ETX family upset by juvenile justice system

(KYTX) -- An East Texas mom is trying to help her 7-year-old daughter deal with being sexually assaulted. She told CBS 19 it's been an uphill battle thanks to state laws that limit punishment for young offenders.

"We set [my daughter] down and she outcried to us and we let her know, we reassured her, that she would not be in any trouble and what happened to her was not her fault," April Hurst said.

For Hurst, hearing adult thoughts coming out of the mouth of her child was torture.

"All the, the gory, horrific details," she said. "Its something you never think you're going to hear."

Hurst could barely tell us about it--and there's a lot we can't share with you.

"This was the little girl who played with her Barbies and watched her princess movies and now she has these horrible images in her head and so do I," Hurst said. "We don't sleep."

The little girl's attacker was under 18, so by law Gregg County county can't acknowledge that he exists.

"The doctor who evaluated him ultimately deemed that he was low risk of ever repeating," Hurst said.

She said that evaluation kept her daughter' s attacker out of jail.

"We are somewhat different from the adult system due to the fact that every youth we receive will be returning back to their community," Texas Department of Juvenile Justice spokesperson Jim Hurley said. "So our goal is to rehabilitate."

Chapter 54.04 of the Texas Family Code says a teen who commits the continuous sexual abuse of a child can get up to forty years in jail. But probation is also an option--if the court agrees.

Hurley said that's at least partly based on an assessment that decides whether the teen will do it again.

"What we look at are the crimes that they committed, we look at all the risk factors that are present in the youth's life, and how we can best reduce those risk factors," Hurley said.

Hurst said it feels a lot like the law is helping the offender instead of the victim.

Her daughter has been asking what happened to the boy who hurt her.

"[Victim's advocates are] telling me I need to tell her so she can find closure in that. But I don't know," Hurst said. "What do I tell her? No, baby. He got to go home. They let him out of jail and he got to go home."

April and her daughter are both living out of the East Texas area. Her daughter's attacker lives in Gregg County.

April said the attacker was close to the family, but now there's no chance her daughter will be anywhere near him.

We tried to contact the attacker's family for this story. We were not able to get in contact with them.


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