Sexual assault is climbing in numbers. According to RAINN, the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, “23.1% of undergraduate females and 5.4% of undergraduate males will experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation.”
Denton police are looking to improve the investigation process of sexual assault cases. According to the Denton Record-Chronicle, “rape is the only category in Denton that remains well above state and national average.” According to the state and national crime data, the numbers will not be decreasing soon. This number is explained to be high because there are so many students from TWU and UNT.
Denton police have been granted a $450,000 federal grant to “fund sexual assault training and the creation of a new detective position specifically to handle such crimes,” according to The Denton Record-Chronicle. The Denton Police Department is one in six agencies to receive the federal grant offered by the International Associate of Chief of Police. The Denton Chronicle explained this grant aims to improve sexual assault training and help officers avoid being gender biased against women whose allegations are suspect.
Helping the victims is a main concern for Denton police. Police Lieutenant Chris Summit said, “We feel we could do a better job in our approach with the victims. We’re making an effort to help the victims pick up the pieces of their life and glue it back together.”
Currently, there are only five detectives who handle sexual assault cases. These officers tend to deal with multiple cases at once along with their other duties. Sometimes these detectives reach out to others in different departments, like the general investigation department, family services and special operations. Sergeant Danny Fletcher said, “the unit simply lacks the manpower and resources to fully investigate every claim of sexual violence.” The federal grant allows for new positions for sexual assault investigators to open up.
Donna Bloom, Director of the Friends of the Family legal services, said there is potential for widespread sexual assault training in Denton police officers. “The ultimate goal is to keep victims connected to counseling and legal services while successfully prosecuting more rape cases,” Bloom said. Rape cases are a special case that officers need many hours or training to handle. Each case is different, and victims may not feel comfortable giving all the details to the officers. Summit said he hopes to, “adopt a more ‘trauma -informed’ approach to interviewing, which provides for more positive interactions with victims.”
April McDonough has taken on the role as the new detective specializing in sexual assaults. With this promotion, McDonough took special courses, like the Sexual Assault Family Violence Investigator course, to help train her for the new position. However, this course alone does not prepare officers for what they will encounter. Every call is different, meaning the best practice is hands on. SAFVIC program specialist Brooke Balmos-Hinojosa explained to The Denton Chronicle, “I think this course helps officers learn community resources and understanding dynamics of sexual assault and protocol evidence collection. But in the sense of actually seeing the victim and taking cues of what they need at the time, that, I think just comes with experience.”
TWU offers help for sexual assault survivors information on what to do/ expect can be found on the Counseling and Psychological Services page. To report an assault, call the police immediately when you are safe.
TWU Denton DPS: (940) 898-2911
Dallas DPS: (214) 689-6666
Houston DPS: (713) 794- 2222