OPINION COLUMNS

Training could save a child’s life

By Sgt. Bill Davis | Published Thursday, August 25, 2011

My name is Sgt. Bill Davis, and I am the police officer that presented the teacher in-service training at First Baptist Church, Decatur, Tuesday, Aug. 16. A lot of controversy, innuendos and falsehoods have been stated in person, on blogs and emails about the topics I was asked to address. I would like to clarify some of the issues rather than allow rumors and innuendos to prevail.

Sgt. Bill Davis

Sgt. Bill Davis

I have been a Texas peace officer since August 1971, a total of 40 years. I was a police officer with the Beaumont Police Department for 36 of those years. I was a sergeant 30 of those 36 years. Most of my law enforcement career was spent investigating over 7,000 child abuse and sex crimes incidents.

Through the years, I realized that almost all investigations were an after-the-fact situation. An investigation was simply a reaction to an incident that had already happened. Nothing had been prevented. So in 1983, I worked for several months putting together a seminar that I titled, “Child Abuse: A National Epidemic.” The program has been updated regularly throughout this 28-year period. This presentation has been presented to teachers, school administrators, police officers, Child Protective Services investigators, medical personnel, prosecutors, judges, parents, and others throughout Texas, nationally and internationally. This program, along with my “Child Safety: First and Forever with Officer Bill” program for pre-k through fifth grade students, and my “Sex and the Law” program for junior high and high school students, have been presented to over 240,000 people in the last 28 years. You may check out my website at www.takingcareofchildren.net.

I would like to thank the personnel from the Wise Hope Crisis Center for inviting me to share portions of my programs with teachers and administrators from five of your school districts in Wise County. You, the citizens of Wise County, are very fortunate to have such dedicated people as the staff of the Wise Hope Crisis Center, working for you. Ms. Pat Slayton and her staff are some one of the most dedicated and professional personnel in the field of domestic violence and child abuse I’ve ever had the privilege of working with.

I would also like to thank Brother Ken May for allowing our seminar to be held at First Baptist Church, Decatur. I have enjoyed in-depth conversations with Brother May, and Decatur is fortunate to have such a devoted Christian leader in your community.

I would also like to thank the many sponsors that helped promote this day of training as well as support the Wise Hope Crisis Center in its day-to-day efforts. This crisis center is vitally needed for victims of domestic violence, which includes adult, as well as child abuse, and sex crimes victims. Please continue to support the wonderful efforts of the Wise Hope Crisis Center. The personnel at the center, with your help, are saving lives.

I was contacted this past spring by Wise Hope staff and asked if I would present a full day of in-service training. This staff person had seen my presentations at the Prevent Child Abuse Texas conference and felt that I would be a good presenter to help build awareness about child abuse, the criminal and civil laws affecting this national epidemic, bullies in schools and the laws affecting this problem in our schools and communities, as well as sexual issues that affect our teenagers in every community. When I received the call and was asked to present, I was excited to return once again to Wise County.

Wise Hope’s request was not the first time I’d been asked to speak in Wise County. I presented an evening child abuse seminar May 18, 2000, for the community, and on the 19th, an all-day child abuse seminar for school personnel, police officers, CPS personnel, parents and others at Grace Baptist Church, Decatur. On April 20, 2009, I had the privilege of presenting my student programs to pre-k through 12th grade at Chico ISD. On April 21, 2009, I had the privilege of presenting the same programs to the students and staff at Alvord ISD. I was asked to present an abbreviated version of my eight-hour child abuse seminar, my “Bullies in Schools in Relationship to Domestic Violence” program, and my “Sex and the Law” program. I agreed to present these topics.

Later in the spring, I was advised that every school district in Wise County had been contacted through each district’s respective superintendent. Each superintendent was advised that the agenda for the day would be a short presentation on child play therapy from Dr. Garry Landreth, a professor at the University of North Texas. Each superintendent was also advised that I would present for the rest of the day on topics concerning bullying, child abuse and sexual incidents involving teenagers. I was later advised that five of the county’s school districts and their staff would be in attendance.

As Tuesday, Aug. 16, unfolded and the lunch break began, I was informed by Ms. Slayton that some of the school personnel would not be back after lunch. She stated that many of the teachers had been disturbed that they’d had to see some child abuse awareness training. She advised that they’d not been advised of this training, only that they had to come that day to receive “bullying” training. I showed her my agenda and that the superintendents agreed to this training after being told the contents of the day’s agenda. I continued with the training I’d been paid to present to the teachers and administrators who returned after lunch.

When I returned home, I talked with Ms. Slayton, and she informed me of a local blog, “Liberally Lean From The Land Of Dairy Queen” and some positive, but also some very disturbing comments that had been made. I went to this blog on the Internet and was appalled at some of the derogatory comments that were made concerning the training (some comments by people who were not even at the training), me and the personnel at the Wise Hope Crisis Center. It is because of these comments that I felt I had no choice but to respond in order that the facts, instead of rumor and innuendo, be told to everyone in the community of Wise County. Throughout my response, I will refer to certain statements made through this blog, so that correct facts can be addressed.

Dr. Landreth finished his presentation, and I began my programs that would take up the rest of the day at approximately 10 a.m. The written agenda I’d been given showed that I had two hours to give as much information as I could about a topic that most of the time, is more complex than any other criminal incident, including murder. I spent approximately one of my two hours on child abuse, explaining Texas Family Code Sec. 261, the child abuse reporting statute, to the audience, and how we as professionals could make reporting much more expedient for the child, the teacher, the investigator and CPS.

For the person on the “blog” at 9:05 a.m., you obviously were not present at the training, or you would not have used the word “if.” Had you been there, you would not have made the statement, “If the man doing the abuse presentation told teachers to call law enforcement and leave CPS out of it, perhaps he should check the law.” To that person I must say, I showed slides and even quoted the law to the attendees at the seminar. In fact, sometimes I even have to quote this law to lawyers representing school districts because many of these attorneys are not familiar with all aspects of this statute.

The 9:05 a.m. person went on to say, “As educators, we are BOUND BY LAW to notify CPS.” To this writer, that statement IS NOT completely true. If your school district tells you that you are to only call CPS on possible child abuse cases, they are telling you half the truth. In fact, what I told the audience is that CPS DOES NOT investigate crimes including those involving the abuse of children. CPS only investigates alleged “abusive” incidents involving children (this is not a play on words).

I further advised the audience that CPS DOES NOT investigate ALL child abuse cases. They only get involved in incidents that involve a person responsible for the child’s care, custody or welfare. I would encourage the commenter at 9:05 a.m. to check out Texas Family Code Sec. 261.105c. The statute further shows law enforcement as the first agency listed to be called, and CPS is listed as No. 2. Check out Texas Family Code Sec. 261.103.)

I then began discussing issues of the physical and sexual abuse of children. I told the teachers that they did not get into their profession to be investigators, peace officers, therapists, parents, etc. But, due to a law passed by the Texas Legislature in 2003, they were now mandated to receive training in all four types of child abuse: physical, emotional, neglect and sexual, to be aware of what it is, how to intervene and how to report.

I then, with much warning, showed a videotape, informally called the “nanny-cam tape” to the audience. I even encouraged people to step into the foyer for the two minutes this tape would play that showed a male abusing an 18-month old baby. The video is graphic. Several people did leave before and as the video played. After the video finished, those in the foyer were asked to return to the sanctuary.

The point made by the tape was very simple and was shown to dispel a myth in our society. I asked a question of the audience. “What would you expect to see on this child if you saw him one, two or three days later?” The answer throughout the audience was uniform – covered with bruises from head to toe. In truth, the little boy had only one bruise the size of a quarter on his sternum. Society expects to always be able to see abuse externally. Yet in reality, that is not always true.

Several comments on the “blog” said that this tape was not applicable because it was a video involving an 18-month-old child and had nothing with a school-age child. However, the same concept applies on injuries to children, whether the child shown in the video was 18 months or 18 years old, or anywhere in-between. This age bracket covers school-age children. Other comments on the “blog” said everyone knew what child abuse was, they didn’t need to see it. But, everyone was wrong when they indicated that the child should have been covered in bruises. Fact: Children can even have broken bones with no external signs that anything is wrong. I showed two photos of my son when he was 4 years old. I asked the audience what caused this child’s injuries. Every guess from the audience was wrong. The injuries on my son were from a reaction to medication. So, for those who stated, “We know what abuse looks like. He didn’t have to show us,” here are two examples where you were wrong.

As I began my presentation, I also advised the audience that some of the slides may also show intimate body parts. These slides would be shown professionally and medical terminology would be used as descriptors. Some slides did show the genitalia of children. Some of the comments on the “blog” indicated that by showing these slides, I defiled the sanctuary of First Baptist Church, rather than taught how some people will injure all parts of a child’s body, including the genitalia. I could go into further detail and explanation, but I won’t.

I will state that I did not go to the Internet and find these photos for “shock and awe” as some have indicated. Rather, the slides the audience saw were of child abuse cases I investigated. But, I could have just as easily have found similar photos at Decatur Police Department or Wise County Sheriff’s Department because child abuse as depicted in the photos of my program is everywhere and no community is an exception. Since returning to Beaumont, I have been assured by the proper people that I did not defile the sanctuary nor any of the equipment of First Baptist Church.

I have also been assured by the proper people that my slides were in no way bordering on “child porn.” Therefore, to those administrators who apologized to their staff for having to see slides that, in their words, “bordered on child porn,” – there was no need to.

A writer on the “blog” at 11:41 p.m. wrote “Yes, there are bad people in the world who do bad things, but that does not mean that each of us have to be an eyewitness to those crimes ” But, if you are an eyewitness, or if you are the one person this child trusts and shows their injuries to, or tells you about being the victim of a rape or of sexual abuse, without seeing and knowing what child abuse is, and then knowing, by law, what to do in the best interest of the child (not in the best interest of yourself), you must go through training that is sometimes not the easiest thing to endure. But in the end, this training, which is mandated by the Texas Legislature to every employee of every school district in Texas, may save a child’s life.

The 11:41 p.m. writer went on to question Ms. Slayton asking, “Did you ever consider that some of those very educators in the audience might actually be victims of violence like this, and your decision to promote this presentation with clear communication of its content has victimized and traumatized many of them?” To this writer, I have had many victim/survivors approach me during breaks or at the end of my seminars during my 28 years of presenting this program. These victim/survivors have thanked me for bringing abuse issues to light. Many of these victims have told me that I just told their story, but with a different name or face.

I have presented my child abuse seminar as a teacher in-service training program for 28 years. I have presented it to school personnel at all-day in-service seminars in every ESC region in Texas, as well as at conferences for teachers, school counselors, principals, superintendents and school board members. This topic is always disturbing (if it is not to you, maybe you need to be investigated). However, by Texas legislative mandates passed in 2003, 2007, 2009 and 2011, school personnel must have training in child abuse, child sexual abuse, teen violence and dating violence, bullying and sex crimes laws, including the new “sex-ting” law. These mandates have changed your role as an educator drastically.

I was shocked when Ms. Slayton advised me when we broke for lunch, that many of the teachers were following their administrators and not returning after lunch. I was told the teachers and some of the administrators were not told of the child abuse training. In rebuttal, I can only say that I was advised that in personal visits to superintendents, the full agenda of topics was fully disclosed. I will let you decide where the break-down in communication may have occurred. I then asked Ms. Slayton why these people would not be returning, when, by their own statements, they said they were only told the training would be about “bullying,” which is what we would be discussing after lunch. She did not know. So, I would like to thank all of the teachers and administrators for returning after lunch. These personnel sat through the segment on “bullies in schools,” which is the No. 1 issue that is causing teachers, administrators and school districts to be sued, costing local school districts (that means, you, taxpayer) thousands to millions of dollars. This “bullying” issue is also causing some children to resort to suicide. I can’t understand if the child abuse segment was over, why these leaders led their subordinates away from the training they thought they were to hear about all day.

My last presentation for the day was my 90-minute “Sex and the Law” program that I have given to junior high school and high school students and their school staffs since 1991. This program has been shown to approximately 120,000 teenagers and school personnel throughout Texas. Since the Texas Legislature mandated to school districts throughout Texas in 2007 to develop programs, policies, etc. dealing with teen violence and teen dating violence, the personnel at Wise Hope asked me to include this program in the day’s curriculum. The thought was to help school districts satisfy this legislative mandate, and let them see a program that deals with a sensitive topic, with the hope they would see it is tastefully and professionally presented and may save a teenager’s life.

So, to “Anonymous” on the “blog” at 4:57 p.m., who stated, “The last hour-and-a-half was spent on a commercial for his presentation that he gets paid to take into schools to encourage teenagers to be abstinent and to choose adoption over abortion since he adopted his son,” I guess the presentation was a commercial, showing the school staff what their students would see if I was allowed to return to Wise County and present this program that has saved many young men from going to prison for having sex with their underage girlfriend, or paying child support for the next 18-plus years of his life for having teen sex, or the girls for having sex just to be popular and winding up pregnant and having their life changed forever.

To “Anonymous” at 4:57 p.m., I can show you emails from teenagers and tell you of phone calls I’ve received from teenagers, thanking me for coming to their school and telling me how my program changed their thinking, changed their life and kept them from making a dumb, teenage mistake. And yes, “Anonymous” commenter at 4:57 p.m., I do hope all teenage girls when faced with the four options they have when discovering they are pregnant, choose adoption especially over abortion. And yes, my 28-year-old son is adopted, and I still thank that young lady (whoever she is) every day from the bottom of my heart for choosing that second “A” word (adoption) over that first “A” word (abortion), 28-years and nine-months ago.

Before concluding, I must address the comments made on the “blog” by “Anonymous” at 10:40 p.m. Anonymous said, “Ms. Slayton, I would like to know why your agency felt compelled to bring a program on child abuse since I thought you served adult abuse victims? I thought that was in the area of CPS or perhaps CASA. Maybe you stepped out of your area?”

To this “anonymous” person, be advised that 70 percent of all domestic violence also involves children being abused. Sixty-seven percent of all child abuse incidents involve domestic violence. With all surveys being plus or minus 3 percent, these two national surveys show that where you have domestic violence, you usually have child abuse, and visa versa. I would like to thank Ms. Slayton for having enough insight to include child abuse training even though her primary issue at the center is domestic violence.

My hope and prayer is that the Wise Hope Crisis Center also has a children’s advocacy center and professional child forensic interviewers added to their facility as quickly as possible. This will save time for law enforcement personnel and CPS investigators who have to travel to other locations to have forensic interviews conducted on child abuse victims.

Through all that has occurred, I don’t blame Ms. Slayton for stating on the “blog” at 10:47 p.m., “I assure you we will not be using this presenter again,” not because of the content that was presented, but as she stated, “We will return to our daily activities of providing services to those who are victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.”

In other words, we will return to our “reactive” mode of making services available as victims come to us for help, but will not attempt a “proactive” stance as they did in this case, in the hope of preventing abusive and violence incidents from happening in the future.

Have I ever been treated so negatively in my 28 years of professionally speaking that includes programs from Las Vegas, Nev., to Newark, N.J., and from Iowa to El Salvador; and in Texas from El Paso to Orange and from Sunray to Brownsville? No!

Before I left the church last Tuesday, someone even stated to me, “I wouldn’t blame you if were asked to come back to Wise County and present a program and you turned that request down.” The human and worldly side of me would quickly say, “Nope, I’m never coming back.” But after thought and prayer, I realize that would be such a horribly wrong answer.

You see, good people of Wise County, these programs that I present are not mine. I believe that these programs, and every slide and videotape in them, are from God. He just picked on me to put these programs on. I am a Christian and Masonic brother who believes that my job on this earth is not only to enforce the law with a special expertise in child abuse and sex crimes, but also to present a ministry of programs that God has ordained me to present, whenever and wherever He takes me.

So, in light of all that happened last Tuesday, would I return to Wise County and present programs to students or adults? If it meant the possibility of saving just one life, just one child – you bet!

Davis is a 36-year veteran of the Beaumont Police Department and a 39-year veteran law enforcement officer. He spent 20 years with the Juvenile Division and the Sex Crimes Unit, specializing in child abuse and sex crimes investigations. In addition to his workshops and lectures, he has had articles on child abuse published in state and national publications and has authored a true crime novel, “So Innocent, Yet So Dead.”

4 Responses to “Training could save a child’s life”

  1. Walt Partin says:

    The gentleman doth protest too much, methinks.

  2. doug jackson says:

    Welcome to Wise County, Mr.Davis, the geographical center of small mindedness. I have no doubt you are doing good work, and I hope you continue. Dont let the views of our county deter you from a commendable task.

  3. Cheryl Cole says:

    I moved to Wise county about 8 years ago. I guarantee if you had presented that same training to the district where I worked, you would have been stopped immediately. It is a large metroplex ISD. Your comment about a “headache” is demeaning and insulting to women. Apparently you need a training session on sexual harrassment. Sounds like you’re a closet woman-hater.

    I was sexually assaulted as a child. I am thankful that there were no pictures taken of me. The thought of you showing pictures of my private parts to hundreds of people makes my skin crawl.
    Besides, by the time I made an outcry, there was no physical evidence to “show” anybody what had happened to me. If you can’t trust a child telling someone that it happened and the only way to “prove” it is by pictures, then there are a lot of kids out there not receiving assistance in your county.

    When I worked the metroplex ISD, even the nurse was not allowed to undress a child for an “inspection.” Why on earth would you think that teachers have a special permit to view a naked child?

    Did you get permission from the children and their legal guardians to show their pictures? If not, you are equally damaging those children. Sexual assault is not just physical damage. It is also forcing something on the child that he/she did not give permission to have happen.

  4. Walt Partin says:

    If your presentation of a program causes half the audience to leave, you didn’t accomplish your goal. Sgt. Davis needs to learn from this and adjust the program so that it accomplishes his goal of education. A program that is graphic in sexual abuse that would be just fine for a law enforcement audience might need to be modified for an audience of school teachers. It would be unfortunate if stubbornness prevents him from learning from this and adjusting his program to accomplish his well intended educational program.
    With due respect to Mr. Jackson, small mindedness wasn’t a factor here, it was one of presentation.

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