Columbia, SC (WLTX) -- When you think of dangers lurking in the water other people may not come to mind, but a Midlands family says a simple summer play date to the Palmetto Falls Water Park at Fort Jackson has changed them forever.
"It's a mother's worst nightmare," said a Midlands woman who tells us her 7-year-old daughter was sexually assaulted at the water park. "Our family's not normal like we used to be, there's a heightened level of security with us all the time."
The family, who wished to remain anonymous, says a group of about five teenage boys sexually assaulted their daughter and her friend, and threatened to kill them and their families if they told anyone.
"I was just totally devastated that this would happen to my baby because, when she explained it to me in detail what happened it was pretty much like a gang raping so I was just crushed that it happened to her," said the girl's father.
The family filed a report with the Fort Jackson Military Police and the Criminal Investigation Division is now handling the case, but the family is still working to deal with what took place.
"I hear that question all the time, where was I and it's very hard as a mother, where was I? I got out of the water, and I had told them to stay in this area, I'm going to go and get me some water, and then I sat down, I wanna say I sat down for like 7 minutes and I was looking but I didn't see them and the panic alarm went off," said the girl's mother.
But what makes it even harder for the family to wrap their minds around is that their daughter says it happened, not once, but twice and the girls never told. They believe the same group of boys intimidated the girls both times and they're concerned their daughter and her friend are not the only victims.
"From listening to the way the girls have described everything to us and the way these little boys operated it's as if this is not their first time ever doing something like this, I believe that they've done it before, the victims just didn't come forward," said the girl's father.
Dr. Alicia Benedetto is a licensed clinical psychologist and a forensic interviewer with South Carolina Department of Mental Health at the Assessment Resource Center, a Children's Advocacy Center.
She says studies and literature support that the majority of victims delay disclosing abuse for some period of time, whether it be days, months, or years.
News19 contacted the Army's Criminal Investigation Division Chris Grey, a spokesman, gave us this response:
"We have an ongoing investigation of an alleged sexual assault that occurred about a month ago. We're taking it very seriously and are aggressively investigations, but due to the nature of the incident we are not releasing any details at this time."
Now the family hopes their story will not only help their family find justice, but also prevent others from having to deal with the same thing.
"She told me she was crying for me, asking for me to come help her, and I did not know and she got a, they took her away from me. It really is devastating because it takes away their innocence, it robs them of so much," said her mother.