Anonymous tip to Child Abuse Hotline leads to sexual battery cha - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Anonymous tip to Child Abuse Hotline leads to sexual battery charges

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Deputies say an anonymous tip led to the arrest of a Rhea county man on sexual battery charges. Investigators learned of the child abuse when an adult called the state's child abuse hotline.

70-year-old Keith Smith was indicted Monday on three counts of aggravated sexual battery of "a girl under the age of 12."
Investigators say the abuse had been going on for about a year. They may have not known about it had the anonymous caller not picked up the phone. Deputies tell Channel 3, they hope this case will encourage others to speak up for those who can't speak up for themselves.

"It happens in all demographics, every small town, every big town," said Inv. Rocky Potter

Inv. Rocky Potter specializes in abuse and sexual abuse cases that involve children. Rhea County Sheriff's Department investigates about 350 child sex abuse cases each year. To put that into perspective, this month alone about a dozen cases have been assigned to Potter. Officials say most of them began with a simple phone call to the State's Child Abuse Hotline.

"A one -two minute phone call," said Potter. " It's a 24/7 number, you can remain anonymous if you want or you can give your name. If you give your name it can not be disclosed to the public."

Potter tells Channel 3, about 65% of cases involve an adult and child. On average 35% note inappropriate contact between a juvenile and child. Investigators say parents almost always know and trust the perpetrator.

"You're always told you don't lie to a grownup and a grownup will never hurt you.... so when they're at a young age they call it the tender years age," said Potter. "You don't really know until the child grows up to be 10 or 11 years old and they realize... that really was a 'bad touch.'"

That is why Potter is raising awareness for the state's Child Abuse Hotline. He is also pushing for Rhea County Elementary schools to adopt a one hour "good touch/ bad touch " program. The program utilized by the Children's Advocacy Center, teaches right from wrong with coloring books and puppets. The idea will be presented to the Board of Education July 9. Potter believes the first step in prevention is communication.

"Don't be embarrassed to ask your child after an event or if they've been gone for a week: 'Did everything go fine?' They just want to be asked," said Potter. "I've had several children that told me 'nobody ever asked me.'"

There were more than 153,000 calls made to the state's Child Abuse Hotline in 2013. About 147,000 of those calls resulted in an investigation. If you suspect abuse or sexual child abuse you can call the hotline at 877-237-0004. Again, you can remain anonymous.


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