A three-year prison term is waiting for Jeffrey DePew after he plead no contest to charges arising from alleged rape and molestation of a nine-year-old girl.  Mr. DePew, a 29-year old man, was offered a deal by Seminole County prosecutors because they claimed that they had no evidence to corroborate the nine-year-old girl’s claims.  Nevertheless, prosecutors said they believed the girl’s account of being raped twice, and molested once.

This case gets a reaction from me for a couple of reasons.  First, it highlights a huge challenge that plaintiffs face in almost all child sexual abuse cases.  This case — like many similar cases — amounts to a child’s word versus an adult’s word about what happened.  Testifying in court is notoriously difficult for children under ideal circumstances.  When a child is facing his abuser, the stress and anxiety felt by the child in giving testimony becomes exponentially worse — and arguably worsens or aggravates the original abuse.  Any caring parent would think twice about putting his child through something like this — even when there is every indication that the child is telling the truth.

Second, my visceral reaction is that three years is too light a sentence for a man facing credible charges of raping and molesting a nine-year-old girl.  As a lawyer, I can understand the challenges faced by the State Attorney’s office in this case, but three years is the best they could do?  Further, an article published by the Orlando Sentinel indicates that Mr. DePew will not be designated as a sex offender in the future.  Really?

I am going to hope that I never see Mr. DePew’s name in a news story again — and particularly in a story involving a mentoring organization, a youth sports league, or a youth ministry.  Unfortunately, in our experience, this is all too likely.

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