Westword readers express sympathy for Kristen Stillman's plight

"Spreading Her Wings," Patricia Calhoun, September 9


My heart absolutely broke for Kristen Stillman. In my job, I see kids who have been in situations not unlike the one she was raised in, and I know that the level of abuse and neglect she experienced happens on a horrifyingly regular basis. I know that many people are apt to condemn her for giving up her children — but in my view, her decision was the best in a long list of bad and worse options. I fervently hope that they will get the therapy they need and be able to find families that can provide the level of care they undoubtedly require. As far as people who would criticize Kristen for having another baby, I would gently chide them for their judgment. Children (and in many ways, Kristen is still a child) raised in an environment like Kristen's often long for the family they didn't have and attempt to re-create it, although they may be woefully unprepared. At least Kristen isn't a drug addict and seems committed to acting in her children's best interest. Resources exist to help her learn how to be a better parent, and I hope that she will take advantage of them. 

Moreover, I hope this article will provide enlightenment to our ineffective, overburdened social services system. The welfare of other people's children affects the health of the society as a whole and has been ignored for too long. As long as the system remains underfunded, understaffed and underappreciated, horrific stories like this will continue to make the papers.

Maggie Scarborough

I wanted to congratulate you on a great article — and while I can't say I enjoyed it, I was moved. I believe it nothing short of a sin for government officials to abdicate their duty or stand behind regulations and policy to insulate themselves from blame. (I work for the federal government.)

It's also a great cover photo, which shows that she has the soul of a survivor.

Mike Collins


This article was truly touching. My eyes teared up many times while reading Kristen Stillman's story. It made me think about what goes on behind closed doors; the systems that are and aren't working; judging people and not truly getting to know who they are or what they have been through; compassion. Thank you for sharing this. I am inspired by her strength to speak up. I wish the best for Kristen in her life's journey. 

Mathew Tersago


"Spreading Her Wings" is the most disturbing story of abuse I have ever read — anywhere. Perhaps because it happened right here in our own community. I remain horrified about the repeated and ongoing failure of the Denver Department of Human Services to protect children in reported abusive circumstances, as well as Denver County's cruel and idiotic treatment of Kristen in assessing foster-care fees for her four children of rape. I hope that one or more leaders, lawyers or advocates in the community take strong and swift action that results in a significant change in this young woman's circumstances. Will anyone be held accountable? Could DDHS be held liable for damages? Will Westword provide an update on possible reduction or elimination in the fees assessed her?

It is simply impossible to understand how human beings can commit the kinds of acts perpetrated upon these children and how it was allowed to go on for years right here in Denver. Where are our leaders? Will they intervene, or sit back and do nothing? I wish there was a way to expose and eliminate the collusion that exists in families, communities, churches and public systems that facilitates continued violation and subsequent revictimization of individuals like Kristen. Everyone owes her and her brother their deepest apologies and more.

And many thanks to Westword's writers for abiding by your long-established journalistic standards that result in stories that would never be told otherwise.

Terese Whitehead


Another attack on the Denver Department of Human Services? Another story filled with disgusting details of sexual and physical child abuse and the evil agency that failed them? You jumped on the bandwagon, dragging DDHS through the mud with cries about how they failed to prevent atrocities.

What would be original is a story about how many children DDHS has saved, how many it's helped graduate from high school, how many it's helped overcome violence, drugs and poverty. What a bore! If it bleeds, it leads. Who wants to read about children pulled from uninhabitable homes and monstrous abuse?

 Another novel idea: Write about Denver County caseworkers sacrificing time with their own families to keep Denver's children safe. They work tirelessly in dangerous jobs, unarmed, dealing with situations every day that would make most people piss themselves. And they sure as hell don't do it for the salary. They do it because they care about kids in our community. 

 How long until you trot out your next shock-and-awe piece on Human Services? They are damned if they do and damned if they don't. When they remove a child from a dangerous situation, they get reamed for intruding needlessly into people's lives. When they back off without enough evidence to pull children from parents who guarded cruel secrets as Ms. Stillman's caretakers did, they are slammed for not intervening sooner.

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