To the editor:

Our beloved Brownwood Bulletin isn’t the thickest one available for purchase, but you do a good job of providing citizens with information and that effort is greatly appreciated by me and others. However, I (not only as a citizen but also as a mother) was greatly disappointed by your choice of news and the presentation of such on Saturday, Aug. 18. The stories on the front page included a lengthy discourse about rain that was expected somewhere else in Texas, the quality of our drinking water and the frequent testing to ensure its safety, and a very important article regarding a man who was sentenced to 60 years in prison for cocaine possession. These were all newsworthy.

There were some articles accompanied by color photos; a very unfortunate motor vehicle accident, the return of our HPU students for the fall semester, and of course, the photo of our Brownwood High girls’ volleyball team in action. I have no problem with any of these stories at all and I consider them newsworthy.

I am shocked because of the rather blas/ way that another important case from last week was mentioned. The conviction of “indecency with a child” was not deemed important enough to receive a headline, but only briefly mentioned in two small paragraphs (less than 100 words total) regarding the sentence for cocaine possession.

What on this earth can be more important than protecting our most valuable resource, our children? My sweet daughter gave supporting testimony in that case and testified in support of this other case. It was not pleasant for her, especially under cross-examination by the defense who accused her of attention seeking. What my child has endured for the last two years of her life has not been pleasant; she was violated and now carries with her a horrible memory for the rest of her life.

There were a lot of people who stayed hours on end outside of the 35th Judicial Courtroom and 12 citizens who are great people that took a week of their lives to serve on this important case involving our children. Toward the end of the conviction and the sentencing phase, Mr. Villarreal took a plea bargain stating he was in fact guilty of not only the first charge, but also of my daughter’s sexual assault. She was vindicated as she was assigned HER OWN case number; he waived his right to a trial by jury and admitted what he had done.

However, he did not receive any jail time for her case either. Please know that there were many people involved and concerned in these two cases and two girls that will never be the same again.

Had you made the wise decision to write a real article about this case, you may have prompted other victims to come forward with their stories. You could have mentioned my daughter, who is now 18, and has serious trust issues now and how this impacted her life. Had you chosen to submit photos of either one of these men, it may have shown the young people in our community what path would not be the right one to take in life under any circumstances and the parents in our community would be better informed of what a convicted molester/rapist really looks like.

Don’t you think the children of Brownwood deserve protection? Don’t you think that parents need to be informed of what is happening to our children? It is just as important, if not more so, than a man who has been convicted and will probably serve the rest of his life in prison. Do you know what a convicted rapist looks like? What kind of people do you tell your kids and grand kids to avoid because they “look” threatening? I had absolutely no idea that this guy was dangerous and you wouldn’t either! He possesses a great personality, says the right things, is well-mannered, children seem to be drawn to him, and he has a way of working the “poor, unfortunate, foster kid” angle very well.

My heart literally aches that not all children are safe and well cared for and some little ones are forced to live in abusive situations, but just because someone has a rough life does not give them the right to hurt others.

Don’t be fooled, Brownwood, or you too may have to help your daughter try to pick up the shattered pieces of her life after being raped. Can you imagine anything more precious than your kids? The daughter I knew will never be the same again because someone decided that “no” did not mean “no.” Is that fair and just how does that make you feel? Are you angry, sad, scared, helpless and hopeless? Do you feel like you want to lock your daughter in her room and never let her go out alone again?

Believe me, I understand those feelings. I really don’t care whether you believe her or not, but I will tell you this… the plans for college have been put on hold, the affectionate loving person she used to be is gone for the most part, the compassion she felt so strongly for others has been changed, the “friends” who did not believe her and mocked her have changed her life forever. She can never get back what was taken from her. Would you want that for your child? Why don’t you write a story or do an interview with my daughter (she will be happy to oblige) so all the teenage girls in this area will know they aren’t alone. They too can come forward and begin the healing, and that they did nothing to deserve a sexual assault. RAPE IS RAPE. NO MEANS NO. Please stop victimizing the victims over and over again. Change this for our kids, please.

And to the well-meaning juror who came up to me as I was leaving the courthouse:

I sincerely meant the thank you I gave you for your time and effort. However, it hurt me deeply when you stated that, “He is just so young and deserves another chance, don’t you think?” Please next time take the time to think before you speak. My daughter and the other girls also deserve a chance and they’re the victims. You seem like a wonderful person who cares deeply for others, but it hurt me badly.

Linda J. Duncan