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      SW GA taking Child Molestation very seriously

      When Thomas does appear before Judge Lockette, he faces some of the toughest sentencing guidelines in the Georgia judicial system.

      According to experts, the first casualty of sexual abuse is trust. When children are molested, they often lose faith not only in the perpetrator but in other adults, in society, and in themselves.

      District Attorney Greg Edwards says Dougherty County runs the gamut in terms of child sexual abuse " from adult men molesting young girls to adult women molesting young boys.

      "Punishment in these cases has increased but certainly the way a community protects its children are very important factors to the health and safety of a community," said Edwards.

      Child molesters are subject to mandatory minimum sentences " up to 25 years without the possibility of parole for many offenses.

      And if the crime involves physical injuries " such as aggravated sodomy or rape " the minimum sentence begins at 25 years.

      "A lot of the offenders that particularly target children are repeat offenders," said Edwards. "It is an issue for them psychologically."

      "Routinely what you find in child molestation is that the perpetrator is a relative or someone who is known to the family," said Cheryl Kaiser of Insight Psychotherapy and Assessment Services.

      "The sexual interest is about gaining control, about gaining access, about not only controlling the child but controlling the people around the child," said Kaiser.

      No matter what sentence the offender receives, the effects of sexual abuse on a child can last a lifetime for the victim. According to experts at Insight Psychotherapy, victims often internalize their pain, focusing their anger on themselves.

      "That TMs probably one of the most debilitating things that can ever be done to a victim of a sexual offense " that they TMre not believed, they TMre not validated," said Kaiser. "Those types of things can lead to depression, anxiety, in some cases, substance abuse, in some cases, self-mutilation."