Boone County, Ark. authorities combatting sexual assault cases
HARRISON, Ark. (KY3) - The Boone County Quorum Court met Tuesday to discuss a funding ordinance for the prosecuting attorney’s office for overtime pay for victim-witness coordinators.
In the last six years, Boone County has seen a steep increase in sex crime related cases. Prosecuting Attorney David Ethredge says this is the result of growing efforts by several agencies in the county to not let these crimes go unseen.
”The ordinance came about because what we have experienced in Boone County in recent time is an increase in crime against children and sexual crimes against ladies an girls during the last several years.,” said Ethredge.
The new ordinance will be paid overtime for victim witness coordinators, an issue that has come about from an increase in sexual assault cases. The county says aid from law enforcement utilization of victim witness services has brought more prosecutions. Since 2015, Boone County has seen a 512% increase in sex crimes and a 153% increase in cases overall.
”I believe that the abuse has always been taking place,” said April Benefiel, the victim witness coordinator. “But the education that has gone out, kind of the focus of hey we know this is happening and we’re not going to stand for it to take place has changed a lot of things.”
“That team effort with great participation from not only the Boone County Sheriff’s office and the Harrison Police Department, but other victim witness services in our community, that has made those numbers increase because were now able to properly able to identify them and address them,” said Ethredge.
One of those victim witness services is Grandma’s House, a children’s advocate program in Harrison. The program provides four services: advocacy, forensic interviews, pediatric-focused sexual assault medical exams, and trauma focused therapy.
”When there are allegations that a child has been abused law enforcement such as investigators, DHS, or individuals from the prosecutor’s office can bring a child and their non-offending caregivers here to give these children their best shot at justice and at hope and healing,” said Kaleigh Evans, community development and education coordinator for Grandma’s House.
Officials hope increased prosecution and education on sexual assault will bring better future results.
”Hopefully we will eventually see a decrease because of the things we are doing,” said Benefiel.
”We know how to prosecute, but we have to make sure victims know we care about them and want to help them,” said Ethredge.
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