York County man charged with incest, criminal sexual conduct

jmcfadden@heraldonline.comApril 7, 2014 

— A York County man has been charged with incest after deputies say he sexually assaulted a family member while she slept at her Clover home last weekend.

Deputies were sent to the woman’s neighborhood at about 4 a.m. Sunday, where they found her upset and crying at a neighbor’s house. She told police she woke up to find a relative, 18, on top of her while she was in bed, according to a York County Sheriff’s report.

The victim, 36, explained that she returned home at about 1:30 a.m. after a night out drinking with a friend. She went to bed in her room, where her daughter, 9, had been sleeping, the report states. She later woke up to find the man performing sexual acts on her. When the man realized she was awake, he ran out of the room, the victim told deputies.

She called police before taking her daughter across the street to a neighbor’s house. The man, of Catawba, was spending the weekend with family in Clover. The Herald is not naming him to protect the victim’s identity.

The suspect told deputies he was asleep on the couch when everyone else went to bed, the report states. He woke up when the woman’s daughter told him her mother was crying. He later changed his story.

The man “changed his story several times,” the report states. He told police he did not live at the Clover home anymore because family members caught him using and selling drugs. Court records show he pleaded guilty in February to possession of marijuana. He was sentenced to time served.

He later told deputies he suffers from blackouts. He told deputies he has issues and needs help.

The woman received a sexual assault examination at a Charlotte hospital. She decided to press charges but also wanted the man to get help. He was arrested and charged with third-degree criminal sexual conduct and incest.

On Monday, he was being held at the York County Detention Center on a $30,000 bond.

‘It’s a rare charge’

Ginny Waller, executive director of Sexual Assault Services of the Midlands, hailed authorities for filing incest charges, which she says are not often used in sexual assault cases involving adults. The charge prevents suspects from arguing their relations to a victim. She said the way the law is written possibly leaves room for a harsher sentence.

“If they can tack on an incest charge ... that can get more time,” Waller said.

The penalty for incest is unclear under state law, which deems it illegal to engage in “carnal” sexual relations with parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and step-parents. The law does not specify whether the charge is considered a felony or misdemeanor. It does assign a penalty to the crime: No less than a year in prison and no less than a $5,000 fine. But state law does not set a maximum sentencing range, creating potential for defendants to argue that they can only serve up to a year in prison, said 16th Circuit Solicitor Kevin Brackett.

In York County, an incest charge where both suspect and victim are adults is rare, Brackett said. Criminal sexual conduct charges are typically filed in an alleged sexual assault by one adult to another.

“It’s a rare charge. ... It doesn’t happen very often (but) it’s a serious charge,” he said. “We just don’t get that many cases like that.”

“What we see a lot of times ... (are) children,” said Jada Charley, executive director of Safe Passage, a nonprofit shelter in Rock Hill that provides services to battered women and children and sexual assault victims.

No matter the age, sexual assault victims experience various emotions after their attack, but fear is most common, Charley said. “They’re afraid, they don’t know what the process is going to be, what happens next. A lot of victims are ashamed ... a lot of victims feel like they allowed it to happen, but that’s never the case.

“It’s really difficult for them to admit that a member of their family would do this to them,” she said. Victims also consider community reaction when deciding if they will report their assault.

“If the victim feels the community is not going to support them in coming forward and telling their story,” they might keep quiet, she said. “It’s important for a community not to engage in victim-blaming and to really treat a person who comes forward and reports abuse ... like the hero they are.”

Jonathan McFadden •  803-329-4082

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