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Where we live: Who’s watching out for the kids?

Published April 20. 2019 06:08AM

If it’s a bright, sunny day when you’re reading this, and you’re in a great mood, you might want to skip this column. Because I’m writing it and I’m angry.

The topic is ugly.

I have a serious question: Who’s watching out for the children?

I ask after charges were filed against a local police officer and a 28-year-old man accused of raping a young girl. It’s disturbing enough that the offenses are said to have occurred, but that they have been knowingly occurring for years; apparently well over a decade.

Obviously I’m in no position to judge the two men who are charged. And this isn’t about their guilt or innocence.

It’s about the people who didn’t do enough to help a child who cried out for help.

The arrest occurred recently, but the incidents came to light some seven years ago.

The victim said she had been subjected to sexual assault since she was about 4.

It was reported she told a substitute teacher about being assaulted, but no prosecution occurred. The substitute teacher did the right thing and reported it to the proper authorities. Yet, the rapes and assaults are reported to have continued.

So much for turning to a trusted adult for help, although it’s not the teacher’s fault.

In May 2012, when the victim was 12, Children and Youth Services received a complaint about the girl being assaulted. That was nearly seven years ago.

The affidavit detailing the charges says that on May 16, 2012, the girl was interviewed on video and she said one of the men touched her inappropriately on numerous occasions and showed her pornography.

One of the people charged was interviewed by police in Franklin Township on May 18, 2012. It was over a year later before the man was questioned in the presence of his attorney. What was happening to the child during this span?

Again, no charges were filed.

Incidentally, the police officer who was arrested had previously worked part-time in Franklin Township as well as in other municipalities. This isn’t implying anything. It’s just an observation. And there is a new chain of command in the township.

In 2015 a criminal investigation finally began, years after the child complained to a teacher. A criminal complaint against one of the men was filed at that time, but it was dismissed by a magistrate because the paperwork contained an error.

Finally, in August 2018, the case was revisited by a Franklin Township police officer. A big “thank you” to this officer. Because now things moved relatively quickly.

The officer consulted with the Carbon County District Attorney’s office, who then contacted the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office.

And finally, charges have been filed. But most of the victim’s young childhood has passed while possibly enduring repeated assault. Again, even though she reported it to an adult and even though police got involved.

Why did this have to take so long?

Did the child’s parents or guardians do anything to make the youngster safe? I don’t know all the facts. It’s just something I’ve been thinking about — and so have other people.

Should the original investigators be subject to scrutiny about their inability as police officers to properly handle such complaints?

No child should have to endure what is reported to have happened to this victim.

Those prosecuting the accused men must not only look into what must be done to put them behind bars for a long time if they are found guilty, but also the reason the little girl wasn’t made to feel safe during all those years.

Child abuse happens. And prosecutions thankfully occur.

I’ve covered many court cases involving child abuse. Sometimes it’s a difficult thing to prove.

But after reading about this case, it makes one wonder if there’s anything young victims can do to get out of such situations. Who is there to help them in a timely fashion?

Obviously we don’t know all the facts. The case has not come to trial.

However, the charges against a police officer — who children are taught to trust — and another adult are extremely upsetting.

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