GASTONIA, N.C. (WBTV) — The mother of a Gaston County woman with Down syndrome said her daughter was forced into a sex act while traveling on a county-organized van. The alleged suspect is facing juvenile charges.
Now, the mom wants to know what precautions are in place to keep vulnerable people protected.
“She may have Down syndrome, but she had feelings just like everyone else,” said the Gaston County mom, whose daughter works and takes life-skills classes in Gastonia.
The suspect in the case is a teenager, which means this case will be held in juvenile court.
“All I know – he doesn’t go to the center where she goes,” said the mom.
The mom of the victim said her daughter spoke to investigators and explained what happened.
“Before she got on the van, she went to her case worker and said she was scared to get on the van because something had happened,” she said.
She told her case worker she was forced into a sex act.
“And she said that she kept telling him ‘no, no,’ and she said she told him ‘that’s nasty, no.’ And then he forcibly had her to do it,” she said.
ACCESS in Gaston County provides transportation to people with disabilities.
“I really rely on that,” said the mom.
But now that her daughter is listed as the victim of a teen who is charged with a crime against nature and second-degree forcible sexual offense engages in a sexual act with another person knowing or reasonably knowing that person is mentally disabled, she wants to know what is being done by the county.
“I just don’t want it to happen to anyone else,” she said.
An administrator with DHHS’ Adult and Aging Services said they cannot speak about the specifics of this case or answer questions about why the alleged teen was on the same van with the victim for a short period after the crime.
“And then all of a sudden she comes in and she’s upset, I said, ‘What’s wrong?’ And she said, ‘He’s back on the van.’ I said, ‘Are you kidding me?’ and she said, ‘No.'”
DHHS shared that ACCESS makes adjustments or changes to keep people safe. And when anything does happen they address it.
As for safety precautions, DHHS said vans and buses with the words ACCESS on the side have video cameras and safety precautions in place.
But that’s not necessarily the case for the van this woman was on. The mom was told by DHHS after speaking with WBTV that her daughter’s alleged incident occurred on a van hired out by ACCESS.
An administrator wrote the following to WBTV:
The fact that DHHS manages transportation funds doesn’t mean we have complete control over the practices or policies of other transportation agencies. While we can’t set policies or make outside organization take specific actions, we can help local individuals find a transportation option that better meets their needs in situations like this. Fortunately, situations like these do not occur frequently.”
The mom explained her daughter is still affected by what happened a few months ago and will have to have more STD testing. She said she still cries, but gets off her ACCESS van and tells her what the ride was like.
“The first thing she says every day when she comes through the door is, ‘he’s not on the van, mama.'”
But she’s scared he might be on someone else’s van.
“I don’t know if they’ve taken him off another van and just taken him off of her van or they’ve taken him completely out of the ACCESS vans,” the mom said.
The mom of the victim said her daughter’s testimony was recorded and she hopes that means she won’t have to testify in court.
“It’s embarrassing to me, it’s embarrassing to her,” the mother said. “Not that she did something wrong, just that she was so taken advantage of.”