(just dont have trauma victims or you loose your kids to perp) ThX to KS SB 128 Fatherhood Initiatives Act,
Sex abuse charges on rise
ALEX BONHAM-CARTER/THE CAPITAL-JOURNAL
Jesse James Lewis, 19, listens to testimonies at his preliminary hearing in his case of aggravated indecent liberties. This year has seen a sharp increase in the number of people charged with sex crimes against minors.
Created August 8, 2009 at 3:44pm
Updated August 9, 2009 at 1:30am
An increasingly common scene played out in a nearly vacant courtroom last week.
A mother fidgeted in the witness stand as she spared no graphic detail of her 9-year-old son's alleged sexual abuse. Across the room sat a young man in a yellow jumpsuit -- Jesse James Lewis, 19, who is charged with aggravated criminal sodomy in the case.
Lewis isn't alone. A change in leadership at the district attorney's office and an increased awareness among children, say those close to the issue, has helped fuel a sharp increase in the number of people charged with sex crimes against minors so far this year.
Since 2005, when the district attorney filed 38 such cases, the numbers have risen every year and took an even steeper incline in just the first half of 2009. From January to June, Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor filed 47 different charges of sex crimes involving minors, just 14 fewer than were filed by the DA's office all of last year.
"We have a lot of sexually violent crime in this community," said District Attorney Chad Taylor. "It is everyday that these cases are coming in."
From cases filed this year, there have been 11 convictions. The rest of the cases are pending.
Everyone interviewed for this story believed more reporting, not more crimes themselves, were the cause of the increase in charges since 2005.
Topeka police Lt. Dave Thomas attributes the increase in reporting partially to a 2001 change in the Kansas statutes that mandated all psychological professionals report sexual abuse of juveniles.
"If you were seeking mental health services for you and your child and your child divulged information to a doctor, they may not have reported it based on confidentiality," said Thomas, who used to be in charge of the juvenile special victims unit. "Now they're reporting."
And more people are seeking those types of mental health services now, said police detective Heather Stults, in the major case squad. Social changes destigmatizing sexual abuse have allowed children to divulge family secrets at greater rates.
"I think a lot of things have made kids feel safer about talking," Stults said.
At the Prairie Advocacy Center, program coordinator Lisa McPherson has been conducting more sexual abuse interviews with juveniles for the courts. In 2005, the center interviewed 205. In 2009, it is on pace to interview 314 children.
The gradual climb of charges in recent years turned mountainous the first half of this year. The district attorney's filings are up 50 percent over the same time last year. Asked about the reason behind that number, Taylor had a simple response.
"We've made it a priority," he said.
Over the previous administration? "That would be a fair statement."
Former Shawnee County District Attorney Robert Hecht didn't immediately return messages left Saturday.
McPherson doesn't know about the causes of the increase, but she's happy about it.
"We want to see the system continue to stand up for our kids," she said.
James Carlson can be reached
at (785) 233-7470Topeka,Abuse,news,trauma,victims,kids,ALEX,BONHAM,CARTER,CAPITAL,JOURNAL,Jesse,James,Lewis,EMAIL,PRINT,COMMENT,SHARE,CARLSON,August,Across,room,jumpsuit,leadership,district,attorney,office,children,cases,numbers,From,January,June,Shawnee,Chad,Taylor,crime,Dave,Thomas,Kansas,health,services,doctor,unit,detective,Heather,Stults,squad,Social,rates,Prairie,Advocacy,Center,coordinator,Lisa,McPherson,courts,response,Over,administration,statement,Former,Robert,Hecht,messages,system,testimonies,crimes,convictions,statutes,cjonline,sexualNote: Cross posted from [wp angelfury] KS-Family Court Reform Coalition.