MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - In the wake of shocking, disturbing revelations from a sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church in Pennsylvania, Child Protect Development Director Laurel Teel said situations like it leave a number of questions.
"You ask how this could happen to so many people for so long," Teel said. "People knew, and they covered it up."
However, she said questions like those are common in her line of work. Teel said Child Protect worked with 682 children in 2017. 54 percent of those children were child sex abuse cases. She said a majority of those 339 victims suffered at the hands of someone they know and trusted.
"We would love to be put out of business," Teel said.
However, she said staff members see multiple child sex abuse cases per week, with victims from "every zip code" in the area. Last year, she said Child Protect saw 468 children from Montgomery County. So far, this fiscal year, there have been 317. She said the numbers are consistent with last year's pace.
While there are certain aspects of abuse in the Pennsylvania investigation that line up with the daily work at Child Protect, Teel said there is something working in their favor.
"We are lucky that in Alabama there is no statute of limitations," Teel said.
The state does not have a criminal statute of limitations on child sex abuse, meaning there is no limit on the amount of time a victim has to report an offender and seek legal action. In the Pennsylvania incident, many of the victims are older adults and have outlived the state's state limitations on the issue.
Teel said the lack of restriction gives survivors the time and respect to come forward and heal at their own pace.