COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Child molestation cases in Muscogee County continue to grow.
Columbus Police Lieutenant Joyce Dent-Fitzpatrick has worked in the Special Victims Unit for more than 15 years, a division covering Youth Services and Sex Crimes and discusses how cases of child molestation are handled.
"What we mostly deal with is touching or some sort of penetration, so that's on a high end," says Dent-Fitzpatrick.
Youth Services deals with sex on sex with juveniles and the Sex Crimes Unit deals with adult and juveniles, advises Dent-Fitzpatrick."
Dent-Fitzpatrick says when child victims cases are filed, juvenile victims are taken to the Child Advocacy Center.
"There, forensic interviewers interview the child to get an understanding of what exactly happened," she says.
Dent-Fitzpatrick says depending on the investigation a physical examination is also performed. She also says the physical inappropriate touching of a child isn't the only form of the crime.
"For child molestation, that's the lude, sexual act performed in front of the child," says Dent-Fitzpatrick. "If you let them look at pornographic material that is a lude or immoral act in front of a child."
She says in Muscogee County, child molestation cases involving siblings or family members are more common.
"Most of the time its somebody you know," says Dent-Fitzpatrick.
Mental health professionals say these cases can be especially damaging to a person's mental health and development.
"It can affect their school work, their relationships with others, or their inability to have relationships with others," says Developmental Psychologist Dr. Angela Sims.
With the rise of social media, Dent-Fitzpatrick says online sharing has become an integral part of many investigations.
"We're seeing younger children do inappropriate things," she added.
Dent-Fitzpatrick says Muscogee County has a multidisciplinary team which meets once a month through the Child Advocacy Center to discuss where they are with cases each month to make sure each case gets the attention it needs.
Police say never share any type of online content which you believe could involve children and pornographic material or assault. You could face criminal charges as a result of doing so.
Dent-Fitzpatrick says to report the content to authorities immediately.