BURNET, Texas (KXAN) - The case dockets for district courts in Llano and BurnetCounties are almost booked with cases until 2011.
Burnet County victims advocates reported a 67% increase inchild sexual abuse cases from 2007 until 2009, meaning these casesare coming into the criminal court system quicker than they can betried, resulting in a backlog.
"We have a major problem out here, " Deborah Keith,executive director of the Hill CountryChildren's Advocacy Center located near Downtown Burnet, toldKXAN twoweeks ago. "Major, and it is getting worse."
"It keeps me awake at night, wondering what I am going to dowith the 92 child abuse cases we have," explained District AttorneySam Oatman.
Oatman said his office is short-staffed and he needs to fillempty offices with qualified lawyers before these cases can betried.
He has two assistant district attorney positions he has yet tofill.
"I don't have the tools to do the job that I need to do,"Oatman added.
Funding, however, is not in place to hire more help. Oatman believes another drawback is luring lawyers to the Llanoarea to work.
A limited number judges and available courtrooms is adding tothe problem.
"The judges are doing the best they can, but they have otherthings to do to. We've got robberies, we've got murders, we have acapital murder case going in San Saba," Oatman said.
The backlog was seen last week when Michael Backstrom, 54, aformer karate instructor in Marble Falls, was found guilty ofraping two teen girls.
Backstrom was first arrested in 2008.
Oatman plans on writing the Attorney General's Office to requestattorneys be sent to the area to help alleviate the problem.
He also hopes plea deals lessen the caseload and estimateswithout the above mentioned coming to fruition, it is likely onlyfour child sexual assault cases will be tried before the end of theyear.
Guidelines put out by the AG's office offer warning signs ofsuspected sexual child abuse, including:
- Physical signs of sexually-transmitted diseases
- Evidence of injury to the genital area
- Difficulty in walking or sitting
- Frequent expressions of sexual activity between adults and children
- Pregnancy in a young girl
- Extreme fear of being alone with adults, especially if of a particular gender
- Sexually suggestive, age inappropriate or promiscuous behavior
- Knowledge about sexual relations beyond what is appropriate for the child's age
- Sexual victimization of other children
- Complaints of painful urination
Keith advises anyone who needs help, knows about or suspectschild abuse to report it to authorities immediately.
She suggests either calling 911 or the 24-hour Child AbuseHotline at 800-252-5400.
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