Sex assaults of a child on rise in area

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How to report:

Craig Police Department:

— Call the main office at 826-2360 or dispatch at 824-8111

Advocates-Crisis Support Services:

— Call the 24-hour crisis hotline at 824-2400

— Call the main office at 824-9709

Sexual assault cases against children have been trending upward, the Craig Police Department reported, prompting police to raise community awareness of the issue.

Investigator Jen Kenney said child sex assault cases have been increasing since about 2005.

Kenney said the number of reported incidents of sexual assaults in the area are “concerning” compared to similar communities, “especially when it comes to sexual assaults on children.”

The police department and Moffat County Sheriff’s Office have had 27 reports of sexual assaults of a child under 18 through September, police investigator Carolyn Miller said.

Including adult cases of sexual assault, both departments have received 39 reports through September.

However, not all of the cases have been on females. Of the 39 sexual assault reports, seven of the victims have been males, Miller said.

Miller said there were about 45 reports of sexual assault last year.

Sexual assault of a child is defined in several ways, two of which are often “misunderstood and go unrecognized, even by some parents,” Kenney said.

According to Colorado Revised Statutes, if a victim younger than age 15 is engaged in a sexual act with a person at least four years older than the victim and is not their spouse, it is considered a sexual assault.

Sexual assault can also be if a victim at least age 15, but younger than age 17, engages in a sexual act with a person at least 10 years older than the victim and is not the spouse of the victim.

The police department, Kenney said, must act on reports of sexual assault if the victim is younger than age 18.

Parents need to be aware that the ramifications of a sexual assault can be “huge,” Kenney said, even if the relationship is considered consensual by the parents.

“We don’t have a choice, it is against the law,” she said of investigating sexual assault reports. “We can’t choose to say, ‘Oh, your parents thought this was OK,’ — that is not what is written in the Colorado Revised Statutes.

“So, we then have to write that up, send it to the (District Attorney’s) office and that (person) may have to register as a sex offender.”

When asked why the numbers of sexual assaults of a child were increasing in the area, Police Department Com-

mander Bill Leonard said he wishes he had answers.

Moreover, Leonard said parents are important in helping stem the problem by educating their children “that it is a crime.”

Police Chief Walt Vanatta said parents should have conversations with their children about the potential consequences of sex at an earlier age.

“You didn’t worry about that conversation until they got into high school, now they need to be worrying about that conversation in grade school,” he said.

Vanatta attributed part of the growing number of sexual assaults to society’s view on sex.

“Our society has changed so much, and our kids … just view (sex) as another activity versus the long term impacts of the results of that activity,” he said.

Kenney said one of the reasons for the recent increase in the number of reported sexual assault cases might be a result of victims becoming more comfortable reporting incidents to authorities.

“If you successfully prosecute or somebody comes forward and has a positive experience in coming forward as a victim … and it is not such a scary thing, I think that will bring more people forward, or we hope,” she said.

Residents wanting to report a sexual assault have several options. Residents may contact the police department by calling 826-2360 or by using the Ask-A-Cop link on craigpolice.org.

Residents may also contact Advocates-Crisis Support Services, a support and assistance program for victims of crime and trauma, by calling the 24-hour crisis line at 824-2400.

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