Fall Brings Rise in Sexual Abuse Cases

By Camaron Abundes   
NewsWest 9

ODESSA- The start of a new school year may bring a spike in sexual abuse cases, according to the child advocacy group Harmony Home.

"August, September, and October when the kids go back to school have traditionally been our highest months." Executive Director Rodney Hall said he expects to see more children walk through their doors over the next few months.

"Once school starts up, you have kids who are eager to see their friends, they want to talk about what happened over the summer and there is an opportunity to tell someone if some type of abuse has taken place." Hall said trained staff member interviewers offer those children who are ready to talk about sexual abuse or sexual assault, an ear, while police watch the process from another room.

"We want the child to feel like this is their place, and this is their time to tell their story," Hall said.

So far in 2009, more kids are telling their stories at Harmony Home, Hall says the cases are up by 15 percent, but reminds parents that two out of three child victims never talk about abuse.

"If you suspect or even if you don't suspect but you see a change in behavior, ask about what's going on---talk to your children," Hall recommended.

The Emergency Medical Director at Medical Center Hospital, Dr. Michael Simmons, says most often the cases they see aren't rape but some other form of sexual abuse by a family member.

"It can be anybody," Dr. Simmons said DNA evidence is helping to offer hope to victims of all ages and sexual crimes.

"There is wonderful new technology if we can just find one cell. Then we can send it for DNA analysis." Dr. Simmons said the samples will be sent to the Texas Attorney General's Office where it will be shipped off, cataloged, and compared to DNA samples from hundreds of thousands of convicted rapists and sexual offenders across the country.

"If they were a sexual predator and they were previously convicted, we just need one cell, one single cell and matched up," he said.