The sentencing on Wednesday of a young man who was convicted of sexual predatory acts against two girls – one of whom was 8 and another was as young as 3 years old – brings to light the need for more comprehensive and better services to help young children recover from the trauma of sexual abuse.

The incident involving Javin Ross Garrido, 21, who was convicted in a case of pedophilia, is unfortunately not a rare case. Too often, we have heard of cases in Guam courts in which sexual predators prey on children known to them. The perpetrators often are family members of the children or men who have access to the children's homes.

For some reason, many children on Guam have been left vulnerable to such horrific abuse even in the confines of their home or in the care of people who are supposed to protect them from harm.

For these children, the emotional scars don't heal with the sentencing of a perpetrator. These children need a continuum of care for their mental health.

There have also been times when adults accused of victimizing children are released back into the community – exposing them to further risk of abuse.

What we need is a system that should get better in ensuring the victims are given all the mental health care they need. We need more health care professionals in this field. We need our school counselors to also pay closer attention to at-risk children who have been displaying signs of possible sexual abuse and/or self-harm. A lot of times our school counselors are among the first to raise the red flag and they need support with continuity of training and proper pay.

Victims need the government's help to keep them from falling into deeper despair. We must ensure they receive proper care so that they can survive the horrible acts they've been through.

Double tragedy

In the case of Garrido, who is only 21, and will serve 20 years in prison, we see another tragic situation.

As the defense described it, Garrido was still a child when he began experiencing signs of pedophilia.

A defense sentencing memorandum described him as having been afflicted by "demons that he could not control." Garrido was about 16 years old in the earliest incident listed in the indictments, but his defense attorney said certain charges were not filed due to his age; Garrido may have been as young as 13 when the incidents began. 

"I'm really sorry for what I've done," Garrido said at his sentencing, appearing to tear up on occasion. "All I ask is forgiveness and help. I'm really sorry."

In November 2019, Garrido pleaded guilty to first-degree criminal sexual conduct and second-degree criminal sexual conduct.  

Garrido could have gotten the help he needed when he was as young as 13. 

In prison, he must be protected from being victimized.

It's also a lesson for all of us. We need to not only say something but do something to intervene if we see a problem with the youth and younger children in our families and communities.

The quicker we act, the more likely tragedy can be averted on both sides.

Let's be vigilant.

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