BY GOV. GREG ABBOTT
Above all else, the government’s primary responsibility is to keep our citizens safe. This means that we have a duty to defend the freedoms of every innocent life and deliver justice when those freedoms are violated.
But every day, sexual predators in our state are robbing innocent Texans of their most basic rights, whether it’s in the sex trade or through any other number of sexual abuses.
Texas must do more to protect the survivors of these abuses, punish the perpetrators, and prevent more of these crimes from occurring.
That is why I have unveiled a new plan to root out sexual predators throughout our state.
Under my plan, Texas will strengthen our efforts to identify and arrest the criminals who are abducting, coercing, and recruiting innocent lives into the sex trade. To do this, I am asking the Legislature to increase funding for the Texas Department of Public Safety to create regional human trafficking squads. These squads will conduct investigations throughout Texas to combat human and sex trafficking.
I am also calling for stronger penalties for those who promote prostitution in our state. Under current law, someone found guilty of promoting prostitution is not required to serve time behind bars. In some cases, these criminals receive a slap on the wrist in the form of probation, fines and community service. Under my plan, those who promote prostitution in our state will be forced to serve time behind bars and register as a sex offender.
Texas must also do more to deliver justice to survivors of rape and sexual assault. Currently, there are an estimated 15,000 untested rape and sexual assault evidence kits. This is shameful. That is why I am calling on the Legislature to provide $14 million in funding next session to eliminate this evidence backlog. To kick-start this effort, my office will direct $1 million to the Texas Department of Public Safety to work with the University of North Texas to immediately begin clearing the backlog.
Finally, no institution in our society is immune to the problems of sexual misconduct — including our state government. The current system for investigating allegations of sexual assault or sexual harassment within our state government is inadequate. To fix that, I am calling for allegations involving statewide elected executive and judicial officials, legislators, agency officials, and capitol complex employees to be investigated by the Texas Rangers. This will ensure that these allegations are investigated fairly and thoroughly and will allow victims to come forward without fear of retribution in the workplace.
Whether it’s combating human trafficking and prostitution, helping sexual assault survivors, or cracking down on sexual harassment, we have a duty to prevent these abuses and punish the perpetrators. Under my plan, we will send a clear message that these despicable acts will not be tolerated in the state of Texas.