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The
Fatherhood

Coalition

Men may be abused as well as women

Family crime is real crime, state trooper emphasizes

By Mary Jo Hill, [Worcester, MA] Telegram & Gazette Staff , Monday, November 5, 2001


GARDNER-- The state trooper's first domestic violence case came from a man who had called the barracks saying, "Help me, help me."

Then the trooper heard a loud "bam" and screaming.

By the time Trooper Denise Kindschi Gosselin arrived at the scene, there was so much blood it looked as if someone had slaughtered an animal, she said. The man had wanted to leave his girlfriend but she would not let him, so when he called the state police for help she took the phone and hit him over the head, Trooper Gosselin said.

"I didn't have a clue what to do," Trooper Gosselin said. After getting the man to the hospital, she talked with him about getting along with his girlfriend -- a response the trooper now describes as "pathetic."

Trooper Gosselin has learned a lot about family violence since then, enough to author a criminal-justice textbook on the subject and teach classes.

The Lunenburg native returned Friday to Mount Wachusett Community College, where she had first gone to school to train for police work. She spoke to classes of Bonnie Toothaker, a criminal justice professor.

At first the trooper recounted how she had come to the college as a young, divorced mother who had been working in a plastics factory and as a waitress. Later, she talked about her time at the state police academy, including a description of firearms training, which she called "fabulous" and said she enjoyed more than anything else there.

But eventually Trooper Gosselin, who was not in uniform, began discussing her area of expertise -- family violence. She believes that crimes in families are real crimes and should be treated that way, with investigation and evidence obtained for prosecution, she said.

And although she does not want to minimize the extent of harm to women, everyone needs to be protected from domestic violence, she said. The latest statistics show about 15 percent of the domestic violence victims are men, she said.

By not talking just about female victims, the trooper said, she has taken a lot of heat.

When she raised the subject of studies showing a growing problem of elderly people being sexually abused by their children, Mark Charalambous asked whether it had occurred to her that the people making these claims might have something wrong with them. He is an adjunct faculty member at Mount Wachusett and a spokesman for the Fatherhood Coalition.

Trooper Gosselin said the issue had occurred to her and that she wrote about false reporting of crimes in her textbook, "Heavy Hands." Later, she got into more detail about how to investigate a family violence case.

"Do not ever make a domestic violence arrest based on gender," Trooper Gosselin said.

To make an arrest that will be successfully prosecuted, a law-enforcement officer must establish probable cause, she said. And the officer must go in with an open mind, she said.

"That means you treat both people with respect, and you talk to them," she said. Never interview the people in the same room, she said.

During the interviews officers should look to see whether someone's appearance matches what he or she is saying, she said. Look to see whether wounds are defensive, such as marks on the inside of arms, which are likely to be hurt when someone is defending himself or herself, she said.

Do not expect these people to be nice, since the most objectionable person in the house is most likely to be the victim, she said. Oftentimes the person who is the most hysterical is the most frantic, she said.

Next, look for evidence rather than just compare people's statements and leave, she said. And always give children the opportunity to talk, she said.

As for child abuse, Trooper Gosselin talked about how bruises all over the backside of a child would not be visible if the youngster wore a coat and hat. But a law enforcement officer might notice that the child was not walking right, or was wincing in pain, she said.

While answering a question about how to tell whether a child is telling the truth or not, Trooper Gosselin encouraged the students to see if the story could be corroborated. For instance, a child who was sexually assaulted might mention that petroleum jelly was used, and a search warrant could be obtained to see if that item could be found in the house where the child said it was located, she said.

While the trooper relayed some stories about horrible abuse, she also acknowledged that the majority of family disputes are minor.

But the problem is a societal one, she said. For too long, it has been thought that violence is OK if two people have some type of rel


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