The road to healing begins for Elizabeth Thomas - WSMV News 4

The road to healing begins for Elizabeth Thomas

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The sign outside Thomas' school welcoming her home. (WSMV) The sign outside Thomas' school welcoming her home. (WSMV)

After 38 days on the run with her former teacher Tad Cummins, Elizabeth Thomas will now take the first steps on the long road to healing.

Whether she left willingly or she felt she didn't have a choice, she is still the victim of an apparent crime.

"For her it's probably very scary and confusing," said Holly Toensing, a clinical therapist at the Nashville Children's Alliance who helps victims of physical and sexual abuse, ages three to 18.

"She possibly didn't have a whole lot of power and control," Toensing added. "She is the teenager here, essentially a child."

After so much publicity from a nationwide search, coming home could be overwhelming. Toensing said Elizabeth will first need a supportive family network who will listen to her.

"At first it would be a lot of her being able to tell her own story," Toensing said. "She's probably going through a feeling that there is no power or control. She has a ton of people asking her a ton of questions and has to answer them."

She said the first step in counseling would be trying to build a relationship, so that the victim will feel safe and can learn to trust again.

Counselor will also need to teach about healthy relationships and coping, Toensing said.

"I feel like the trust part will maybe take some time because maybe she has had this adult that she felt like she could trust and found out that it wasn't a safe relationship," Toensing said.

Whoever is around will need to explain the teenage girl is a victim, even if she doesn't yet realize it.

"She is going to need a lot of support and a lot of people surrounding her that are going to believe her, even if they don't agree with the choices that they think she made. She still needs them. She needs them to listen to her and to care," Toensing said.

Many people have questioned who was at fault in the matter. Law enforcement has always stressed, Cummins is the adult and is criminally responsible for taking a child across state lines to engage in a sexual relationship. Toensing agreed the matter is indisputable.

"I would really like to break the myth that the child really had a choice," Toensing said. "There are these tricks and these tactics that these perpetrators use and they're smart and they know how to get these kids to do these things. It feels like they think they're making their own choices, but a lot of times they're being tricked into making these choices.”

The attorney for the Thomas family said Elizabeth will probably be in seclusion for several days, now that she is back in Tennessee.

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