INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Feb. 3, 2015)-- Shelly O’Konski knew the time to testify before state lawmakers would come. She had been preparing for this moment for a long time. The story she was about to tell state lawmakers Tuesday would make them all stop and listen.
“Cameron has a lifetime with these herpes,” she said referring to her grandson. “His perpetrator got three years.”
O’Konski’s grandson was five years old when he was molested. Dale Bradshaw, who pleaded guilty as part of a plea deal, infected Cameron with an STD.
“When I sat with the prosecuting attorney and he went through the charges, I said to him where is the charge for the herpes?” O’Konski said. “And he said there is no charge.”
In Indiana there’s no additional punishment if a child molester transmits an STD during an assault. O’Konski said she’s learned that’s the case nationwide.
On Tuesday, members of the Senate Corrections and Criminal Law Committee unanimously voted to change that.
“I’m very passionate about this,” she told lawmakers. “I know this will not help my grandson, but it will help any other child in the state of Indiana who is hurt.”
The bill before lawmakers would strengthen the penalty from a Level 3 to Level 2 felony for offenders who transmit an STD.
“I had not even envisioned such a tragic circumstance,” State Sen. John Broden (D-South Bend) said. “And to hear this grandmother tell me this story and tell me what Cameron goes through, I felt compelled to do something.”
O’Konski decided keep her family’s story quiet wouldn’t do. She wants laws like this passed in every state. She’s created this online petition along with launching a Facebook page to tell her family’s story.
“It really does take a village to raise children and it takes the same village to protect them and speak for them,” O’Konski said. “And fight for them.”
The measure still has to pass the House and Senate.