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Barb Hovland

Hovland

A bright light needs to be shed on child sexual abuse/endangerment laws in Iowa, mainly plea deals and how they are handed out so freely.

In speaking with several elected leaders, I was told that child abuse was addressed and a bill was passed in the 2018 Legislative session. I found the bill that was passed. It is HF2444, an "Act Relating To Child Abuse Reporting and The Prohibition Of Certain Persons From Involvement With Child Care."

It contains nothing about plea deals, nor does it address the statue of limitations.

In Iowa, it needs to be known that our children are off-limits! In Iowa, it needs to be known that if you abuse a child, either sexually, physically, mentally or through human trafficking, you will be held accountable, whether it is your first offense or you have offended previously.

Currently, Iowa is more lenient if you are a first-time offender! Really? Try explaining that to the child who was abused by this first-time offender! Does that make it any less of a crime? Does that make it any less painful for the abuse that the child suffered? The answer is no!

According to the Bureau of Justice, 98 percent of people charged with federal child sex crimes, which range from human trafficking to child porn, end up in prison. The length of prison time ranges from 70 to 139 months. But, in Iowa courts, many child sex abuse cases result in no conviction, and, unless the offender is convicted of a forcible felony, probation is a common outcome.

In Hardin County alone, there were 48 sex offenses charges filed from 2010 to 2017, according to the Iowa Division of Criminal and Justice Planning. Seventeen resulted in a conviction, and probation was ordered in 21 -- or 57 percent of cases.

In 16 cases, offenders received probation and a prison sentence that may have been suspended by a judge. Again, this is only in Hardin County.

Human trafficking is occurring along Iowa interstates. Our elected officials need to step up in the 2019 Legislative session and shine a bright light on this. Child abuse and human trafficking is and should be a non-political issue for every elected senator and representative. They need to pass strict legislation, with 100 percent voting approval.

In a 2016 trial bargaining brief that is over 101 pages long, Gregory Gilchrist wrote about the increased use of plea deals in our judicial system. He writes, "It would be possible to dramatically increase funding for the entire Judicial System, (courts, prosecutors, defense attorneys, court reporters, etc.) However, there is limited political will for this solution." I say to that, aren’t our children worth funding our judicial systems? Aren’t our children worth our politicians working together, instead of one side trying to beat the other side on this issue?

Justice For Our Iowa Children will continue to speak up until our elected Iowa leaders have put the fear of God in each and every person who thinks of harming our children; until they speak loud and clear, that if you harm a child in this great state, you will pay a hefty price; until they pass laws that protect our children before protecting the perpetrator; until!

I have received calls from parents of children who have reached out to tell me their stories. I have received calls from adults who told me they were abused as a child, but never talked about it until they saw my articles in the Globe Gazette. A lady from North Iowa drove all the way to Des Moines for the rally on Aug. 4. She told me that she saw it in the Globe Gazette, and wanted to support the cause.

We need to continue the conversation. We need to have an open heart and empathy for those who have lived through abuse.

Justice For Our Iowa Children will hold its next rally on Oct. 5 in Clear Lake, partnering again with "No Plea Deals" (Deborah Yanna).

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Barabara Hovland is the founder of Justice For Our Iowa Children, secretary of Republican Party of Iowa and chair of Cerro Gordo GOP. 

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