When you hear the phrase, Special Victims Unit, what do you immediately think of? For most of us, we automatically refer to the popularized television show, Law and Order, but for the other select few, we know the reality is much harsher than what is depicted by the dramatized Hollywood show. Tasked with investigating crimes of an extremely sensitive nature, most incidents involving sexual misconduct, physical abuse, and neglect of children, the Special Victims Unit (SVU) deals with situations many would find not only unimaginable but unforgivable.
“The Special Victims Unit is a group of specially trained detectives who are victim-focused. While investigating, we recognize trauma caused by the incident, and address the trauma first and foremost,” Detective Allen Pendarvis explained. “We mostly work sex crimes along with child abuse cases. SVU detectives are like no other detectives in the department because we commonly work hand-in-hand with many other specialized organizations on one case to better serve the survivors. We often provide them with medical assistance, police reports, orders of protection, accommodations for housing, transportation, counseling, and legal advocacy.”
Aiming to provide specialized attention to the most vulnerable segments of the community, SVU treats its victims with the utmost respect. Their goal is to ensure that each case is investigated properly and thoroughly to bring closure to victims and their families.
“Sexually oriented crimes are personal violent crimes that have great psychological or physical effects on the victims. It is the policy of the Clarksville Police Department to assist victims of sexually oriented crimes in a supportive manner, using appropriate crisis intervention skills,” Detective Elijah Horton said. “Because of the special considerations involved in investigations of sexually oriented crimes, this policy encourages a multidisciplinary, coordinated community response. Public confidence in the reporting and investigative process will encourage all victims of sexually oriented crimes to report the crime; reducing recidivism through the apprehension and prosecution of the assailants is a department priority.”
No amount of mental stability truly prepares you for the duties experienced by the officers within the SVU. Not only is the work taxing, but it is also alarming, and in some cases utterly tragic. However, the men and women of the SVU didn’t shy away from these challenging expectations, but instead take it upon themselves to take charge, and make a difference.
Detective Sean Walden shares, “My main motivation is to positively play a role in helping victims of sex crimes and abuse get through a traumatic event. It is not only important to keep children safe from abusers, but it’s also vital to help victims heal, find closure, and grow towards a better future. Being a part of the SVU is a very important task in itself; being that it’s both difficult to investigate and even think of to begin with.”
As it takes a special person to investigate these types of crimes, the detectives assigned to the Special Victims Unit are highly trained and professional. Each officer within the unit understands what occurrences need to be addressed, and aims to actively use due diligence to bring awareness to everyone within the local community.
“The required training is no different than every other detective position within the department. However, many opportunities are available that specifically go along with SVU,” Detective Pendarvis explains. “There are specialized interview and interrogation classes specifically geared toward SVU because interviewing a child predator is much different than other offenders. There is also victim informed training, which helps identify trauma caused by sexual assaults, and further assists detectives explaining to prosecutors and jury’s why a victim could be acting a certain way.”
In regards to the benefits SVU has on the local community, Sergeant Sunisa Hamilton says, “The Special Victims Unit is one of many local organizations who can bring sexual assault awareness to both children and adults within our community. As the city grows, we hope to decrease the overall number of sexual assaults and crimes committed against our most vulnerable community members – the children. Awareness, education, and prevention are key. With our training and knowledge of current and local trends, the Special Victims Unit can educate various age groups on evolving topics such as (but not limited to) the importance of internet safety, what consent is/looks like, signs of human trafficking, good touch/bad touch, and what is and isn’t considered child pornography.”
Looking towards the future the SVU is optimistic as they push towards growing the program. This push will hopefully allow the SVU to continue its efforts in bettering the lives of those most vulnerable within our community.
“As the city grows, we hope to see SVU expand with it. We would like to be more proactive when dealing with incidents such as online predators. The goal is to grow as a team player within the community so we can match (or exceed) the ability to serve the needs of the citizens,” Sergeant Hamilton expressed.
Detective Horton added, “We hope to accomplish successful convictions of those who are guilty to bring a sense of relief to the victims who seek justice.”