April is Child Abuse Prevention and Sexual Assault Awareness month
The News Staff Reports
ATHENS–On the eve of Child Abuse Prevention and Sexual Assault Awareness month, the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office reports a number of recent arrests of persons charged with victimizing children.
A 32-year-old woman is being held in the Henderson County Law Enforcement Center on an $100,000 bond for Sexual Assault of a Child.
During the course of an investigation that began on Good Friday (March 25), it was determined that the woman (to remain unnamed at the victim’s family’s request) has been having an ongoing sexual relationship with a teenage boy, below the age of consent. The age of consent in the state of Texas is 17.
Subsequently, a press release stated, she was charged with the second degree felony and booked into the jail on March 26. Justice of the Peace Milton Adams set the bond amount.
Deputy Ray Yockey took the initial call and investigators Wick Gabbard and Cayce Hampton were called in to assist.
No other information was released in the interest of protecting the victim.
Ten days prior to this arrest (March 15), Deputy Meagan Hogan was dispatched in a complaint involving a child younger than 10 years old. The case was assigned to Hampton for investigation. Evidence developed supported probable cause for the arrest of 64-year-old Phillip Hestily (See photo, page 2A), a resident in the Seven Points area.
He was charged with Indecency with Child Sexual Contact, a second degree felony. He is being held on a bond totaling $100,000.
The Henderson County Child Advocacy Center, which specializes in interviewing children, assisted in the investigation.
Toward the end of February, the Smith County Sheriff referred a similar case to the Henderson County Sheriff. Statements from two victims of past continuous sexual abuse came to light against Jonathan Ray Dickens, now 34 years old (see page 2A for photo).
On March 22, Dickens was located and arrested on two counts of Continuous Sexual Abuse of Young Child or Children.
He is being held on bonds totaling $300,000. The first degree felony is punishable by a minimum of 25 years in prison and a maximum sentence of 99 years, upon conviction.
The East Texas Crisis Center, The HELP Center of Athens, Family Peace Project and Henderson County Child Advocacy Center are holding an event in conjunction with law enforcement and the Commissioners Court to declare April as Child Abuse and Sexual Assault Awareness month.
The declaration is set for noon Tuesday, April 2 on the courthouse steps in Athens. The wearing of clothing and or ribbons that are royal blue for Child Abuse Prevention and teal for Sexual Assault Awareness is expected to be on display throughout the month.
The District Attorney’s Office has been going into the schools encouraging fourth, fifth and sixth grade students to help their friends who confide in them of abuse by reporting it to teachers and administrators; so their friends can get the help and protection they need.
The ETCC offers support groups for women trying to break the cycle of sexual violence and it along with the Family Peace Project offers emergency shelter to those fleeing domestic violence. Legal advocacy is also available.
“We’re here for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault with counseling and a listening ear,” Family Peace Project Executive Director Marlena Taylor said.
Organization like these can always use financial support from the public they serve, along with donations of personal care items. These may be reached through calling the HELP Center at (903) 675-4357.