BRISTOW, Oklahoma — Fourteen years ago, Danyelle Dyer was molested by her step-uncle. Now, the man has moved next door to Dyer’s parent’s house in Oklahoma — and legally, there’s nothing they can do about it.
Sex offender laws are in place to keep predators away from children. Like many other states, Oklahoma law bars sex offenders from living nears schools and churches.
But what Dyer and her family discovered is the state doesn’t have a statute that prevents a sexual predator from moving next door to his victim.
Dyer, who’s now 21, is fighting to change that.
Dyer was only seven when her dad’s step-brother, Harold Dwayne English, came to visit their Bristow, Oklahoma, home for the summer.
He had been convicting of sexually abusing a child. But Dyer’s parents didn’t know that.
Throughout that summer, her repeatedly molested her, Dyer said.
“As a seven-year-old, I had never been exposed to anything like that so I didn’t know it was bad until he told me not to tell,” Dyer told CNN.
When she finally told her parents, English was arrested, convicted, and sent away to prison.
“I would rather look down the barrel of a gun than relive the time I had to look into my seven-year-old daughter’s eyes as she struggled to tell me what had happened to her,” the father said.
Dyer is now studying for a degree in kinesiology and wants to eventually work with amputees and veterans. She comes back to her parents home every weekend and spends most of her summer there.
Two weeks ago, English was released from prison and he moved in with his mother — Dyer’s grandmother — who lives right next door.
“If I look outside, I can see my grandmother’s entire house. We are maybe 100 yards from her house,” Dyer said.
At first, her parents told Dyer not to worry.
“Legally, we didn’t think he could,” she said.
Her parents called lawmakers, the police, the prison system. Each assured them the law barred English from living so close to his victim.
But then, each called back to say they were wrong. There was nothing that legally prevented English from doing so.
“My mom called and told me that we can’t stop this from happening,” Dyer said.
At first, Dyer said she felt let down by the state. Then she decided to do something about it.
“I don’t want anyone else to ever have to go through the feelings of reliving the trauma from something like this,” she said.
Her first step: Post a picture of her abuser on Facebook.
“Meet my abuser and my new neighbor,” it said.
Her dad put up signs in their front yard alerting people that a sex offender lived nearby. First, he went to the neighbors to make sure no one would object.
“They were very supportive and most of them have children and they don’t want him around,” Dyer said.
The other side
Dyer says she has a strained relationship with her grandmother because she continued to support English even after the abuse.
Right before English was released from prison, Dyer wrote her grandmother a letter.
“I felt like it was a very heartfelt letter explaining my feelings,” she said. “I don’t think it affected her at all.”
CNN called the grandmother, Betty Dyer, and she defended her decision.
“The only thing I have to say about this, I don’t agree with what my son did. But I gave him a place to stay temporary until he could find a place,” she said. “I think Danyelle is okay for trying to get a law passed. But she shouldn’t blame me for what happened because this is my son and I just give him a place to stay until he can find a place on his own.”
The grandmother said English was sitting next to her as she talked to CNN on the phone. But he declined to speak himself.
Now, the Dyer family is working with Oklahoma State Rep. Kyle Hilbert to introduce a new bill protecting victims.
The legislative season begins again in February. So they have roughly six months to write the bill.
“I’m doing everything I can to try and help and do something statutorily to prevent this from happening to anyone else in Oklahoma,” Hilbert said.
Will the bill be named after Dyer? Hilbert said that’s completely up to her.
“It would be an honor for the bill to be named after me,” Dyer said. “It’s because of my father that I am strong enough to fight this battle. He has always taught me to take a negative situation and turn it into a positive one to help others.”