CALGARY – They investigate the worst of the worst: by the time these specialized investigators get involved, there’s been severe neglect, physical or sexual abuse of a young person.
Staff Sgt. Melanie Oncescu is in charge of the child abuse unit at Calgary’s Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre.
“We unfortunately see the shaken baby files, severe neglect in the homes, physical abuse where a child will wind up at the children’s hospital and has suffered broken bones. And then obviously we look at the sexual component which can range from unwanted touching to a more serious sexual assault,” Oncescu explained.
The unit investigated 535 cases in 2015. That included over 12,000 forensic interviews with children and teenagers, and led to over 300 criminal charges laid.
“When you work here it’s a special place,” Oncescu said. “We deal with victims that need somebody to advocate for them, and that’s what we’re here to do; we’re here to advocate for those victims and support them through that journey.”
The child abuse unit, like the other teams at the centre, takes a collaborative approach. Detectives, physicians, social workers and therapists all work together to help the victims.
They call it “wrap-around service” in that they wrap loving arms around these victims, and let them know they’re supported.
Watch below: Hope, help and healing parts I to IV
Det. Chat Titsing is the lead detective on a horrific case of sexual abuse that happened in 2014.
“It was a targeted attack and it was strictly based on sex, power and control,” Titsing said.
Brothers Corey and Cody Manyshots kidnapped a 17-year-old girl from a bus stop. She was sexually assaulted, dragged down an alley to a nearby home and repeatedly raped and sodomized over an eight-hour period.
The brothers have admitted to the violent crimes, and have yet to be sentenced.
The guilty plea saved the victim from having to testify in court.
“There’s just such an overwhelming amount of evidence that it was hard for them to really have a defence and that’s always our goal as detectives,” Titsing said.
From the very beginning, Titsing has worked closely with the young victim, who was in Grade 12 when the attack happened.
For the victim of this violent sexual assault case, the team’s support has made a huge difference.
Some team members have even started a fundraising account for her, knowing her journey to healing could be a long one.
“When she is having a bad day, I can contact her therapist directly, it’s not just by a phone call- I can actually go to her office or see her down a hallway, and say, ‘hey, do you have some time?’ And she will make time to make sure this victim is doing okay,” Titsing said.
“She knows I’m there for her, but it’s funny sometimes she’s just as much there for me. When I talk to her , she’s reassuring me she’s doing okay.”
Click here to donate to the young victim in the Manyshots case.