Clara City, Minn., youth wants to help kids overcome the issues associated with abuse
ST. PAUL -- Jacob Gould used to dream of being a professional wrestler, but now the 12-year-old with a new law named after him wants to devote his life to helping others wrestle with problems that almost cost him his life.
"If I can help just one kid, it would be 100 percent worth it," the Clara City sixth-grader said.
Gould said it was "awesome" to watch Gov. Mark Dayton on Wednesday sign into law a bill that requires both parents to be notified if a child is victim of neglect, physical abuse or sexual abuse outside of the home. Also, local welfare officials must be notified.
After being sexually abused at the hands of an older youth and being involved in efforts to make sure parents are notified when such abuse occurs, Gould said in an interview that he is ready to spend his life helping others.
"I'm just really lucky," said Gould, dressed in a jacket and tie like the governor and legislators who stood alongside him during the bill-signing ceremony.
"He would be an awesome counselor," his mother, Sarah Guggisberg, said, a broad smile on her face.
She said her son was abused by a neighbor while visiting his father, her ex-husband, in 2005. Gould told his class about it four years later, the first time he talked about the abuse.
Law enforcement officials told his father at the time but not his mother. State law did not require them to tell both parents.
If she had not learned of the incident later and obtained counseling for Gould, "I would have wondered why my son was so angry," she said.
Or worse. She said Gould tried several times to commit suicide.
"We could have lost Jacob over this," Guggisberg said.
She said she would have sought help much earlier if she had known about the incident.
A Facebook page she created on the topic gained 17,000 members within two weeks of launching, she said, many of whom experienced similar problems.
"When the abuse is known, it should be taken seriously," Guggisberg said.
Guggisberg's four daughters joined her and Jacob at the Capitol bill signing, along with other family and supporters. West central Minnesota lawmakers who worked on the provision also participated.
Rep. Bruce Vogel, R-Willmar, said he thinks it is rare when both parents are not notified about abuse outside of the family's home.
Guggisberg said that it is important to inform both parents "when the child is still alive."
"It was insane to me" that she was not notified, the mother said.
Guggisberg said Vogel met with her a half hour after she contacted him Oct. 4, and he spearheaded the effort to get the bill through the Legislature.
"We didn't know the loophole was there," Vogel said about existing law requiring only one parent be notified.
Guggisberg said only one other state requires both parents to be notified after abuse or neglect outside of the home.
"Jacob is a very strong man," Vogel said.
Dayton said much the same thing and thanked Gould, Guggisberg and their family for working on the bill.
"This is a very special bill that turns tragedy into triumph," Dayton said.
Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.