System needs total overhaul to protect children from sex predators

STAND UP: The April 24 protest against sexual assault asks participants to stand and raise one hand with the word "Enough" written on the palm of their hand. Photo courtesy of Guam Family Justice Center

In light of the recent sexual assaults on children, tomorrow's community action or walkout to send a message that the island should say "Enough" of these crimes should signal the beginning of change. 

It is an outrage that a 10-year-old girl experienced the nightmare of being kidnapped on her way to school and then later allegedly raped under the threat of a gun. And the suspect had past convictions for kidnapping and raping or sexually assaulting two 14-year-old girls, a 13-year-old girl and an 18-year-old girl in the mid-1990s near school bus stops.

The change needs to be comprehensive and should involve senators looking at whether the laws are too lenient on criminals who prey on children.

The retrospection should include the judicial branch's internal review of judges' decisions on how long a convicted child sex predator should be in prison, and for a suspect awaiting trial, whether the defendant should be released back into the community temporarily.

The executive branch must do its job of ensuring these children victims are provided the resources to get help from mental health professionals so that someday they may recover from the trauma. The executive branch must equip the Guam Police Department with enough manpower, tools and training to adequately handle sex crimes against children.

Guam's Parole Board needs to do a better job of evaluating whether a sex offender, once released from prison, will not slip back and become a sexual predator preying on children again.

Regular citizens in our community play a role, too. A number of the children victims of sexual assault on Guam have been victimized by people known to them, including relatives and others these kids are supposed to trust.

Teachers and school counselors have done a good job of alerting authorities when they see possible signs of abuse including normally well-behaved students acting up, showing up in school drunk, or with signs of bruises and other injuries from having to put up a fight against sexual assault.

When the children are not in school, we as neighbors, relatives or friends should speak up when we see a child behaving in a way that raises suspicions that they might be victims of sexual predators.

It's good that the community is taking action to say "Enough."

And for all three of our branches of local government, this should be a steppingstone to action, rather than a one-day event.

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