(KAIT) - Three reports have been filed in the Jonesboro area in the last few weeks regarding a child sexually assaulting another child.
According to Joshua Everett, a mental health professional and therapist at Life Strategies Counseling in Paragould, half of all juvenile offenders have been sexually assaulted by the age of 18.
Everett says 1 in 5 offenders are girls under the age of 18, and 1 and 20 are boys which make up 40-percent of juvenile offenders that will sexually assault someone else.
However, Everett said cases like this go back to their childhood.
"Often times the sexual offender is someone that is well-known to the child that is offended on," he said. "They are a close family member that you would never suspect it. So, it's somebody in the family like an aunt or an uncle. Someone who is close to the child that would often will groom them into becoming what they would want them to become."
However, Everett explained why it's difficult for them to reach out for help.
"The trauma that it creates, the shame, the guilt," he said. "Sometimes it feels normal to them. If it happened at an early enough age, sometimes that's helped children soothe themselves; so they want others to feel the same way. And that goes all the way up to juvenile to adulthood."
Life Strategies Counseling also has programs for offenders.
Everett said they set up a play therapy and sand tray therapy stations that help many victims and offenders deal with trauma. It also makes them less afraid to tell their story.
"A lot of trauma that's happened early in childhood is seen through mental health disorders," he said. "We see reactive attachment. We see Post Traumatic Stress Disorder which a lot of people already know about, but these manifest more and more as people get older. That's why it's important to get earlier intervention and get the help as soon as you can."
However, that's not all of the cases that have been reported.
According to Sergeant Gary Shackelford with the High Tech Crime Unit at the Jonesboro Police Department, they deal with cases of adult and child sex crimes the most.
He said they see children from all over the district and state, and typically send them through cyber tips from Arkansas State Police.
This year, JPD has received 35 cyber tips of adult and child sex crimes.
Whether it's juvenile offenders or adult offenders, Shackelford said 90% of their caseload has turned into forensics.
Family member or not, Shackelford said it's very important for a victim to speak up about the abuse.
"It doesn't matter where it come from," he said. "If they feel that they have been victimized, they need to go to an adult that they can trust and report that. And if it fails there, then they need to report it to somebody else, but it needs to be brought to the attention of the police for sure."
If you're a victim of sexual abuse or an offender seeking help, contact any Life Strategies Counseling agency in your local area. You can also contact JPD's Criminal Investigation Division, at (870) 935-6710.
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