Texas invests $60 million to combat child abuse
EARLY, Texas - Gov. Greg Abbott announced this week the state will be investing more than $60 million to get more aggressive on fighting child abuse.
In a press released issued on Thursday, Abbott said the state's Criminal Justice Division will be awarding a $4.6 million supplemental grant to Child Advocacy Centers of Texas. The grant comes in addition to the $56.3 million given to the organization last fall.
The Heart of Texas Children's Advocacy Center in Brown County is one of 71 CACs around the state that stands to benefit. Executive Director Christy Robinson said they've seen a spike in the number of reported cases.
"June of 2013 was our first interview and we've interviewed 900 children during that time," Robinson said.
The center, located in Early, covers six rural counties, including Brown. Before that location opened in late 2012, law enforcement agencies had to travel to Abilene or Burnett for the closest CAC.
CACs interview victims of abuse for law enforcement and give guidance as their cases make the way through the criminal justice system. They also provide victims with essential services such as arranging for housing or schooling.
Robinson said most of the kids they see are sexually abused girls.
"In this area itself, they are very hard on perpetrators of sexual assault," Robinson said. "Their sentences are higher, they take it very serious."
In December, Richard Leach, 40, will go to trial for allegedly sexually abusing a Brownwood girl for more than 5 years. He's scheduled to appear in the 35th Judicial District Court on Dec. 4.
Most recently, Sebastian Contreras, 22, of Brownwood was sentenced to 14 years in federal prison for downloading child porn.
Robinson said 90 percent of child sex abuse victims know their abuser, which is a statistic Early Police Detective Brandon McMillian strongly agrees with.
He said the number of reported child sex abuse cases are going up, although he doesn't have an answer as to why.
"It really bothers me. I have kids that are the same age or younger than the victims that we have," McMillian said.
He said the majority of sex abuse victims he deals with range from 10 to 12 years old.