A 13-year-old Lufkin girl testified against her stepmother Tuesday in a crowded Angelina County courtroom. The girl lived with Bennedetha "Anita" Buckjune for eight years. Buckjune is accused of abusing her.
The girl told jurors Buckjune made her do all the housework and take care of her younger siblings. The girl also told the court Buckjune beat her every night with everything from hairbrushes and belt buckles to frying pans and metal rods.
A physician also testified when police brought the girl and her older sister to the emergency room last year, they were covered in very severe bruises, cuts, and abrasions. The girls were also mentally under-developed, malnourished, and small for their ages.
Thousands of American children are abused every day. The state usually removes those children from the home separating them from their abusers. In many of those cases, CASAs will get involved to speak up for the youngest victims in court.
Elaine Gonerway, CASA program director, said, "The judge looks at each case on an individual basis and the most severe cases is where he will appoint a CASA to represent the child."
CASAs visit anyone involved in that child's life, including parents, teachers, pastors, and foster parents. Their goal: to put the child in a safe and permanent home.
Abuse victims do have a say in where they end up, but often, what the child wants is not an option, because most kids don't want to separate from their parents and other siblings, no matter how bad things get at home.
Gonerway said, "Once the court case is over, usually, CPS will maintain conservatorship and CASA will still continue to see the child as long as he is in CPS conservatorship, and that might be until the child ages out."
CASA volunteers currently have 89 cases involving 189 severely abused and neglected children in Angelina, Polk, and Houston counties.