Lee County Detectives Probe Possible Child Rape

June 17, 2008

Smiths Station, Ala. (WXTX) - Lee County Sheriff's deputies are investigating whether or not a 3-year-old girl in Smiths Station was sexually abused by a family acquaintance. The child's father brought her to Saint Francis over the weekend, after she complained of pain. Doctors then performed a sexual assault kit. Detectives are still investigating.

"We are making sure we get the information we need in this case to make sure we can determine exactly what happened, but it does appear that some sort of sexual abuse took place," said Sheriff Jay Jones.

Sheriff Jones says the family knows the suspect, but it's too early in the investigation to arrest anyone. When detectives are investigating physical or sexual abuse cases where the victim is a child, often times they call in a team of experts to help them from the Lee County Child Advocacy Center. When a child first walks into the center, the first thing they see, are dozens of teddy bears of all shapes and sizes.

"Teddy Bears are our symbol they have been comforting children for years it's a safety and comfort symbol," said Emily Gipson, Director of the Child Advocacy Center.

Often times the children who hug the bears are in need of comfort, and a legal champion.

"Our mission is to promote awareness of abuse and neglect, to prevent it and to intervene in serous cases of physical abuse of a child or sexual abuse," explained Gipson.

"If you have a child that's a victim a key element for us is to make sure that child is not traumatized anymore and that's where the child advocacy comes into play," said Sheriff Jay Jones.

The victim is brought to an interview room that looks more like a playroom.

A two way mirror allows detectives to watch and document as a trained child interviewer, gently questions the child.

Gipson says the goal is to gather critical information, even more important is making sure the interview is not a scary experience for the young victims.

"They are absolutely instrumental in conducting an investigation particularly in interviewing child victims of sex type crimes," sated Sheriff Jones.

Sheriff Jones can't say enough good things about the advocacy center and the service it provides. Still, with the instability of Alabama's budget, Gipson says it's financial support from the community and the United way that help keep the doors open.