Pain of investigation takes toll on detective


Detective Jude Hill wrinkles her face and admits feeling "depressed".
Who can blame her - so far this year Jude and her police Child Abuse Team colleague, Detective Wayne Steed, have interviewed 93 Hastings and Waipukurau child-abuse victims. That's one new case every three days and 25 percent more than last year.
More than 63 percent - 67 cases in total - involve sexual abuse.
A growing mountain of paper almost obliterating her desk is bad enough.
But what really eats away at Detective Hill is the loss of innocence; the seemingly endless parade of children subjected to despicable acts by the very people in whom they trust.
The fact that more children are prepared to come forward of their own accord is something of a double-edged sword.
On one hand, they will have justice. On the other, they must bare their souls and their darkest secrets to make a credible case that will stand up in court.
It takes a huge amount of courage to tell, she says. Most older kids hold up pretty well: "I've found them to be reliable witnesses.
"We take them through 'truth, lies, promises' - what it means to tell the truth or a lie.
"The problem with the really young ones - the three to four-year-olds - is they don't have the vocabulary ... they're not able to articulate a lot of the time."
For infant victims the outlook can only be described as appalling.
"They can't complain," she says simply.
Sexual assaults on society's smallest and most vulnerable members are usually only revealed when the child is diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease.
Detective Hill believes most older children wrestle with their feelings before telling an adult what has happened.

Inevitably, they tend to blame themselves and worry that they will get in trouble, or simply won't be believed.
"Sometimes the offender has told them they'll get in trouble if they tell," she says.
For other children, there is also the threat of violence. But still they find they courage to speak out: "We don't get too many that won't talk."
Perhaps the worst aspect for children is the sense of betrayal; in 90 percent of cases, the abuser will be someone they know - a family friend, a relative or acquaintance.
In years gone by, most abused children bore their pain in silence.
Some grew up into maladjusted adults who, in turn, became the next generation of abusers.
Today, however, police youth education programmes and organisations like DARE make it far more likely that paedophiles will be caught.
Children are becoming more aware of what is acceptable touching and what is not.
When they do find the courage to step forward, there is a broad network of support to see them through, from CYF workers and police, to social workers.
So how do children protect themselves?
"They need to be taught that certain parts of their bodies are theirs and shouldn't be touched," Wayne Steed says.
Parents also need to provide children with a list of "safe people" - people they can turn to for uncompromising support - including parents, teachers and school counsellors.
"If anything happens that feels wrong or they're not comfortable with, children need to tell someone they can trust; mum, dad, an aunty or the police," Detective Hill says.
"Because if they don't tell, it might happen again, or to someone else."

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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