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My Truth: Shaking my Head

By Cheryl Smith

Don’t push me, cause I’m close to the edge, just got real. I felt a twinge, down deep. I also felt pressure in my head. This must be what heartache or real despair feels like.

Darn Internet.

If it weren’t for the Internet, I might have never heard of this horrific case that is causing me so much grief right now.

Which brings me to my truth.


If there was one time that I knew for sure I couldn’t be a first responder it had to be while reading about the arrival of police to an apartment in Providence Township, PA, where they found a 10-month-old in distress, her diaper saturated with blood. According to the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office, “At around 10:40 pm on Saturday, Lower Providence police responded to a home in the 3400 block of Germantown Road to a report of an unresponsive infant.”

They performed CPR and less than two hours later she was pronounced dead at Einstein Medical Center Montgomery. I haven’t a clue as to what was going on inside the head of Zara Scruggs’ father, Austin Stevens when the 29-year-old decided to rape her. Currently, Mr. Stevens sits in a jail cell, on a $1 million bail, facing multiple charges including: aggravated sexual assault, rape of a child, involuntary deviant sexual intercourse, aggravated indecent assault, and endangering the welfare of a child. He is set for a preliminary hearing on October 13 and I am waiting to hear about the charge of MURDER.

The results of the autopsy were equally disturbing. Zara was with her father, co-owner of a construction company, as part of a joint custody agreement with her mother. That overnight visit ended up being her last night on this earth, and sadly, it was a painful one, with her sustaining anal rectal trauma and blunt force trauma to the head before dying. Calling the crime heinous, Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele, said, “This case is deeply disturbing. It is hard to imagine this child’s death being any more traumatic: sexual assault on an infant, followed by inaction by the father to save her life, led to her death.”

It appears that Stevens did not immediately seek help for his daughter. Zara’s death hurts. It is also disturbing because she’s not the exception. She’s becoming more the rule. Years ago the Philadelphia Inquirer ran a series on children who were the victims of their mothers’ lovers, boyfriends, partners, or husbands. These men sexually molested children of all ages. People asked back then, about whether those perpetrators were sick or high, and still today some ask if Stevens was on drugs. Folks want to have some way of explaining away this horrible behavior because surely someone in their right mind wouldn’t think of committing such a deviant act.

While Mental Health Awareness Month is recognized in May, and October 10 was World Mental Health Awareness Day, surely you agree with me that we have a mental health pandemic and this is a subject that deserves our attention, resources, and understanding. Thanks to organizations like the National Alliance on Mental Illness we are having some tough discussions and we have professionals who are addressing the mental health pandemic that is desperately in need of more resources.


Mental illness is real, just as mind-altering drugs are. No word on what the heck was going on in Austin Stevens’ head. My heart goes out to Zara’s family, especially the grandparents who dropped Zara off for that visit. It is my hope and prayer that nary another child will have to meet the same fate as Zara.

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