Gov. Perry: Strong Laws, Victim Support Essential to Fighting Sexual Assault
Thank you, Anita, for that introduction and for all you've done for the women of Texas as First Lady.
Senator Cornyn, thank you for being here as well.
It's a privilege to be here today as we honor John and Weisie Steen two people who have done so much to ease the suffering of our state's sexual abuse survivors.
I suppose it's human nature to discuss those things that are simply too horrible to imagine in terms of statistics, trends, and numbers.
While numbers can tell a compelling story, they can mask the reality that each victim of sexual assault is a person a daughter a son a brother or a sister.
The physical wounds of sexual assault can heal over time but the unseen damage can linger for years or even lifetimes.
That truth makes this group so important. TAASA's work has resulted in more effective laws relating to sexual assault programs to raise awareness of this blight on society and, ultimately, better lives for survivors of such a nightmare.
I am proud to have partnered with TAASA and other advocacy groups across the state to strengthen the laws relating to these intensely personal crimes.
I am proud to have signed Jessica's Law in 2007 which enables judges to sentence the worst child predators to life in prison without parole forever removing them from society and eliminating the threat they pose.
I recently called upon the Legislature to expand Jessica's Law to make life without parole an option for our state's worst sexual offenders whether the victim was a child or an adult.
I hope they'll make that a priority in the upcoming session but we have been taking other steps that don't require legislative approval.
For example, the Criminal Justice Division in my office set aside $500,000 to fund Crime Stoppers rewards including the Ten Most Wanted Sex Offender program which increases awareness of at-large sex offenders and rewards citizens who provide tips leading to their capture.
As you would expect, Texans have responded quickly to this information and incentive turning in 6 of the top 10 fugitives within the program's first two and a half months.
Sadly, it's not hard to re-fill that Top 10 with other criminals.
To turn up the heat on these fugitives even further I've directed members of my team to work with the Department of Public Safety, the Attorney General and local law enforcement in creating apprehension teams to track down sex offenders with outstanding warrants.
While these agencies already work together these focused teams will improve cooperation and communication and significantly increase the odds of apprehension.
We're also making better use of technology to track those who have been convicted of sexual assault expanding its use to include all the most dangerous assailants currently on parole.
I've directed the TDCJ Parole Division to work with the Board of Pardons and Paroles to expand the use of their monitoring systems that can immediately alert authorities when a paroled sex offender is somewhere they're not supposed to be say, within a certain distance from a school or an individual.
Under my directive not just some, but all sex offenders currently under supervision and rated as "high risk" will be actively tracked to make sure they're living up to the terms of their release.
I hope the legislature will agree with me that all "high risk" sex offenders should be actively tracked for three years after they've served their sentences ensuring they comply with registration requirements.
Aggressive actions like these can cut down on the occurrence of sexual assault in Texas and limit the number of victims.
Anyone who doubts the motivation behind our efforts need only meet a survivor like our next speaker to know that it is worth every hour we work every law we pass and every dollar we spend.
When she was only 8 years old, she was dragged from her bedroom horribly assaulted and left for dead.
Demonstrating the strength of the human spirit, she survived she regained her voice and set out in search of justice.
She spent almost two decades pursuing her assailant with the help of investigators like Detective Tim Cromie, who is here with us today.
At long last, all that dedication and hard work finally paid off when her assailant was arrested in another state and charged in her case.
Her story of bringing her assailant to justice inspires us all but we're even more amazed at her resilience, her refusal to be defined by a crime, and her boldness in speaking the truth.
She is not a statistic, but a real life example of the survivor's spirit.
We are deeply honored to have her with us here today.
Please join me in welcoming Ms. Jennifer Schuett.
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