(Editor's note: The Globe will be covering each of this year's Citizen's Police Academy classes held by the Dodge City Police Department. This is the fourth article in the series.)
Det. Lieutenant Colleen Brooks-Francis presented the stark realities of domestic violence, child abuse and child sexual assault Tuesday night. Brooks-Francis opened the eyes of class members to these unimaginable crimes and their effects.
“There is nothing more damaging than sexual abuse,” Brooks-Francis said.
She explained the correlation she has seen between violent offenders and childhood abuse.
“No one says they want to grow up to be a drug addict or a murderer,” she said. “But it all comes back to something, they use the outward violence to try to numb the pain.”
Brooks-Francis emphasized that, in her experience, a child who reports sexual abuse is being truthful.
“Children will lie about eating an extra cookie or not doing their homework but they are not going to make up a lie about being raped,” she said.
The class also learned indications of shaken baby syndrome, abdominal and head trauma, and sexual abuse. According to Brooks-Francis, skin injuries are the most common manifestations of physical abuse. She referenced a quote from a training session that she uses to assess possible abuse.
“If it doesn't cruise, it doesn't bruise,” she said. “Children who are ambulatory are likely to have bruises on their knees and elbows, but a child who is too young to move around has no reason to be bruised.”
Brooks-Francis works closely with Terri Trent in investigating possible cases of abuse. Trent was part of the founding team for Meadowlark House, a child advocacy center in Dodge City. The Meadowlark House is a “safe place” where forensic interviews are conducted by trained professionals for children and disabled adults. It has been accredited by the National Children's Alliance since 2002. It was the second program of its kind in the state of Kansas.
Trent explained that the center interviews children ranging in age from two to 17 years old and conducts more then 50 interviews a year.
According to Trent, most children delay the disclosure of their abuse and the majority of parents do not react appropriately. The correct response is to stay calm and to assure the child that you believe them. Trent also said that children who report abuse, whether it be sexual or physical, are most likely to recover and lead happy lives if they have a support system.
Brooks-Francis reinforced Trent's point by adding that children who recant a claim of abuse usually do so our of fear or guilt brought on by those who should be supporting them.
Page 2 of 2 - “What could a child possibly gain by saying someone is abusing them,” she said. “Nothing. They're more likely to try to hide the abuse because they don't want people to know.”
The same is true for victims of domestic violence. Brooks-Francis said most victims will deny an allegation out of shame, fear and their dependence on the abuser.
“Sometimes the decision is between going back to their abuse or facing homelessness and severe poverty,” she said.
The fifth installment of the Citizen's Police Academy will focus on traffic enforcement, accident investigation and DUI investigation.
Reach Abigail Wilson at (620) 408-9917 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.