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Abuse case surfaces after 13 years

ALBANY -- The recently reported rapes of two 5-year-old children in 1998 will be investigated with the same vigor as if they happened today, a Dougherty County Police Department official says.

"We approach this the same way we would any investigation," said police Capt. Jimmy Sexton. "We will begin with the evidence we are presented with and follow it to its conclusion."

The statute of limitations, according to Sexton, begins when a crime is reported, not on the date it takes place.

On Tuesday, the now 18-year-old twins reported that a relative had sexually assaulted them, Sexton said. County police have also contacted Lee County Sheriff's Office because the molestations may have taken place over a period of years at different locations.

In pursuing the case, officers will begin by narrowing down when the assaults are reported to have happened and where. Sexton added that the plan is to build a timeline and investigate whether there were any other victims.

Others could come forward from the girls' family or acquaintances. Many times, families keep the shame to themselves, said Amy Boney, director of the Lily Pad Child Advocacy Center.

"There is sometimes a wall of silence within a family," Boney said. "They sometimes don't want to deal with it or if it isn't exactly accepted, it is a way of life that has gone on for a long time."

Children also fear people who they perceive to be in power, Boney said. And the children or their parents could be threatened with violence if they talk. Boney said that from her research, about 80 percent of sexual assault victims never report the crimes.

According to the Darkness to Light child advocacy organization's website d2l.org, "Nearly 70 percent of all reported sexual assaults (including assaults on adults) occur to children ages 17 and under.

"Imagine having to discuss your most intimate consensual sexual experience as an adult," Boney said. "Then imagine having to do it as a child."