REXBURG, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - Fernando Lopez-Susano was sentenced to 16 years in prison after pleading guilty to sexually abusing his girlfriend's daughter, a minor under the age of 16. Despite his guilty plea, Lopez-Susano denied the allegations against him. This wasn't the first time he's been charged with this crime.
In 2008, Lopez-Susano was charged with sexually abusing the same girlfriend's older daughter; however, he was deported to Mexico before he stood trial. The case was then dropped by the prosecutor. He returned to the US illegally, went back to the same girlfriend and began sexually abusing her younger daughter, who was only 10 years old at the time. He was arrested in 2016.
While in prison, Lopez-Susano took part in multiple 12-step programs to get help for addiction. During the sentencing, Judge Gregory Moeller asked Lopez-Susano why he took part in this program despite claiming the allegations against him are false. Lopez-Susano could not give him a straight answer. Judge Moeller decided on the 16 year sentence to protect young girls in the US and Mexico from Lopez-Susano. He will have to register as a sex offender and will be deported back to Mexico when he gets out of prison.
Many have wondered why families let abusers such as Lopez-Susano back into their lives. Teena McBride, Executive Director of the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Center in Idaho Falls, had a few ideas why.
She says in cases of domestic abuse, abusers will use a fear factor as a tool against the victim. There are many reasons why a victim will stay with his or her abuser such as the victim may be financially dependent upon their abuser, they may threaten to take their child or they may threaten them with further violence if they try to leave.
For parents who have children who may have been sexually abused by a partner, the parent may be in denial that his or her partner could actually harm their child. They may also not believe the child, which McBride says is the one thing you should not do.
"The really tough part about all of this is children, they don't really have a voice within our system," McBride said. "When they disclose, people need to believe them. Whether you're a parent, a therapist, a law enforcement officer, a school counselor, a teacher, you know, however you come in to connection with this child. And you need to make sure that that is getting reported."
McBride says if you are in a situation where you wish to leave, but are too scared, there are many domestic violence shelters and other options everywhere. If you feel like you can't escape, do a normal activity such as visiting a doctor's office, going to the grocery store or even the gas station and ask for help. Most violence and assault centers have crisis hotlines that are available to call at any time, day or night. The number for the Idaho Falls Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Center is 208-235-2412.