Confessions of a Major Case Detective
By: Lieutenant Mike Schentrup, Gainesville Police Department
I currently serve as the Commander of the Criminal Investigations Division of a medium-sized agency in a college town. Most of my career has been spent working investigations. I began as a robbery/homicide detective in 2003. Although this was most of my caseload, I’d pick-up a sexual battery periodically while working a night shift rotation or on a call-out. I will admit there were many times when the sexual battery victims’ veracity seemed dubious. Either the story was inconsistent, core details were missing, or the victim had waited several days to report. As a well-trained interviewer, these were the classic signs of deception. Although I never actually called them liars, I never worked these cases as hard as I should have. I figured they were instances of morning after regret or their current boyfriends were making them report. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Fast forward to 2017: I’m now the boss over the special victim’s unit, as well as, other major case squads. Last year I attended a two-day training with Russell Strand,* the former U.S. Army Special Agent who developed the FETI (Forensic Experiential Trauma Interview) process, where he spoke extensively on the neurobiology of trauma. This was quite an “aha” moment for me. It became clear that all the classic signs of deception I had learned throughout my career – not making eye-contact, looking anxious, and having a disorganized story – were completely normal for a victim of trauma. The inconsistent statements and lack of core details should be expected. These are not signs of deception—these are biological reactions to trauma. In fact, suspects are usually much more believable because they are not suffering the effects of trauma and can weave a convincing account of their own blamelessness. I learned I should also accept that MOST victims will delay reporting due to feelings of shame and embarrassment. Needless to say, my current squad of special victim’s unit detectives has been well schooled in this area, and they are second to none at helping survivors of sexual assault.
Not long after Strand’s training, we had a case that was an eye-opener for me. There was a young college female, about 18 years old, who I will call Mary. Mary went to a local college bar and had a few drinks. She met a guy there who I will call Sam. Mary and Sam drank and danced and were having fun. They kissed a little, and Sam asked her to go to his car to “make out.” Mary reluctantly agreed but said that all she would do was kiss because she had never had sex. When he got her into his car, Sam raped Mary in the back seat. Afterward, as Sam drove her home, he struck a curb which attracted the attention of a nearby officer. The officer attempted a traffic stop, believing the driver (Sam) to be a possible DUI. Hearing the siren, Sam fled in his vehicle, driving a few blocks away, and then running from the car. As the officer approached the car, he saw Mary crying uncontrollably in the back seat. She told the officer she had been raped. Sam was eventually captured and charged with sexual battery.
This seems cut-and-dry, which it is, but let me pose the alternative. Instead of being intercepted by police for possibly driving drunk, let’s say Sam took Mary to her home and dropped her off. This is a much more likely scenario. The odds are Mary would have waited a couple days to report. Her account could have been inconsistent due to the trauma and alcohol. In the past, I would have suspected she was “regretting” her decision to have her first sexual encounter in the back seat of a car behind a local bar. With his lack of trauma, Sam could have come to the station and given a perfectly clear account of meeting a girl in a college bar and “hooking up” with her out in his car.
Mary’s case was another “Aha” moment for me. Ten years ago, I most likely had a case very similar to this. I now regret how I handled those cases early in my career; however, the science was not clear and there was no training in this area. We know only 20% of victims of rape do report to law enforcement, and we know most suspects re-offend multiple times, so we have very few chances to catch the predator. Now that we know all this, we must do a better job–first, to do justice by the survivor we are working with, and second, to protect others from becoming victims in the future.
*Russell W. Strand retired in December 2016 from his position as Chief of the U.S. Army Military Police School Family Advocacy Law Enforcement Training Division.
The Gainesville Police Department is one of the law enforcement agencies currently participating in FCASV's 2016-2017 Excellence in Sexual Assault Response Project. Through a competitive application process, the following project winners were recently selected for the 2017-2018 grant period: Ocala Police Department, Pasco County Sheriff's Office, Putnam County Sheriff's Office/Palatka Police Department, and Volusia County Sheriff's Office.
Center Highlight: Project HELP
Project HELP recently expanded its services to the Creole-speaking community with funding through the Sexual Assault Services Program (SASP) grant. Collier County’s year-round population is 323,000 – of these residents, 78,917 were born in Haiti. In the rural area of the county, 80% speak a language other than English. In the past, we were extremely lacking in our ability to reach the Haitian community. The language line was not enough to build that bond of trust, which is essential with sexual assault survivors.
When we started the program, we assumed that we were going to take the Haitian community by storm! However, we learned that as an agency, we not only needed to do research on the county the victims live in, but also the country the victims came from!
Our advocate, Rose, joined the team and had a desire to help her community in any way she could. Training Rose was fantastic. She learned everything she could about sexual violence and how to provide the advocacy that is so needed. Little did we realize, the path had many bumps, locked doors, and no returned phone calls or emails. Rose decided that persistence was needed! She turned to social media and Googled her fingers off. In order to talk to people, Rose went to Haitian churches on Sundays, Bible studies on Wednesdays, and if that didn’t get results, she would find another door. She rides around town, taking pictures of church vans and signs in order to make follow-up phone calls. She follows all the Haitian churches on Facebook to see when and where they are having activities that she can attend. She made a connection with Caribbean Radio, an internet-based show, and did a one-hour segment. Fear is the main obstacle to reaching this community. Fear of authority, fear of talking, fear of being shunned. Trust no one.
The biggest thing we learned is to never give up. If a door is locked, try the window, and if the window is locked, try another way. Consistency in showing up and getting to know members of the rural and underserved community is key. There are no down days. Flexibility is important. As leaders, we learned not to expect the new advocate to make up for years of not being able to reach this community. The struggle is real, and how you treat your advocate and applaud his or her efforts is priceless!
FCASV Invites You to Visit Our SAAM Shoe Display in the Capitol Rotunda: April 19-21
In honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence, the Broward County Nancy J. Cotterman Sexual Assault Treatment Center, and Lauren’s Kids invite you to ‘Walk in the Shoes’ of Floridians affected by sexual violence.
To raise awareness of the issue of sexual violence and how it affects Floridians of all ages, genders, races, religions, and socioeconomic statuses, we are creating and hosting a display within the Capitol rotunda.
This display will consist of:
• Physical pairs of shoes representing those worn by survivors of sexual assault with accompanying stories
• Paper shoes with messages/artwork submitted by survivors and those affected by sexual violence across the state
• Facts about sexual assault and survivorship
This display is intended to raise awareness and shatter stigmas surrounding sexual violence, as well as give victims, survivors and those affected by this issue a voice at the Capitol — asking others to “walk in their shoes.”
Make sure to check out our social media accounts during April 19-21 for pictures of the display.
Get to Know FCASV
Kris-Tena Albers, ARNP, MN
Please welcome Kris-Tena, the Director for the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner and Sustainability Program. She is a native Floridian who grew up in St. Petersburg and upon high school graduation moved to Tallahassee to attend Florida State University. Kris graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing in 1980 and worked as a labor and delivery nurse for nine years before returning to school to pursue her Master’s in Nursing with a specialty in Women’s Health/Nurse-Midwifery at the University of Florida. Kris’ professional career in healthcare includes ten years as a Registered Nurse working in maternal child health in a hospital setting; fourteen years as an Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner (ARNP)/Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) working in a private obstetrical/gynecological practice with hospital privileges; and twelve years as a Public Health Administrator in program and policy development and implementation.
Kris cannot remember a time that women’s health and social issues were not a passion of hers. She feels as though her professional maternal – child clinical work experience and her administrative public health work experience have prepared and led her to this professional chapter in her life. In her spare time, she loves being outdoors and being with her husband and children.
Upcoming Events and Trainings
EVAWI International Conference on Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence, and Systems Change*
End Violence Against Women International is hosting its annual conference. Visit evawintl.org for more information about the conference.
"Walk in My Shoes" Display -- Sexual Assault Awareness Month
"Walk in My Shoes" display at the Florida Capitol. For more information about the display, visit fcasv.org.
FCASV Regional Advocates/Rural Advocates Meeting
Daytona Beach, FL
For the tentative agenda and to register for the event, visit fcasv.org.
For Florida's certified rape crisis centers: This meeting can count toward 5 1/2 hours of the FCASV sexual violence annual training requirement. Check with your FCASV Contract Manager if you want to use contract funds to attend this meeting.
National Sexual Assault Conference*
The Texas Association Against Sexual Assault will be hosting the 2017 National Sexual Assault Conference (NSAC) in Texas for the first time. Visit taasaconference.org for more information about the conference.
*For Florida's certified rape crisis centers: Various workshops at these conferences can count toward the FCASV sexual violence annual training requirement. Check with your FCASV Contract Manager about the approved workshops and if you want to use contract funds to attend these conferences.
This project was supported by a grant awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.