The latest statics released by Child Protective Services (CPS) reports that more than 2,300 children and teens were removed from their homes for incidents including sexual abuse, child abuse and neglect in 2017. It marks the most removals for Bexar County in ten years.
"Thank God that they arrested this individual and he allegedly admitted to having weekly relations with this child," Yolanda Valenzuela said.
Police Arrested Juan Rivera for abusing a teen for more than four years, according to the affidavit. The victim told police the sexual abuse started when she was 13 years old and living with her foster family.
Valenzuela serves on the Bexar County Child Welfare Board and has dedicated more than a decade of her life to helping abused and neglected children.
"Somebody eventually believed this child, but it took a long time," Valenzuela said.
She says it's critical to believe children/teens when they make a cry for help. "Believe them until you can prove them wrong," Valenzuela said. "The community has to take action and stop these children from being abused and re-victimized and re-victimized."
Last year, Governor Greg Abbot signed four major bills into law to address the child welfare system crisis. Valenzuela says the bills helped increase pay for CPS workers and reduce the turnover rate.
"It helps the case workers remain on those cases for longer periods of time and they get relationships with the kids," Valenzuela said.
Valenzuela urges the community to take action if they believe a child is in danger. "Somebody else may not get involved,” Valenzuela said. “You may be saving that child's life by saying something or making that call."
Rivera was charged with trafficking persons under 18.
National Sexual Violence Resource Center facts
• One in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18 years old
• 30% of women were between the ages of 11 and 17 at the time of their first completed rape
• 12.3% of women were age 10 or younger at the time of their first completed rape victimization
• 27.8% of men were age 10 or younger at the time of their first completed rape victimization
• More than one third of women who report being raped before age 18 also experience rape as an adult
• 96% of people who sexually abuse children are male, and 76.8% of people who sexually abuse children are adults
• 34% of people who sexually abuse a child are family members of the child
• It is estimated that 325,000 children per year are currently at risk of becoming victims of commercial child sexual exploitation
• The average age at which girls first become victims of prostitution is 12-14 years old, and the average age at which boys first become victims of prostitution is 11-13 years old
• Only 12% of child sexual abuse is ever reported to the authorities