I appreciate the opportunity to be recognized as the University of Texas System Police Officer of the Month for November 2014. I am currently serving within our System as a Detective at UT Arlington. I hold a Master Peace Officer Certification and assist within our campus community as a Rape Aggression Defense (R.A.D.) and First Aid/CPR/AED instructor.
I would like to take this opportunity to share some of my thoughts relating to the importance of developing an effective, victim-centered approach to address violent crimes against women. This effort is part of the expanded focus in cases involving domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking comprised within The Violence Against Women Act. This emphasis encourages peace officers and investigators to center their efforts on the individual victim while using all the local and national victim services and resources that are available.
Many of the victims we encounter are young women who are just beginning their life as students in a residential university environment. When I first started to investigate violent crimes involving these young victims, I thought, “How am I ever going to form a connection here?” I could never even imagine the complexity of concerns that accompany being a young woman that has become the victim of a violent crime. So I began to invest some time to establish a rapport with a victim by connecting to an interest they are willing to share that is not related to the crime they experienced. This small act of consideration helped set up a positive environment of trust and has proved invaluable in easing a victim’s anxiety.
I remind myself to never show indifference to any victim. Victims respond to the stress of a violent crime in many different ways. Some responses may seem unreasonable at first, but if I remove myself from all personal opinions and examine their reaction further, I usually find a reason for some of the most unexplainable behavior. I recall an acquaintance sexual assault case where the defendant used the common scheme of immediately sending text messages to the victim to try and see how she reacted to his attack. The victim responded with text messages and he maneuvered the communication to sound like she wanted a relationship with him. Further conversation with the victim revealed that the text messages were sent while she was in a state of shock following the trauma she experienced as well as being manipulated by a person taking advantage of her condition. Together, we developed an explainable reason for the content of her text message communication that may have otherwise seemed like deception on her part.
Sometimes patience and persistence is an asset in our position. I remember a case where a victim finally called the police after she had been stalked for years by the same individual. She was hesitant to pursue criminal charges even after the stalker set a UPS box outside her door and knocked, luring her to open the door where he restrained and assaulted her inside her apartment. But I continued to communicate with her and explain that we were in a position now to finally work toward a resolution that could reduce or even remove her anxiety and fear of this individual. I remember after the criminal case was submitted for prosecution, she thanked me for remaining patient with her and following through with our efforts to make this stressful situation end for her.
These are just a few thoughts and experiences that I wanted to share. In our capacity as serving as peace officers and investigators, we deal with many cases involving domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking. But I will always remember that a victim of violence is experiencing the crime from another perspective, one that is usually life altering and deserves our full support and consideration.
John Seth Morrison
UT Arlington PD, CID