SAN ANTONIO – The first week of the new year saw two of the worst abuse cases involving children, both occurring within days of each other in Bexar and neighboring Hays counties.
Anais Biera Miracle, spokeswoman for the Children’s Shelter of San Antonio, said child advocates are very worried about the level of sadistic behavior targeting young victims.
“We’re seeing more cruelty to children,” she said, especially cases involving sexual abuse.
Javier Salazar, the new sheriff of Bexar County, said at a news conference two days after he was sworn in, “I can’t even begin to describe to you the level of depravity that went into this crime.”
He said a female family friend who had been caring for the child claimed the 1-year-old girl had been attacked by dogs. The woman is now charged with serious injury to a child by omission. A male friend of the woman is accused of super aggravated sexual assault of a child and repeatedly stabbing the toddler.
Two days later in Hays County, a woman was charged with mutilating and stabbing to death her 5-year-old daughter, and attacking her father-in-law.
“It’s one of the worst cases I’ve ever seen,” said Hays County Sheriff Gary Cutler.
Miracle said many believe that because the victims are so young, they’ll be resilient enough to recover.
“The reality is they can have long-term effects, whether it’s emotional, physical, social and psychological,” Miracle said.
But she said many of the scars aren’t evident until adolescence or even adulthood.
Those caring for the survivors who are suffering from post-traumatic stress after repeated abuse should seek mental health intervention for them, but even then it will be a lifelong struggle for many of the victims.
One of those agencies is ChildSafe, one of 70 in a statewide network of child advocacy centers.
Its data showed last year in Texas, 71 per cent of its cases involved sexual abuse, 95 percent of the abused knew the perpetrator and 25 percent weren’t old enough for kindergarten.
The Harvey Najim Hope Center, which is adjacent to the Children’s Shelter offers mental health services for survivors and their families.
“Mental health has to be part of the solution,” Miracle said.
She also urges neighbors, family, teachers or anyone who comes in contact with children to be aware of the possible signs of abuse.
Miracle said they should call 911 or the Texas Abuse Hotline at 1-800-252-5400.
The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services website states, “A person who reports abuse in good faith is immune from civil or criminal liability. DFPS keeps the name of the person making the report confidential. Anyone who does not report suspected abuse can be held liable for a misdemeanor or felony.”
“You could be saving a life,” she said.