The Kansas City Star explores the challenges of getting a young girl to testify in a child sex case. Jessica, 12, is expected to testify against a man accused of raping her in her own bedroom when she was 9. Prosecutor Lori Fluegel knows that without Jessica's testimony, there is no trial. The man will walk free.
Fluegel doesn't know how or if Jessica will be able to endure the strain. As the trial has drawn closer, Jessica has threatened suicide. The counselors at her group home became so concerned they moved her to be watched at a children's mental facility. In a deposition, she gave answers so confused and riddled with inconsistencies that Fluegel knows the defense will hammer it at trial with full force. Fluegel has been trying child sex crimes – longer and more continuously than any of her colleagues. In that time, reports of suspected child sexual abuse in the county have more than doubled, although the number of substantiated cases has been declining steeply, as it has nationwide.