DA’s office victim’s services officer says counseling is critical in sex cases, victims need time

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- Tad Cummins will face a federal sex charge in Tennessee after taking 15-year-old Elizabeth Thomas and fleeing -- over 39 days, and 2,300-miles.  The trail stretched from middle Tennessee to rural northern California before he was arrested Thursday.

Unfortunately, the legal system handles thousands of child sex cases each year.

Jada Carter, of the Madison County District Attorney’s office is among those who spend their days working to help victims and their families.

Carter, a victim services officer with the DA’s office works in the family violence and sexual assault unit. A number of the cases she sees involves children and minors.

She said even asking for help can be a struggle for many of the victims.

“Guilt and blame, they blame themselves,” she said. “It varies, every case is different. Some victims want services and want ‘em right away and some don’t. Those that don’t, later, a year or two later, may start experiencing problems, especially the children, and decide at that point they want counseling.”

She has worked with numerous victims who’ve been the subject of a long-running manipulation.

“It’s usually somebody they know and they’re close to,” she said. “It’s not a stranger. We teach our kids stranger danger, but its most of the time somebody you know and you’re comfortable with."

“The perp will pick them, for lack of a better word, to become, you know, to prey on them, to groom ‘em, and to be that special person if their life. Where, you know, they can take control of them and then victimize them.”

The confusion spawned by those long-running manipulations can carry all the way to the courtroom, when the victim is called to testify.

“They may still have feelings for them and may not want to be there and tell their story,” Carter said. “(The victim may) feel like that they’re betraying them or you know, disappointing them.”

Carter said counseling can be essential, both for the healing process and the pursuit of justice.

“Counseling is going to help them, especially with sexual assault cases, it’s going to help them, now and later in life,” she said. “And it’ll also help them to be able to talk about the crime or the offense if it goes to trial.”

Counselors are trained for the roles they plan in helping victims, but how can family members and friends help following such a personal and difficult ordeal?

“Just being there, being supportive,” Carter said. “Not asking questions, not badgering them, don’t grill them about their experience. When they’re ready to talk, they’ll talk.”