The true measure of a society is how we treat our children
August 2, 2014 7:20 AM   Subscribe

When the Bough Breaks. "Children often can’t tell detectives what happened to them. But their injuries always tell a story. The essence of a child abuse investigation is determining the plausibility of an adult’s story, given the child’s condition. Could the child have sustained the injuries by falling off a bed, tumbling down stairs, or any number of accidents that parents routinely describe? Or does the story fail to account for the injuries?" A profile of Sergeant Brenda Nichols, the head of the Dallas Police Department’s Child Abuse Squad, and one of her cases. (SFW, but the article contains graphic descriptions of child abuse that some readers may find disturbing.)
posted by zarq (17 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
I read that back to back with this story, which was similarly difficult. The latter half of the story is an interview with the biological mother.
posted by jpe at 7:32 AM on August 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

What struck me is how overworked the detectives are, especially the sentence that if they did not work brutal hours, the cases just wouldn't be investigated.

It sounds like people aren't putting their money where their mouth is regarding protecting children.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 7:49 AM on August 2, 2014 [6 favorites]

I want to say, well, Texas, but I'm guessing this would be the same all over the US and most of Europe.
posted by MartinWisse at 8:06 AM on August 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

I want to say, well, Texas, but I'm guessing this would be the same all over the US and most of Europe.

I can tell you from miserable experience that is is definitely the same in Northern BC.
posted by Sternmeyer at 8:48 AM on August 2, 2014

especially the sentence that if they did not work brutal hours, the cases just wouldn't be investigated.

Who is setting the priorities for the police and how?
posted by DreamerFi at 8:52 AM on August 2, 2014

Dear Koch Brothers: This is the kind of horrible shit your anti tax crusades are enabling.
posted by benzenedream at 8:54 AM on August 2, 2014 [10 favorites]

While Nichols looked over his search warrant, Henry talked about his latest victim, a girl born to a crack addict then passed around to abusive guardians. The girl looked as if she had been hit by shrapnel, with scars and scratches all over her body. The girl’s new foster mother had told the detective a story about their first Halloween together. The woman asked the girl to pick a costume. The girl thought for a minute, then her eyes lit up. She wanted to be a CPS caseworker.

“Is that the saddest shit you’ve ever heard in your life?” Henry said. “She wanted to dress up as a CPS caseworker, because they were the only people who had been nice to her.”

posted by Juliet Banana at 8:59 AM on August 2, 2014 [20 favorites]

Who is setting the priorities for the police and how?

Profiteers of the war on drugs & terrorism. And how!
posted by Pudhoho at 9:00 AM on August 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

This was a well written article, thank you for posting it.

Perhaps unsurprisingly I find myself both jealous and resentful after reading this. Right now I am personally involved with a matter of a four and five year old being raped in the slums of a third world country. There will be no CPS case for them, no police investigation. If there is going to be justice for them I'll have to buy it, which even odds will lead to a court case or just a simple murder. So yeah, no justice for them.

Stretched as the Dallas system I am impressed that there are dedicated officers and caseworkers and prosecutors for this. Not everyone is so lucky.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:58 AM on August 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

It sounds like people aren't putting their money where their mouth is regarding protecting children.

This isn't news. Sadly. Crushingly. Why must children be destroyed because adults are assholes? Not just the abusers, the people who simply refuse to add more money to budgets desperately requiring them in order to help innocent fucking children.

I have more to say but I'm just seeing red. Maybe later. I dunno. Dead children in Palestine, dead children falling out of the sky over Ukraine, horrifically abused and often dead children in the USA, and nobody with power gives a damn.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:02 AM on August 2, 2014 [10 favorites]

Very well written. With about a million police procedurals written about murder detectives, I'm glad to see this effort to protect children (or at least go after their abusers) get some press.
posted by salvia at 12:22 PM on August 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

In the conviction yesterday of a mother and stepfather for the murder of their eight-year-old son, the jury forewoman said that it was the condition of the body that convinced them the boy died of his beating(s). These stories are anguishing, unbearable and all too close to home.
posted by Anitanola at 2:49 PM on August 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

The TV series Homicide opened with the case of a murdered child, and returned to the same case, still unsolved, intermittently throughout its seven-year run. It was a chilling reminder of what police work is often really like.
posted by Hogshead at 3:03 PM on August 2, 2014 [6 favorites]

I can often be a "fuck the police" type of person, basing my opinion on the majority of my interactions with that department (including as a victim). However, one unit where I encountered some of the most shining examples of outstanding officers was the many times the po-po was sent to investigate accusations of abuse* in my home. As the Accused, I was treated with respect and with sensitivity, though I'm sure my opinion of the experience is colored by the fact that no abuse was to be found. I'm not saying the visits weren't shattering but the stereotypical asshole officers would have been much more traumatic for my family.

My imagination fails me when I try to empathize with how hard their jobs must be, to see stuff like that on a daily basis. I don't know if I could still manage to treat all those accused with respect and sensitivity after having my soul worn down regularly.

*This is a long story involving a crazy coterie attempting to gain custody by accusing me of ritual satanic sexual abuse of my children since I identified as a member of a pagan religion. Three years of this bullshit, to the point that CPS and the local PD refused to respond to their calls. The now-grown kids won't have anything to do with the extended-family members (paternal grandmas, bio-dad) that tormented the four of us during that time.
posted by _paegan_ at 3:16 PM on August 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

I work with a lot of children who have been removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect. It may be that there are some places where the police do a good job of arresting people who commit child abuse. But I know of no place where the system does a truly good job of helping the children removed from their homes. Many places do a truly horrifyingly bad job, offering the kids no explanation for what's going on, very little counseling, and little in the way of stability moving forward. And when many of those kids end up acting out in anger and fear and panic, the court system is just as swift at prosecuting them, not caring about the underlying trauma that may have led them to this point. I'd love to see some of the resources we pour into vengeance against perpetrators redirected to real justice for the victims, which includes a lot of support that kids don't currently get in the system.
posted by decathecting at 10:40 AM on August 3, 2014 [4 favorites]

I imagine cases like mine, revenge/custody motivated, are extremely frustrating to an already over-burdened system. I had hoped things had gotten better from when my close friend was a teen foster kid in the 1980s system: eightteen and tough luck kid but we'll still be supporting your drug addicted mother who bartered you to bikers for crack for the next six years.
posted by _paegan_ at 2:51 PM on August 3, 2014

Juliet Banana, I managed to keep it together until I got to that part.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:00 AM on August 4, 2014

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