KYLE, Texas -- A 20-year-old Central Texas man is out on bail after Hays County authorities arrested him for sexually assaulting a 12-year-old girl.
Authorities say the assaults happened three times after the girl met Michael Casey Batton through a social media website called Meetme.com.
The site advertises itself as a way for users as young as thirteen to meet new friends in their area.
Documents state the assaults happened in 2013, but only came to the attention of authorities last month when a friend reported the abuse to a school resource officer.
The victim was interviewed by authorities at Roxanne's House, an advocacy center for children.
Melissa Rodriguez is the program director for the organization which oversees Roxanne's House, the Hays-Caldwell Women's Center. She says 10 years ago, the center used to interview an average of 15 sexual assault victims from Hays and Caldwell Counties. She says now those numbers have jumped to 45.
She attributes the rise to an increase in population, but also awareness among young people about how to react when inappropriate encounters happen.
Just like in this case, often she says, it's peers that report the crime.
"That person could be hurt, and you wouldn't want to see your friend hurt. That really is the motivating factor for young people when they tell," said Rodriguez.
She also told KVUE as younger children become increasingly tech savvy, they're seeing a drop in the age of sexual assault victims.
"We've had kids as young as 10 engaging in some of this online activity," said Rodriguez. "What used to be in the classroom, passing notes, trying to figure out who you, are what you're interested in is taken on a much larger level."
According to the affidavit, each of the three assaults began in the same way -- when the 12-year-old victim snuck out of her Kyle home while her family slept before meeting Batton at a nearby gas station. The assaults allegedly occurred in the backseat of the suspect's car.
"I know it seems like an easy thing to assume, they snuck out of their house so they should have known. But the truth is, young people, their brain hasn't quite developed yet to understand long term consequences."
Thanks to a friend's decision to come forward, the place where the investigation began may be a place for healing in the future as Roxanne's House offers counseling to the victim.