Myers speaks to Exchange Club about abuse

Published 7:00 am Thursday, April 13, 2017

For more than a decade one Picayune Police Department investigator has worked cases involving domestic violence, child abuse and sexual assault cases within the city.
Wednesday, Det. Constance Myers spoke to members of Exchange Club of Picayune about the work she does and tips on how to spot instances of abuse.
On average, she works seven cases of child abuse or child molestation a month. Of those cases, five of the suspects involved are typically convicted.
Cases of child abuse don’t entail disciplining a child for bad behavior, but when bruising, lacerations or broken bones are involved, then it’s considered abuse.
At times abuse cases can also be lodged against siblings, especially when injuries or gunshots are involved. Myers said those cases involve children aged 15 and older.
The Picayune Police Department is also keeping an eye out for instances of sex trafficking. She said such cases are currently being reported in the surrounding areas of New Orleans and Hattiesburg.
“You may not see it, but it is happening,” Myers said.
Most instances of sex trafficking involve drug use. When the buyer can’t pay, the dealer will attempt to receive compensation somehow.
Some things to look for in possible sex trafficking cases include a child’s use of the word “daddy” to describe a man who is not the father, or the terms “the life” or “the game.” Parents should also become worried if their child comes into possession of a lot of unexplained money.
Parents should also maintain access to social media accounts to look for signs of possible predators contacting their children.
When a case of child abuse is lodged, Myers said she will set up a forensic interview between the victim and a professional. Currently the Department utilizes the services of Hope Haven in Bay St. Louis. While Myers is not directly involved in questioning the child, she does have the opportunity to have the forensic interviewer ask follow up questions when necessary. She said she uses a professional interviewer to maintain the integrity of the case.
Each month a panel of professionals meet to discuss the best methods in approaching cases and the best course of action for the child. That panel includes law enforcement officers, school resource officers, mental health professionals, doctors, prosecutors, youth court representatives, forensic interviewers, child protective services and child advocates.
Some signs of abuse the community can look for include young children wandering outside alone, or a child acting strangely around a member of the family. Myers said that if a child is uneasy around a member of the family or a friend of the family, the parents should investigate further.

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