WASHINGTON COUNTY, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — The Huntsville Junior High employees were not charged for failing to report the hazing incident among the school’s basketball team because it didn’t rise to Arkansas’ specifications of sexual abuse.
The Washington County prosecuting attorney said he couldn’t prove the alleged hazing was for sexual gratification, which Casey Atwood, the Program Director at the Washington County Children’s Safety Center, said is hard to prove, but even so, it doesn’t take away from the fact that the victims can be left traumatized.
Benjamin Rightsell has multiple kids in the Huntsville School District is upset the school employees didn’t get charged for not calling into the Arkansas Child Abuse hotline upon hearing about the alleged ‘baptizing’ ritual among the junior high basketball team.
‘Baptizing’ is what the students called putting their genitals on other team members faces or in their mouths.
“It’s shameful that they’re more worried about protecting the people who made the decisions than the people that are actually hurt by this,” said Rightell.
Atwood trains people like teachers, school nurses and administrators to be ‘mandated reporters’, which means they’re required to report potential abuse they see or hear about. She said making that call doesn’t mean they’re accusing anyone of something, and there shouldn’t be a reason they don’t call something in.
Although, those working at Huntsville Junior High are off the hook for a criminal charge because the potential sexual abuse didn’t meet the state’s qualifications of sexual gratification.
“That can be really hard to prove too, because if you’re not that person, then how do you know?” said Atwood.
Since sexual gratification is hard to prove, Atwood tells parents of sexual abuse victims to focus on the things they can control.
“We really have no control over the outcome of the investigation, but what we can control is the healing of that child,” said Atwood.
Atwood also said healing, for those whose sexual abuse cases can’t be substantiated, stems from validation.
“We all want to be heard and be seen and feel that we are understood. The same goes for kids.” said Lindsey Wagner, the Clinical Director at the Washington County Children’s Safety Center.
Wagner said in situations, such as the ‘baptizing’ rituals in Huntsville that impact an entire community, it’s important for there to be enough mental health resources available. Also, if you are a parent of a sexual abuse victim, she said it’s important to find a therapist that is trauma-informed.
For mandated reporter trainings, metal health counseling, and more child abuse help, you can visit the Children’s Safety Center’s website here.