Cases of sexual assault against kids have been in the news a lot lately, right here in East Texas. Some of the crimes are committed by strangers, others by family members. We set out to find out why experts think we seem to be hearing more about these types of cases.
Dawn Armstrong prosecutes children's sexual assault cases. She thinks she knows why more of these crimes are being investigated than ever before.
"The main reason we're seeing more is because people and children are crying out more, or their parents are letting it be known more. I think when this happened years past, maybe the families and the children weren't reporting it."
Armstrong also sees sexual assault crimes getting more media attention than they used to. That's having a big impact when juries are being picked for sexual abuse cases.
"There will be 10 women on the panel, middle-aged women, who will approach the bench after we've questioned the jury and they'll tell the judge, 'I feel real uncomfortable doing this because I was sexually abused as a child.' And there will be a lot of women who come up and say that."
The Angelina Alliance for Children is also working to make a difference in these cases. Possible abuse victims are interviewed there on videotape. That way, investigators can get firsthand information about what might have happened, eliminating the need for children to tell their story several times. Advocates say the system works.
"With the concept and the module that we have in place, this community is coming together, and we are working more together regarding sexual abuse of young children, as well as young teens. And, as a result, we are doing a better job of not allowing these victims to fall through the cracks," says Cathy Pavlic, Director of the Angelina Alliance for Children.
Even if a case is tried successfully, officials say it's a good idea for the victim to receive professional counseling to deal with the incident.