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Child abuse on the rise

Sheriff’s Special Victims Bureau investigates increasing number of sex, physical crimes in SCV

Posted: December 19, 2009 7:57 p.m.
Updated: December 20, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 
Detective Rich Simmons handles all types of child abuse cases, but it's the ones involving the youngest victims that haunt him when he goes home.

"When I see a 2-year-old that's been beaten to the verge of death by somebody that's supposed to care for them ... that's the one I have a hard time leaving (at) the office at the end of the day," said the detective of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Special Victims Bureau.

Simmons handles physical and sexual abuse crimes against Santa Clarita Valley children from his bungalow office at the local sheriff's station.

While the valley is not known for its high-profile cases, it is not immune to its share of child abuse, Simmons said.

Manila envelopes containing about 19 active cases covered Simmons' desk last week. Those included three new ones placed on his desk that morning, said the detective, who is part of the north team that covers the Santa Clarita and Antelope valleys.

The team investigated 142 sexual abuse cases and 97 physical abuse cases in the Santa Clarita Valley last year, according to data released from the bureau. That is an increase from 125 sexual abuse cases and 86 physical abuse cases in 2005.

This year's numbers appear to be continuing the upward trend. From Jan. 1 through Oct. 31, the team already investigated 132 sexual abuse cases and 81 physical abuse cases.

That is an increase from last year's numbers during the same period - 115 sexual abuse cases and 73 physical abuse cases.

One change detectives have seen over the past 10 years is that there are now more cases of sexual abuse than of physical abuse, said Sgt. Brian Hudson, who heads the team.

"It wasn't always that way," Hudson said. "I think there's more awareness about sexual abuse of children than maybe there was in the past. Back then it was a taboo subject that family members didn't want to talk about, whereas society has changed."

Hudson said social networking Web sites like Myspace.com and Facebook.com have also added to the number of sexual abuse cases for the bureau over the past four or five years.

The Web sites allow children and adults to easily lie about their ages, turning face-to-face meetings into risky situations, he said.

Still, the majority of the cases local detectives handle stem from deep-rooted family secrets about abuse that has sometimes been going on for years, Simmons said.

"The child has a story to tell and they have a hard time telling it, or at least getting people to believe them," Simmons said. "The task is to give that child a voice. Ultimately that's our job ... to be there for the kid."

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