SYCAMORE - A group of about 10 protesters gathered outside Shawn's Coffee Shop at the corner of Somonauk and Elm streets in Sycamore Friday morning to protest the owner, Shawn Thrower, who's charged with battering at 15-year-old employee.
The group plans to gather from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday and Sunday, too. They held signs saying "She was only 15. Take your business elsewhere," and chanted, "Shame on Shawn, children over coffee."
Shawn Thrower, 61, of the 10000 block of Old State Road, also owns Princess Alex Ice Cream in Sycamore and is charged with two counts of misdemeanor battery after police say he bit the girl on her neck, picked her up and smacked her buttocks, according to DeKalb County Court records. Thrower appeared in front of Circuit Court Judge Joseph Pedersen Thursday at the DeKalb County Courthouse for a status hearing, at which time his lawyer, Amanda Wielgus, requested a bench trial, a trial where witnesses are called in front of a judge but no jury presides.
The trial is set for Oct. 15. If convicted, he could face up to a year in jail, and fines up to $2,500. He plead not guilty on March 9.
The mother of the victim spoke publicly to the Daily Chronicle, speaking out in the hope that her daughter's story will empower others to use their voice.
On Friday, Thrower, who was at his shop working during the protest, said he believes more information will be unveiled during the trial which will prove "there are two sides to every story."
Lauren Chew, 34 of Sycamore, held a sign declaring she was a survivor of assault herself, and wanted to come out to show support for fellow survivors and let them know they're not alone.
"I decided to come out here because I know the damage that it can cause a young child who is assaulted by an adult and it is something that you can never forget," Chew said. "I think that anyone who assaults a child, the child deserves their justice. And what Shawn did here to his young employees was absolutely not OK."
Chew said she used to patronize Shawn's Coffee but since word has spread about the allegations, has taken her business elsewhere.
As the protesters demonstrated Friday morning, cars driving by honked in appreciation, though not all were in support. Several patrons who walked in and out of Shawn's Coffee Shop throughout the protest expressed their support of Thrower. As some of the demonstrators told patrons walking in to get their coffee elsewhere, a man yelled obscenities at a woman protester, and then walked into the shop and told Thrower, "I'm behind you, man. I told them to go to hell. Let anyone who's without sin cast the first stone."
Chew said she was glad to see others in support of the demonstrators, however. She said she has a message for other young girls who have experienced trauma.
"I'm actually a survivor myself, and I would say that it's painful to address but once you address the trauma, like I had to do intense therapy, you can recover," she said. "Unfortunately, the memories never go away but there are ways to recover. It's a process but I don't want anyone to ever lose faith and think that there's no hope, because there's hope."
Sarah Slavenas, of Genoa, organized the demonstration and said the group isn't looking to dismantle a business, but rather the alleged abuse that's occurred inside it.
"We're really just looking to kind of disrupt people from coming in and patronizing his store," Slavenas said. "Ultimately, what we would really like to see happen is for him to no longer manage it at all. It's fine if he wants to be the owner but if he can't control himself, we would like for him to not put himself in a position where he can't manage his behavior."
Brian Kubisak, who's running for DeKalb County Board District 12, said he was also a survivor of childhood abuse and wanted to let survivors know they're not alone.
"The reason I'm out here is because 1 in 2 children will experience sexual abuse," Kubisak said. "As a victim of just abuse in and of itself, I feel it's important to advocate for children and for everyone that just is a sufferer. This should be obvious to everyone."