. I hope that little girl will learn to heal, and learn to trust people again, and that she will have a good life with kind, compassionate new parents," she said.

Cai Xiaoqing, the China Program Coordinator for International Adoption of the Bay Area Adoption Services, said she and her organization were shocked by the incident.

Cai said every family adopting a child has to go through a rigorous assessment process and social workers would conduct a thorough check on each family. It was definitely an isolated case that should not be generalized, she said.

Cai said her organization would be even more careful in future, and hoped this case would not have a negative impact on the prospects of Chinese children getting adopted by American families.

Derek Sweetman, President of the DC chapter of FCC, who has also adopted Chinese children, said the story was tragic, as were instances of child abuse even in biological relationships. "I do not have any information that would indicate that the child's status as an adoptee was a contributing factor in the abuse," he said.

More than 3,000 Chinese children were adopted by parents in the US in 2009, the highest among all countries, according to a US State Department announcement two weeks ago. About 90 percent of the adopted Chinese children are female.

Chen Weihua and Kelly Dawson in New York and Tan Yingzi in Washington contributed to the report

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