I have made a career out of talking about the most uncomfortable subject in the world, sexual abuse of children. You can bet I’m a real mood killer at dinner parties. Mothers at the playground cover their children’s ears and slowly back away when I start talking. My knowledge of deviate sexual behaviors is probably disturbing to my friends. If you want to play a good old-fashioned game of “What’s Grosser Than Gross?” I’m gonna win. Every time.
My name is Katie, I am a Detective, and I investigate sexual crimes against children.
I want to protect kids. All kids. Everywhere. All the time. This drive to protect kids isn’t the result of some childhood PTSD or some amazing story about a brave child. This isn’t the result of some need to be a superhero. In fact, I’m not even really a “kid person”. I love my child and adore my friend’s offspring; it’s just that I don’t naturally gravitate to small humans. The kids on my caseload rarely meet me, they don’t read my reports, and they may never know my name. If I were a superhero, I’d probably be the one with the invisibility cloak.
I would love to say I nobly volunteered to fill this niche, but in truth, I ended up investigating these crimes because the other detectives weren’t exactly fighting to get these types of cases. I would bet many years ago, someone muttered behind a closed door, “Give them to Katie; rock, paper, seniority, new girl gets the crappy cases.”
I think I cringed the first time they assigned me a child sexual abuse investigation, but now, every time I get a new case, I do a little happy dance inside. Sick right? Let me clarify. From my perspective, when I get a new report of sexual abuse, it means a child somewhere has mustered up the courage to talk about what happened to them. I’m like a proud parent every time.
I talk to my preschool aged daughter about sexual abuse, or as we call it, “body safety”, but I promise I don’t do it in a way that is going to result in extra therapy sessions later. We casually talk about body parts using the correct terms. She knows she is the boss of her own body. She plays with her friends with the doors open so I can watch and hear their interaction. She knows we only keep “surprises”; we do not keep “secrets” in our house. She can name two people she can tell if something bad happens. If she tells me someone has touched her in a way that makes her uncomfortable, I will put on my game-face and tell her I will help her. The cop in me will deal with it, but the mama in me will probably collapse and sob, and that’s ok.
I prepare my little darling to be the least desirable target for a potential offender, but when someone with ill intentions promises her a puppy in exchange for secret touching, she may very well ask what kind of puppy they have to offer and forget everything I taught her. It can happen. It does happen. It’s my job as an adult to minimize the potential of sexual abuse, not hers.
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, and parent-to-parent, I challenge you to talk to your child about body safety. I further challenge you to call Child Protection Services if you suspect a child is being abused. It takes a village; let’s make it a safe one.
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