Sex abuse on the rise among juveniles

By CHRISTINE BOATWRIGHT / Staff Writer

CALERA – Juvenile Court Judge Jim Kramer said he’s seeing an “explosion” of sexual abuse cases, probably up about “500 percent” in the last year.

Kramer, the chair of the Shelby County Drug Free Coalition, brought up the subject during a parent drug education forum at Concord Baptist Church in Calera May 16.

“We’re seeing 10- to 12-year-olds perpetrating on 3- to 4-year-olds,” he said. “The law has changed, and they can be a sex offender for the rest of their life.”

According to a law Gov. Robert Bentley passed in 2011, juvenile offenders who are charged with more serious sex crimes will have to register for life instead of the previously required 10 years.

Kramer attributed the rise to the effects of media, movies and video games, as well as cell phone and social media usage.

“It’s what they hear and see,” he said. “It’s always going to be a younger victim.”

“Kids, if given the opportunity, we know they make stupid mistakes,” he added. “They may not realize what they’re doing at the time, but we have a victim, two victims, really.”

When an incident of juvenile sexual abuse occurs, the perpetrator undergoes a risk assessment to see if he or she is a risk to the community. After treatment, the perpetrator undergoes a second assessment. According to Kramer, the court uses the second assessment to decide if the perpetrator is a community risk and if he or she should register as a sex offender.

If the perpetrator registers as a sex offender, he or she must report to the sheriff’s office yearly and follow other protocol set for sex offenders.

“Everything in juvenile court is confidential,” he said. “The crux of juvenile court recognizes kids make mistakes and shouldn’t be saddled (with those mistakes) as an adult.”