Child Sexual Abuse Task Force Shut Down
House State Affairs Committee Votes Against Funding
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A South Dakota House committee has approved a measure aimed at making child sexual abuse reporting clearer but has defeated a plan to authorize more time to study how to address the issue in South Dakota.
The panel voted 10-2 against a proposal to allow the Jolene’s Law Task Force to continue working this year. It’s a move that shocked task force members and left child advocates wondering why.
The panel is named after Jolene Loetscher, of Sioux Falls, who was a victim of sexual abuse as a teenager.
“I stood on the door step of the man who abused me and I looked at him and I said I will not be quiet and I will not be quiet now either,” said Loetscher.
Ten of the twelve members of the House State Affairs Committee decided against spending the $21,000 dollars it would have taken to keep the task force running.
“To hear this committee say that child sexual abuse isn’t as big a priority as transportation is so painful,” said Loetscher.
She says the task force just wanted one more year to finish what they started.
“Their vote and their actions say to the victims, we don’t care about your pain, we don’t care about studying this, and we don’t care about stopping it”, said Loetscher. “And it says to pedophiles and rapists, you just keep doing what you are doing because we’re not going to do anything to stop you,”
Some of the things the task force was working on included K-12 education, how to talk to kids about abuse and higher education as in educating nurses, teachers and social workers about the warning signs.
The task force was also pushing for the creation of a sexual abuse minor at a South Dakota university, and a public service campaign to raise awareness.
Loetscher says people may not realize that one in five children will be a victim of sexual abuse by the time they are 18.
“I don’t want any other child to feel so isolated and hurt by the actions of someone else that they think they have no other choice or hope in this world,” she said. “That’s what the task force was doing, was giving hope and possibility to kids and families that we could, would and will stop this from being the epidemic it has become.”
Loetscher says she’s not sure what their next step will be, but she will keep working to help kids and convict their abusers.