Child sex crime cases on the rise; victim speaks out about impac

Child sex crime cases on the rise; victim speaks out about impact

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"The overwhelming amount of guilt and shame and low self-esteem, thinking that you're never going to be good enough," said victim Regina Shelton. "The overwhelming amount of guilt and shame and low self-esteem, thinking that you're never going to be good enough," said victim Regina Shelton.
"There's more of a push now to educate children. There's more of a push to tell them to report, so reporting may have gone up," said Assistant DA Charme Knight. "There's more of a push now to educate children. There's more of a push to tell them to report, so reporting may have gone up," said Assistant DA Charme Knight.
"This is not boyfriend-girlfriend. This is not something casual. These offenders are hardcore sex offenders. 12,000 are classified as violent offenders," said Agent Margie Quin with the TBI. "This is not boyfriend-girlfriend. This is not something casual. These offenders are hardcore sex offenders. 12,000 are classified as violent offenders," said Agent Margie Quin with the TBI.

By STEPHANIE BEECKEN
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - The number of people convicted of sexually abusing children is on the rise in Knox County and across the state.

Statewide around 150 people are added to the sex offender registry each month. The number of child sex offender cases in Knox County has more than tripled in the last four years.

Regina Shelton came from what appeared to be the perfect home and privileged life, but from the age of two to nine she was sexually abused by a family member. The abuse has impacted almost every day of her life.

"The overwhelming amount of guilt and shame and low self-esteem, thinking that you're never going to be good enough," said Shelton.

Shelton never reported the incidents growing up because the abuser manipulated her, saying no one would believe her and that the behavior was normal.

According to Knox County Assistant District Attorney Charme Knight, child sex offenders often use these tactics.

In the past four years, Knight has seen the number of child sex crimes increase from 60 to more than 200 cases a year. These are contact crimes against children, not statutory rape offenses.

Knight says the increase may be due to additional detectives investigating child sex abuse cases or an increase in education.

"There's more of a push now to educate children. There's more of a push to tell them to report, so reporting may have gone up," said Knight.

TBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Margie Quin says the internet may play a role in more child sex offenses.

"Child pornography and sexual exploitation of children has spread like wildfire in an anonymous way across the internet and that is probably partially to blame," said Quin.

She says statewide, sex offenses are increasing.

6 News took a look at the sex offender registry. 211 sex offenders live in a five-mile radius around the 6 News studio. Across the state, there are 19,400 registered sex offenders. Quin say 74 percent have committed a sex crime against a child.

"This is not boyfriend-girlfriend. This is not something casual. These offenders are hardcore sex offenders. 12,000 are classified as violent offenders," said Quin.

The registry tracks where a sex offender lives and works. Offenders are tested to see how they physically react to pictures of children.

"If a person scores really high when they see pictures of children, then we know that that person is more than likely going to reoffend on children," said Knight.

Those who score high are monitored closely by law enforcement. The offenders are also taught to exit a situation where they may want to abuse a child.

After 10 years, a person can apply to be taken off the registry. Quin says even though a sex offender may complete therapy and be taken off the registry, they may still have the urges to reoffend.

"I can tell you as a parent I'm not sure I'm willing to take the risk putting my child with an individual that I know has perped on other kids," said Quin.

"Each person that we were locking up for touching one child in reality was telling us, 'We've touched 15 to 20 children a piece' before they were caught," said Knight.

After being abused, Shelton hit rock bottom, self-medicating to numb the mental anguish. She's now clean and in therapy and is speaking out about her abuse in hopes of helping others who have been or are being sexually abused.

"It doesn't have to continue and it doesn't have to ruin your life or define the person you are," said Shelton.

Quin says parent need to talk to their kids and make sure they know inappropriate behavior and when it occurs they must tell. Quin says to check the sex offender registry on the TBI's website.

She recommends signing up for email alerts so you will be notified when a sex offender moves into your neighborhood.

If you are or have been a victim and need help, call the Sexual Assault Center of East Tennessee at (865) 558-9040 or call the 24 hour crisis line at (865) 522-7273.

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