05/29/2014 at 03:00 PM EDT
In June 2000, Frank Hertel was charged with sexually assaulting his daughter Heather Orr when she was 14 in Tucson, Arizona, continuing abuse that began when she was much younger in Ohio.
Before he could go to trial, he vanished with Orr's mother and 9-year-old brother.
For 12 years, Orr searched for them but found few clues.
"She didn't just want to see her dad behind bars," says her husband, Daniel, 39. "She wanted to find her brother. That's what drove her."
Sgt. Gerard Moretz, whose investigation helped send her father to prison in October 2012 and also helped find both parents guilty on civil charges of abuse and neglect, was struck by Orr's courage: "She's a real inspiration."
Orr, 31, a mom of four in Evans, Georgia, tells PEOPLE's Jeff Truesdell she's sharing her story for "myself and other sexual-abuse victims who have borne their pain silently."