Gay Hadfield was happily married to her college sweetheart and living in what she now terms a "fantasy world" before her children revealed that their father had sexually abused them.

"If your child or any child comes to you with allegations - listen," Hadfield said.Hadfield's ex-husband, Allan, was convicted in 1988 of seven counts of child sexual abuse and sodomy. The former Lehi woman said Thursday her children weren't coached when, in graphic detail, they testified in court how their father had sodo-mized them.

"My marriage was not a bad marriage.

"I want you also to know that my children have never been coerced into saying the things they have talked about," she said, speaking to the Professional Republican Women at an Alta Club luncheon.

Hadfield's former husband has never admitted guilt. Allan Hadfield has appealed his conviction to the Utah Supreme Court in an effort to win a new trial. The case was argued Feb. 15.

Hadfield, who said her side of the story was missing in much of the media coverage of her former husband's trial, said she is willing to speak about the events that ripped apart her family life if others can learn from the experience. She said children need to be protected from continual victimization.

"I want you also to know fighting these things is very costly. You do not do that with a little amount of money."

She said her children have proven to be stronger than she ever imagined and seem to be healing from the trauma. "It has been a long haul for our children."

She is under a court order that bars her from hiring her children's former therapist, Salt Lake social worker Barbara Snow. The children need to talk to an outsider about the lingering effects of the ordeal, and the children trust Snow, she said.

Her former husband has not admitted guilt despite being sentenced to 10 years of probation in lieu of serving seven concurrent prison terms. Throughout the emotional, sensational Utah County trial, the defense attacked Snow and her methods, saying she brainwashed the children and turned them against their father.

Hadfield spoke as part of a panel on the problem of sexual abuse. Rob Parrish, assistant attorney general, said prosecutors find child abuse cases are the hardest to win. He contends many criminal-justice professionals find it easier to disbelieve young victims, rather than to accept that seemingly upstanding citizens could sexually abuse children.

"The cases are there," Parrish said. "Most of them are valid. They demand attention.

"I'm here to tell you from my position there are no nice guys who are incapable of doing this kind of thing. If they are child abusers, you won't know because they are very good at what they do."

Utah's cases validate national statistics that 25 percent of girls and 12.5 percent of boys are sexually abused before they turn 18. In 85 percent of the cases, the perpetrators are known to the victims.

Jane Wolf, executive director of the Family Support Center, a United Way agency aimed at preventing or treating child abuse, said historically more abuse cases have been reported during periods of increased status for women.

Men and women need to learn to deal with their sexuality better, and the rising incidence of reported child-abuse cases - and sensational episodes like the Hadfield case - point to greater underlying societal problems, Wolf said.

"Child abusers come from everywhere. They are our friends and our neighbors."