Good afternoon. A little bit about my background, my professional background. I’ve been a prosecutor for almost 20 years. I work in the District Attorney’s office here in Hidalgo County.
In 2015, a special division was created called the Special Crimes Division. We’re a group of prosecutors that focus solely on crimes against children, whether it is of a sexual nature, or of a physical nature. We’ve grown from two prosecutors to now six. The sad thing is, though, is that there are 25 other felony prosecutors in this county that are still going to be handling cases of sexual abuse against children because there are so many of them.
When I was asked to speak to you, that was hard for me. When Regi asked me to speak I wanted to say no because this is not my comfort zone. We all know that I am somewhat involved in a political race, but I prefer to stand on the sidelines. You know, you can probably see me in the crowd. I’m a little bit uncomfortable sometimes and I would prefer to be home, right? But really what I do, I prefer to be in the courtroom and not appear on stage in front of you. I prefer to stand up for victims in that room and for some reason, although I don’t feel comfortable in most other rooms, that is my home. So I wanted to say no. But after thinking about it for a few moments, as I was driving home, I decided, you know what, I need to be here in this room with you to stand up for these victims. And so that’s why I reluctantly agreed to be here.
A little bit about me personally. I am a mother of five children. I did conceive my first child while I was in high school. Ten years later, after giving birth to my fourth child, who was sick. And Laura was with me on that journey. She helped pray for my son who had complications. But when he was four months old, I conceived my fifth child. Yes, I was a little bit unhappy with my husband. The point being, those two pregnancies were very difficult for different reasons. But I had a choice. And I made the choice that was right for me. And just as what Regi said, I’m not judging the choice that anybody else makes. But it was my choice. I had that decision. And I kept my children. But you know, over a year ago, I think we were promised by our governor that he was going to end rape. Right? He was going to put a stop to it. Recently the same man told victims of rape that they could prevent an unwanted pregnancy by using Plan B.
I’m very concerned with the thought process of this individual. Very. I’m one prosecutor in this state. There are 254 counties in the state of Texas. I have prosecuted men and women for sexual abuse. Me, just one prosecutor in front of you, has prosecuted over 1,000 cases of sexual abuse. That’s how many we are talking about. I prosecuted fathers. I prosecuted grandfathers, brothers, uncles, stepfathers, mom’s boyfriend, grandma’s boyfriend, neighbors, teachers, coaches, pastors. I’ve prosecuted cases where a child was sexually abused one time. I’ve prosecuted cases where a child was being sexually abused for more than a decade. I’ve prosecuted cases where a mother has walked into the room and seen her child being sexually abused by her spouse and has chosen not to report it.
I’ve prosecuted cases where a child was sexually abused for many years. And when she outcried she was not believed. No one believed her until someone walked in and saw the same perpetrator sexually abusing her seven year old sister. I have prosecuted cases where children don’t even understand that what is happening to them is sexual abuse. I’ve prosecuted cases where children do not even understand how they could conceive a child, not even understanding how babies are made.
A year ago I prosecuted a case involving an 11 year old girl. She and her mother had spent the afternoon shopping for clothing. And when they went into the dressing room to try on clothes her mother realized that her stomach was protruding. She realized that her 11 year old daughter was pregnant. Her grandmother’s boyfriend had been sexually abusing her for over a year. That little girl was about six months pregnant and even a year ago she couldn’t seek treatment to end that pregnancy in this county. Even a year ago. We couldn’t provide that type of assistance for her. She had to leave the county and because her mother and father were undocumented she had to make that journey with an extended friend of the family. That’s not an isolated situation. That’s one example of one case I’m sharing with you. I am one prosecutor and I’ve seen this many times. It’s not a hypothetical. This is real. This happens.
When Roe v. Wade was overturned I wasn’t outraged on behalf of myself. I’ve been faced with those tough situations or tough decisions and I made my choice. But I was outraged on behalf of my three daughters. And I was outraged on behalf of the victims that I stand up for in the courtroom. I was outraged that they had been stripped of their choice. Their right to make a safe choice.
Many of you know my husband, your future DA. (Applause) Those of you that know him know that he’s an eternal optimist. The glass is always half full. And I have to admit, and Reggie knows me, I’m a little bit more of a realist, I feel. But, I try to listen to him. And I think that I’m gonna suggest that we all follow his lead in this type of situation. You know, I’m going to suggest that we use this. We use this as a fire that fuels us. That we use this situation to remind ourselves of how important our voices are, and that we let this moment scream out to our younger generation, to our daughters, to show them the importance of their vote. Let it be the moment that reminds us all that the Democratic Party is the party of the people. And let it be the moment that forces us to vote and to vote Blue.
Editor’s Note: The above speech was made by Hidalgo County Special Crimes Division prosecutor Hope Palacios at a Women for Beto luncheon held at the Double Tree by Hilton in McAllen on Oct. 15, 2022. In the speech, Palacios referred to her husband, who is Terry Palacios, the Democratic Party candidate for Hidalgo County District Attorney. She also referenced a friend, Regi, who is attorney Regina Compian Richardson. Richardson introduced Palacios at the event. And she referenced Hidalgo County District Clerk Laura Hinojosa.
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