An Easton man recently was sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty to a felony charge related to his sexual abuse of a young girl over the course of multiple years.

Carlos Lopez-Cruz was sentenced to 10 years in Talbot County Circuit Court but had seven years suspended. He was also credited for time served after being arrested on sexual abuse charges in August 2020.

Lopez-Cruz will end up serving just over two years.

If that sentence seems a little off to you considering the nature of the crimes and the young age of the victim, you are not alone.

The length of the sentence is a major concern.

Lopez-Cruz submitted an Alford plea to the felony charge. That plea entails a defendant acknowledging there is evidence for a conviction while not admitting guilt.

Beyond the legalese and legal weeds of this case, the optics of the sentence are distressing considering the impacts abuse can have on victims. It sends a discouraging message.

We want to support victims and encourage more to come forward despite all the societal judgments and systematic stigmas. Some victims seeing this sentence will likely be discouraged from coming forward if they feel all their abuser is going to get is a slap in the wrist.

The sentence also needs to be put in perspective.

A negotiated guilty plea in a sexual abuse case involving a child should certainly garner more time than convictions related to violating marijuana and other use of illicit drug laws.

We should all be able to agree on that — including President Joe Biden, who crafted crime bills and supported “the war on drugs,” as well as Vice President Kamala Harris, who previously served as a prosecutor with more than a few marijuana convictions under her belt. They have plenty of GOP cohorts with the same backgrounds.

Biden and Harris’ leadership is needed on legal reforms and providing police and prosecutorial resources that help victims of abuse and sex trafficking. The system has failed too many victims, including in the high-profile cases such Bill Cosby and Jeffrey Epstein, let alone ones that happen in poorer neighbors or involving communities of color and indigenous women.

The current examinations of police reforms need to be accompanied by a much needed look at how we treat sexual abuse and sex trafficking cases.

Victims have long been stigmatized and often not believed. There are racial and class disparities in how sexual assault and abuse cases are handled throughout our judicial system. Too many victims — most of them women and children — have to weigh the costs of coming forward.

We need a societal focus on pushing elected officials, law enforcement, prosecutors and judges to examine how to fix the system in order to bring abusers and traffickers to justice and bring hope to victims.

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