AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) - Just last year, The Bridge, a child advocacy group servicing the Panhandle, saw close to 1,000 children who had been continuously sexually assaulted. It's a problem that is far too common in our area.
But, with the introduction of a new statute, it's making it easier to put guilty people behind bars. Shelly Bohannon knows first hand the impact sexual assault can have on a child. She is the Managing Forensic Interviewer at The Bridge in Amarillo, which gives children who have been sexually abused or assaulted a chance to tell their story. "It's hard for children to isolate those incidents, specifically one from another, if it's been going on for a long time," Bohannon said.
She believes the State's statue developed in 2007 is another step in the right direction to stop sexual abuse in Texas. "That statute is just another tool that we have in helping to protect children from sexual assault," she said.
Since it was developed, Robert Love, the First Assistant District Attorney for Randall County says the statue has helped make prosecuting sexual abuse cases easier. "It allowed us to prosecute cases where children didn't remember the exact date of the offense. Before we had to prove on or around a specific day and it caused a lot of problems because the reality is kids don't keep calendars," Love told us.
Sentencing can range from 25 years to life in prison. But, there is something else unique about this statute, that makes it different than other sexual abuse punishments. "There is no parole. Whoever is convicted of this crime, has to serve the sentence day for day. If you get a 50 year sentence, it means 50 years," Love said.
Love says the punishment helps put those who are guilty behind bars, and out of the way of children who can so easily become victims. "We're not talking about the Romeo and Juliet dating relationship for a high school senior and a high school freshman. We're talking about hardcore child molesters that are going out and doing this on a repeated basis with one or more victims," he said.
The continuous sexual abuse of a young child statute specifically protects children under the age of 14.
Colleen Nelson - NewsChannel 10