NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - A Nacogdoches County prosecutor is going after the highest degree of protection allowed by the law for fearful women and children.
It's called a lifetime protective order. Family violence advocates would like to see more courts seek the action.
Two weeks ago Paige Pattillo, an assistant county attorney, successfully achieved a life time protective order for a severely abused child. In the last three years, Pattillo sought the forever protection for two 13 year olds. Others, even younger, were helped too.
"One was a 7 year old, and one was a child that wasn't even three," Patillo said.
The mother of a child about the same age finds the cases horrific. Pattillo works in misdemeanor court, but she personally asked to prosecute all protective order cases, including felonies, for Nacogdoches County.
"I will take it," Patillo said.
Most protective orders are for the standard two-year protection, but amended state laws give this prosecutor power to seek a lifetime of protection for the most serious offenses.
"We're talking about sexual assault, sexual assault of a child, aggravated sexual assault of a child, meaning a child is under 14 years of age, or compelling prostitution or human trafficking," Patillo said.
Case preparation can take up to a year, and a prosecutor has to be ready to go to court within two weeks after filing the case. That can be a deterrent.
"There are some prosecutors in other counties that are not as aggressive and not as passionate about it as I am," Patillo said.
Pattillo encourages her colleagues to change their ways. In addition, legal advocates with the Family Crisis Center encourage clients to request the additional protection.
"It's very important for victims to come forward," said Jaime West, a legal advocate for the Family Crisis Center. "We don't know if they're not telling us. That's the first step, you have to come and ask for the assistance."
When violated, a lifetime protective order comes with stringent punishment. The defense may argue a lifetime is too long. Pattillo has her rebuttal down.
"It is a long time, but for the victims who have been victims of sexual assault, they carry that with them forever," Patillo said.
Threats, harassment, or contact is strictly prohibited by a lifetime protective order. For each violation it can be up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine.