Texas takes child sexual assault cases very seriously, and penalties upon conviction could completely take away a defendant’s future. As the number of child sexual assault cases grow in the state, it is important to recall the nuances of sexual assault and domestic violence laws, especially if you might be facing related charges. In today’s blog, we talk about the rise of child sexual assault cases in Texas and the legal obligations surrounding a child sexual assault case.
Rising Numbers of Minor Sexual Assault in Texas
According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN), there has been a rise in the number of minors contacting the National Sexual Assault Hotline to report abuse. By the end of March this year, with much of the country under lockdown, there was a 22% increase in monthly calls from people younger than 18. Even within these past weeks alone, there have been frequent reports of sexual assault of a child in Texas, such as an Alief man sentenced to life in prison for continuous sexual assault (October 31, 2020) and child predator Jose Delarosa sentenced to 60 years in prison for sexually abusing a child’s sibling over the span of two years (October 26, 2020).
Of the young people who contacted the National Sexual Assault Hotline in March, in fact, Texas Public Radio has reported that 67% identified their perpetrator as a family member and 79% said they were currently living with that perpetrator.
While lockdown orders have been implemented primarily to protect public health and safety in the face of the virus, family homes may not be the safest place for every young person. RAINN reports that about 34% of child sexual abusers are family members, thus reducing the number of watchful eyes like teachers or nurses who are "mandatory reporters" required by law to report any suspicions of child abuse or neglect.
Nevertheless, the child welfare system is still operating even during the pandemic. This means that any official report of current and ongoing abuse will still trigger an investigation, and, if necessary, a child will be removed from the home. Following a roundtable with Congress, Texas will receive $163 million in federal formula funding to the state’s victim assistance and compensation programs, and an additional $1.5 million will go toward the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
Child Sexual Assault Laws in Texas
What Constitutes Child Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence?
Sexual assault against a child includes the intentionally or knowingly causing any of the following:
- penetration of the anus or sexual organ of a child by any means;
- penetration of the mouth of a child by the sexual organ of the actor;
- the sexual organ of a child to contact or penetrate the mouth, anus, or sexual organ of another person, including the actor;
- the anus of a child to contact the mouth, anus, or sexual organ of another person including the actor; or
- the mouth of a child to contact the anus or sexual organ of another person including the actor.
Domestic violence refers to any act of family violence by a member of a family or household against another member of the family or household that is intended to cause physical or emotional harm.
An individual, child or adult, may be a victim of family violence if:
- they are being pushed, shoved, slapped, bruised, kicked, strangled, or threatened with a weapon;
- they are verbally attacked or accused;
- their possessions are intentionally damaged;
- they are not allowed to come and go as they wish;
- they are being followed, harassed, or spied upon;
- they are forced to have sex or perform a degrading sexual act;
- they are kept in isolation.
Texas law requires that any person suspecting that a child has been abused or neglected must immediately make a report by calling the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) Texas Abuse Hotline at 1-800-252-5400 or online. It is extremely important for suspecting individuals to make a report as soon as possible, because the more time that passes between the incident and the report, the more difficult it is for Child Protective Services (CPS) to conduct an appropriate and thorough investigation and to gather the information needed to protect the child (e.g. physical evidence like bruises that may disappear or be obscured, memories that can fade).
There are cases where there is not immediately available evidence, but an individual might suspect the occurrence of such abuse. DFPS encourages people to report if they think that a child has been abused or neglected, and they are not expected to prove that abuse or neglect has definitely occurred; CPS will step in to examine the evidence and case during their investigation. As a result, there may be a gray area as individuals might jump to report an alleged assault without readily needing to provide evidence.
A report must detail the child’s condition when making a report, such as information on alleged injuries, medical problems, physical disabilities, intellectual development, and emotional or behavioral problems. If there is no visible injury, describe pain, tenderness, or the child’s description or feelings about the situation. These factors are important because a child’s age and current condition are important factors in determining the level of danger involved.
Note that there may be times when the person reporting has little information because an alleged incident was witnessed in a public place, such as a parking lot, store, restaurant, or school. In these cases, reporters might accidentally misidentify to CPS or falsely recognize an alleged perpetrator. It is critical to contact an experienced defense attorney in such a case, as no one should be convicted of a crime they did not commit.
Contact Attorney Brandon Sims for Legal Support
Sexual assault of a child is a very serious case that carries significant penalties, up to life in prison. Due to the recent rise in child sexual assault cases in Texas, it might be the case that you have been falsely accused of sexual assault of a child and are facing harsh repercussions. Contact Attorney Brandon Sims immediately if you have been charged with sexual assault of a child in Texas, as mandatory reports could have been made prematurely or falsely identified you.
Speak with Attorney Brandon Sims about your case at The Sims Law Firm, PLLC. Schedule your free consultation today!