Tuesday, the Lubbock County District Attorney's Office presented several cases involving abuse against children. After reviewing the evidence, a grand jury indicted five people for various sexual crimes. The indictments ranged from Injury to a Child to Indecency with a Child/Indecent Exposure to Sexual Contact. Investigators with Child Protective Services say they're not surprised.
CPS Supervisor Shawn Vandygriff says 1,328 victims of child abuse or neglect were confirmed in Lubbock County in 2012. Lubbock has the highest child abuse rates in Texas, with 18 cases for every 1000 children in the county. But Vandygriff says it's misleading to make comparisons between cities with varying population sizes.
"Not to say Lubbock doesn't have a huge child abuse problem, but statistics are kind of funny when you compare different sizes and populations," Vandygriff said.
One indictment was for 30-year old Humberto Martinez, who was arrested last week for inappropriately touching his girlfriend's 9-year-old daughter at the Mahon Library. Vandygriff says sexual abuse is almost never random.
"It's hard to believe that children are being sexually abused here in Lubbock and on the South Plains by people they know," Vandygriff says.
Vandygriff also says victim and abuser ties often make these cases difficult to investigate.
"It's a taboo topic because a lot of times it's people that they know or their family members and there could be threats involved," Vandygriff says.
But, according to Vandygriff, there are certain key behaviors that are signs of sexual abuse. Vandygriff says if a child exhibits "a wide range of sexual behavior, trauma or inappropriate sexual knowledge," it must be seriously considered that there may be abuse present.
However, sexual abuse isn't the most prevalent form of abuse. 60% of CPS cases last year dealt with neglect and according to Vandygriff, it is a universal problem.
"It happens all over Lubbock County and all over the South Plains. It doesn't matter where you live or how much money you have," Vandygriff says.
And she adds there's really only one way to begin to stop the cycle:
"Awareness is so important. We can talk about numbers and numbers represent kids, but even one number is unacceptable."
April is Child Abuse Awareness Month. To report any form of child abuse call: 1-800-252-5400.
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