Before the Virginia General Assembly adjourned this year, it took up the issue of child sexual abuse and whether Virginia laws effectively deter the crime or prosecute the offender.
Months later, members of the State Crime Commission are faced with the daunting task of reviewing the laws, and making recommendations, without weakening current law.
One of the major challenges is the coordination between Child Protective Services and Law Enforcement. Crime Commission members told stories about alleged perpetrators who were accidentally " tipped off" and eluded investigators because teachers, administrators, or other concerned parties contacted CPS before law enforcement was notified.
"What's happened for decades is that because caretaker abuse has been triaged to Social Services and they've been put in a first responder position with no authority to collect evidence and to use traditional law enforcement investigative techniques like polygraph, knock and talk, those types of things, that it really sets back almost half of all child sexual abuse investigations,” said Camille Cooper who works with the victims advocacy group PROTECT.
Cooper says each agency is simply following state mandates. The commission will now work to restructure the code so that the agencies are more collaborative.