As the trial of John Swaim ends with a guilty verdict, a father’s push for stricter penalties for adults who fail to report child molestation continues.
“We want to make it mandatory for all responsible adults to report child molestation,” said Los Angeles resident Elias Sanchez, the father of Aarika Sanchez, a former county resident who alleged in the mid-1990s that Swaim molested her.
Swaim, however, was acquitted of those accusations while Sanchez alleged that Aarika’s mother failed to report the sexual abuse.
Aarika’s case, Sanchez said, inspired him to pursue Aarika’s law, which proposes to raise the statute of limitation for failure to report child molestation from one year to five years as well as deem it a felony.
Presently reporting child molestation is only mandatory for certain individuals like government personnel, doctors, teachers and coaches, said Sanchez, who for weeks parked his pickup in front of the Imperial County Courthouse as it displayed various banners calling for the approval of the proposed law and also Swaim’s conviction.
“We want to make it for people to realize that you have to report child molestation. If you don’t, you have these horrific cases,” said Sanchez, referring to Swaim’s latest case in which at least one victim alleged that she told a parent about the abuse.
But even though the name might suggest it, Aarika’s law isn’t a law — at least not yet.
Sanchez said Aarika’s law does have the backing of U.S. Rep. Juan Vargas, D-Chula Vista, and Assemblyman V. Manuel Pérez, D-Coachella, Imperial County’s elected representatives.
He also said that Swaim’s conviction might give the law a push. While calling the guilty verdict a “huge victory,” Sanchez said it is “just a small step from where we want to be.”
“Hopefully we’ll get someone in California that introduces it (Aarika’s law) to the Senate or the House, and get some movement in trying to get this law passed. We have to protect our children,” he said.
Staff Writer Alejandro Dávila can be reached at 760-337-3445 or email@example.com
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