JEFFERSON CITY - Anti-child abuse groups and attorneys told a special Missouri legislative joint-committee Thursday sexually abused children need better post-abuse care.
The state legislature created "The Task Force on the Prevention of Sexual Abuse of Children" during the 2011 session and is now looking into how the task force performed and improvements members think can be made. Everyone giving testimony agreed the state needs to use more resources to provide evidence-based care to victims of sexual abuse.
"The things I have heard, the things I have seen, there is no human being on earth that can experience that and not have some very long term health issues if the trauma is not addressed," said Emily van Schenkhof, deputy director of Missouri KidsFirst. "So one of the things the task force is really trying to promote is that any child that has been sexually abused or any child that has been traumatized that they have the ability to be part of an appropriate mental health intervention, and we spend some time trying to heal that child."
Schenkhof said the state needs to spend a higher proportion of money on the victims, rather than on the perpetrators of abuse. She said little-to-no evidence has shown it is possible to change the behavior of a sex offender older than 30.
Several guardians ad litem, or state attorneys representing children, said a program to better treat psychological issues of the sexually abused should be a top priority in revamping state funding on the issue.
"You watch the forensic interview, you hear the child speak, and that changes you," Missouri attorney Nicholas Mebruer said. "You know that that will permeate every aspect, every relationship that child will ever have [without adequate interventions]."
Schenkhof also said Missouri needs to protect forensic interview video footage of a child explaining their sexual abuse to trained officers. She said attorneys have requested those be used in open court in the past.
"We have fears that if we fail to protect these interviews, that they could one day end up on YouTube."
All of the lawyers testifying before the special committee said the state needs to do a better job reuniting children currently in state care with their families.
"Usually, no matter how egregious the offense is, the child always wants to go back to their family," Mebruer said.
Mebruer said many children in state care have parents accused of child neglect and drug-related offenses. But he said often only one of the parents has issues, and he thinks juvenile judges should be given power to grant custody to parents that want their children back.
This was only an informational hearing, so no action was taken by the committee.